“I moved to London when I was 22 – the same number of words I had in my English vocabulary,” recalls jewellery designer Alice Van Cal, who relocated from Brussels in 2010 for an internship within the sales department at Richemont-owned Baume & Mercier. Every day after work, she would visit the Cartier workshop (also within the Richemont building), which ignited her passion and understanding of jewellery design. "The former head of the workshop took me under his wing, and I ended up spending all of my free time there. He taught me how flexible gold can be and inspired me to focus on my idea of the transformable Alice."
The Alice, which launched her eponymous brand in 2018, can be worn four different ways, whether strung as a pendant, hung as an earring or wrapped elaborately around the wrist and fingers. “It took more than four years and 50 prototypes to finally get there,” she recalls. “The hardest part was to make sure that the chain does not move at all once it is locked.”
Both playful and precious, Van Cal's creations come in a joyful array of colours and are designed to be mixed, stacked and worn every day. Alice, who is as bright and charming as her designs, lives near Regent's Park with her husband and son. Here, the designer shares her memories of jewellery and what she loves most about the capital.
My earliest memory of jewellery is playing with my grandmother’s locket necklace, filled with pictures of my uncle whom I sadly never met. I wear it discreetly beneath my clothes when I feel like I need her strength to be with me. The empowering energy that a piece of jewellery can bring never ceases to amaze me.
My mum has always shown me that a woman can lead her life as she wants, and with passion. I am also inspired by my grandmother, who created Ferme Nos Pilifs, a farm on the outskirts of Brussels where disabled people can work. She taught me that giving to people is a way of life and I always strive to live by her example. This is why I give to selected charities every month – I don’t advertise it but it is important to give back. I have created a necklace for the ADOT Charity Foundation and 50% of its sales price will be donated to the charity.
Originally I designed the Union Bracelet for myself in emeralds and diamonds, before expanding the collection. I then created the slimmer Journey Bracelet, for my clients to stack on their wrist as a little line of happiness.
My favourite designers in my wardrobe just now are Nanushka and Daily Sleeper, and Chinti & Parker for cashmere jumpers.
For a first date, I'd recommend Marylebone every time: Chiltern Firehouse for a drink; Il Baretto or Crazy Pizza for an Italian dinner and Fischers for brunch. The rose garden in Regent's Park is also one of London's hidden treasures.
Go to the Arts Club for Sunday lunch; every single dish on the menu is delicious. Its sister restaurant, AOK on Dorset Street, opened recently and it is also very good.
I am very good at baking, it is actually quite dangerous. My chocolate moelleux has a reputation – the secret is its Belgian chocolate.
I have a very sensitive personality and I wish I could have told my younger self not to take bumps in the road too seriously. If you’re not going to worry about it in a year’s time, then you probably shouldn’t worry about it now.