Fawaz Gruousi is currently among the most influential people in the jewellery industry worldwide. With an impressive eye for refined rocks and a highly innovative mind, Gruosi has successfully built his de GRISOGONO brand into one of the most recognizable names in the industry. eniGma spoke with every woman celebrity’s sweetheart, Gruosi, for an all-encompassing interview that delved into how the company was founded, the creative process behind it, and de GRISOGONO’s future plans.
Did you always know that you wanted to become a jewellery designer?
It happened unexpectedly, I was barely 18 years old and I stopped studying because the love of my life at the moment fell pregnant. My family didn’t want us to get married. So by the time I was 21 years old, I had to fight. I had to prove to them that I could make it on my own, that I was mature; that’s how I started to clean windows at a jewellery shop. Afterwards, I immersed myself in the universe of precious objects and stones and developed a deep passion for this industry. In the following years, I was able to travel the world, working for renowned houses such as Harry Winston and Bulgari. I forged my expertise on fine jewellery, but also started to realize that this very traditional and rather conventional industry was often out of touch with the fast changing contemporary fashion. The desire to unleash creativity and follow my own vision as a designer grew stronger and stronger, until finally, in 1993 I was able to establish de GRISOGONO.
How would you describe the process of establishing one of the most successful jewellery businesses worldwide?
My success came quickly. I took risks and I haven’t had a holiday since I was 23. Luckily, I had amazing collaborators and friends attached to the company, and that has brought me today’s success. I cannot forget that I didn’t have a choice; I started to work out of necessity. If I was following trends at the time, it wouldn’t have happened. I went against odds and the style of the time, namely platinum and yellow gold, and I came out with products creating the opposite: bold, big proportions, mixing coloured stones, which had never been seen at the time. Of course the risk was with black diamonds. At the time, no one knew about them. I was so frustrated that, after two years, I came out with the book on black diamonds.
How did you come up with the idea of working with black diamonds at a time when no one else did?
I realized that most of the clients were seeing the same thing, from Madison Avenue to Place Vendome; it was quite traditional. The black diamond was a huge innovation at the time.
I could always see the creative possibilities of gemstones and especially the ones that had been neglected or disregarded by the rigid industry classifications, and that awakened my interest. The stones sat on my desk for some time – I found them intriguing and mysterious, but I didn’t exactly know what to do with them. I had been fascinated by the story of the historic Black Orlov, a colossal black diamond. This stone cast a sort of spell on me. As a result, I began researching and exploring these enigmatic, dark-hearted stones that were rejected by the industry, and extremely challenging to cut. I found them captivating; somehow dangerous, mirror like, with a hypnotic mix of light and shadow.
In 1996, I decided to launch a collection fully devoted to the black diamond. I completely followed my instinct and creative vision and as it turned out, it was perfectly timed at a moment of monochrome minimalism. This was the starting point of a massive global jewellery style-trend for black diamonds, which continues until today. The black diamond has since become one of de GRISOGONO’s emblems, and it adorns many of our jewellery and watch creations. To set the record, I wrote a book on black diamonds in order to be sure they got the right light.
Have you faced any obstacles along the way?
Constantly, even until now. I fought and believed. I do believe what happened to me was a miracle. No one in this modern time has brought a brand up in such a short period of time. De GRISOGONO renewed the concept of jewellery and, in time, became a brand that sets trends, not follows them. Throughout my career, people have called me crazy over and over again. However, the criticism has given me the necessary determination to pursue my vision. So far, there hasn’t been an obstacle too large to overcome. Basically, as the saying goes: something is impossible until it becomes possible. I believe that dreams are bigger than fears and that it is important to stay passionate and optimistic at all times.
Who would you say is your ultimate muse or the inspiration behind creating such beautiful jewellery?
I don’t have a muse. I love women for their attitude, character, and strong personality. It gives me huge pleasure to go the opposite of minimalism. Fashion accessories for me have to be visible. They have to be seen and they have to be there to enhance the woman’s already lovely features. It is never solely the beauty of a woman that inspires me, but also her character. I have always tried to create jewellery for self-confident, radiant women with strong personalities, such as Sophia Loren, who has been a precious friend of the brand since its very beginning.
I am truly inspired by anything and everything surrounding me. I don’t have a commercial mindset and I prefer to let my mind roam free and create our jewellery and timepieces as independently as possible, free from any kind of boundaries. I believe creating should be a pure expression of passion. I don’t follow any rules or even trends; I only go with my instinct. My creative process usually starts with an idea running through my head which I then discuss with my design team and bring to paper. Once I have the design, we start looking for the right gems that will ideally suit the creation. It also happens sometimes that I fall in love with a particular stone, which opens my mind to new creative possibilities.
There are moments when I can look at a simple object or sign, and ideas start racing through my mind. It could simply be the way the light is reflected in a woman’s hair or the colors of an exotic flower. A good example is our Browny Brown gold from the colour of the deep and warm brown wood of the lamp on my desk, or our latest New Retro Timepiece – I was inspired by the shape of my cigar case. All of de GRISOGONO’s creations are brought to life by the dedicated teams in our Geneva jewellery and watch atelier.
Would you say your jewellery encompasses the essence of the West and the East of the world?
I don’t think so. However, without knowing, I mixed my two cultures; the Middle East and Florence, where I lived most of my life.
What are de GRISOGONO’s future plans?
I don’t want to open too many boutiques. In the next five to eight years, we can reach up to 30 shops worldwide (down from around 100 stores). My reason is that I want to be more exclusive and I consider it to be “haute couture” with no defined price range. The difficulty is that there are no artisans anymore as there were 50 years ago. In 2016, our goal is to continue strengthening our wholesale activity whilst growing our retail presence in the world.