"When I launched Messika, Place Vendôme in Paris was a male-dominated world. Apart from Victoire de Castellane at Dior, all of the creative directors were men,” recalls Valérie Messika, whose namesake jewellery brand, founded in 2005, offers a contemporary alternative to the historic area’s prestigious heritage labels. “Jewellery felt heavy and sanitised. I wanted to change that and create pieces that were light, modern and cool. I wanted to break the mould.”
And break it she did. Messika quickly gained the moniker of ‘diamond disruptor’ for her refined, feather-light fine jewellery with modern sensibility. Early favourites included twisting cuffs, double rings and delicate chokers, made up of conjoined stones that hover above the body like floating diamonds.
Valérie, like her brand, is the embodiment of modern glamour. When we meet at The Connaught, she is dressed in a trademark leather jacket and skinny jeans, with a stack of bracelets insouciantly slid on her wrist. She is spending a fleeting afternoon in London before returning to Paris, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.
The jewellery designer is the daughter of self-made diamantaire André Messika. As a child, she would play with loose diamonds scattered on the kitchen table. It taught her to respond intuitively to the shape and lightness of a stone, and to “erase the gold. A diamond against your skin is enough.”
Valérie studied marketing before working at Chanel. “People would talk about Madame Coco as if she was still right there. Working at Chanel taught me the importance of a brand’s DNA and I quickly understood that if I were to launch my own jewellery brand, I needed to have my own story; I had to be different.”
With her father’s encouragement, she launched her debut Move collection at Baselworld in 2005, which remains a bestseller. Each piece features an abacus-like design, set within rings and bracelets, or suspended on chains, that allows diamonds to glide freely across a hidden wire. The most recent addition is a line of Lucky Move swinging medallion necklaces and chunky carabiner chain bracelets, modelled by a leather-clad Kate Moss.
For her next trick, she launched the innovative Skinny line, dubbed “elastic gold”, which features diamonds threaded on a flexible wire, thus allowing a bracelet to slip on the wrist with the ease of a hair tie. Messika’s smaller pieces start from £640 and prices climb steadily upwards, with the High Jewellery and Haute Couture collections selling for millions.
The brand’s unconventional approach to jewellery design has earned it a growing following among the fashion set, and Cara Delevingne and Kendall Jenner are both fans. In 2014, Beyoncé asked to borrow a Glam’Azone ring after seeing it in the Messika window at the Le Royal Monceau hotel. The Grammy award-winning singer later posted a picture of the ring, unprompted, on Instagram, to the tune of more than a 100m followers. “Instagram is a such powerful tool. It allows you to grow closer to your consumer and really showcase the integrity of your brand.” Valérie says. She recalls posting a picture of an anklet: “I had calls and messages from all over the world – America, Canada, the Middle East – all down to this one image.”
Last year, Valérie received another call from Beyoncé’s stylist, this time to borrow more than £1m worth of jewellery. “She could not tell me what it was for and would not allow any bodyguards, which violated our insurance policy.” She lent the pieces regardless and two weeks later, Beyoncé and Jay-Z dropped their surprise collaborative album, Everything is Love. In the now-renowned music video for the song Apes**t, Beyoncé stands in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre museum, dressed in a pink Peter Pilotto suit and Messika’s Persian Drops necklace and matching earrings. “I could not believe the news. It was an incredible moment.”
In 2017, Messika recruited another global icon, Gigi Hadid, to design two jewellery collections for the brand. “I want to appeal to a new generation of girls who like to mix-and-match diamonds with jeans and sneakers. Gigi is the perfect embodiment of this.” Mert and Marcus shot the campaign, layering Gigi with diamond-encrusted chains and safety pin-shaped earrings, loaded with cool-girl attitude. The collection sold out via pre-orders on NET-A-PORTER, before even going live on the site.
“Messika’s pieces are always modern and fun," comments Elizabeth von der Goltz, Global Buying Director at NET-A-PORTER. "Whether you choose to purchase a Baby Move necklace or bracelet between £1,000 - £2,000 or invest in a larger piece for £100,000 and upwards, everything she creates is designed to be worn every day and the success of the brand is undeniable."
Today, the Messika brand totals more than 200 employees with a turnover of more than $140m. There are more than 400 points of sale globally, including Harrods and Selfridges in London, and a flagship boutique on Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris. Is her dad proud? “Yes. As a diamond dealer, my father always had to be very discreet; in that job, you do not reveal your face – now his name is on billboards across the world. He supplies many of the Maisons on Place Vendôme and they tell him, your daughter broke the code; she pushed us to go forward.”