It didn’t take long. Just 13 short days after the amazing Greek designer Nikos Koulis debuted his Feelings collection in Athens it appeared on the red carpet. Scarlett Johansson, who has worn Nikos’s jewels in the past, put on two pieces from the new collection for an April 10 Avengers Endgame Fan Event in London. The super hero star paired the diamond and gold earrings and a bracelet with a striking cutout pantsuit by Tom Ford.
It was a thrill to see the beautiful jewels hit the world stage so quickly after being released, but honestly it wasn’t a surprise. Those of us who gathered together in Athens for the launch of the new line knew how good it was. And the truth is Nikos did too. The designer who has been causing a sensation on the red carpet and awing jewelry lovers for years with his work told me some of the background on Feelings. Read on to find out all about it.
When we were in your boutique in Athens I asked if the gold patterns in the Feelings collection were inspired by the Hercules Knot—the thought occurred to me after seeing the ancient Greek gold jewelry in the Benaki Museum where there was a belt with a Hercules knot. You said “no” you were thinking of sailing knots. Could you tell me a little bit about the inspiration?
Knots have been a prevalent pattern in the ancient years of goldsmithing. However, I didn’t channel these knots with Feelings. I had vivid visual memories from boat ropes in the small island ports. When I was walking by the docks or the marinas, I found myself observing the cordages and the ropes. This reference came alive when I started working with the chain, and I started playing and experimenting it.
Symbolically, knots represent a bond and I liked this sentimental dimension in my work. Thus, the idea evolved from something literal and complex to a more ethereal and sensual dimension. I ended up inventing my own sailors’ knots, trying to master the possibilities of the snake chain, connecting its ends and creating fluid forms.
One of the many reasons I love your work is that you acknowledge jewelry history, yet you make things completely modern and your own. I have always loved your contemporary interpretations of the Art Deco tradition. With the Feelings collection you have used Snake Chain, one of my favorite materials from the mid-twentieth century. During the 1940s, snake chain jewels had a mechanical and industrial appearance. You made snake chain lyrical and poetic. I know it was quite difficult to create the patterns you did in snake chain. Can you tell me what you like about the material? And any detail about how difficult it was to shape it into the patterns you wanted?
I’m always intrigued by taking a classic pillar from the past and redefining it, in my own terms with my own signature. I adore classic things, as you saw in my house, I love collecting antiques and vintage pieces, but I like to place them in a contemporary context, so as to look and feel ‘cool’ and ‘fresh’, not heirlooms.
I loved the softness and sensuality of the Snake Chain and found challenging to make something new with it. The most difficult part was at the workshop, during production, where we had to find a way to fix and stabilize the moving parts of the chain, with an invisible wire and set the stones on that, without ‘discontinuing’ the piece’s form and design or jeopardize the soft and sleek feel of the chain. Interweaving soft and hard, steady parts from the same material has been the main craftsmanship challenge in making the intricate knots and keeping the forms’ fluidity.
Was the sailor’s knot inspiration one of the reasons you decided to have the presentation for the Feelings collection at the Rodeo Gallery near where the ships dock?
Piraeus is quite an unconventional place to host a fine jewelry exhibition, but I loved the contradiction of a warehouse turned into a contemporary art gallery, and the precious character of my pieces. The nautical reference of the collection drove me to find a venue in this area of Athens, though I knew it might seem odd to my clientele. People go to Piraeus either to take a boat to the islands, work, or get industrial ad maritime supplies. It’s almost deserted after 6pm and I absolutely cherished this ‘decadent’, off the beaten track location.
Finally, you put on a big party and celebration for the Feelings exhibition. Was it the first time you have done something this big? What inspired you to do such a big send off for the collection?
This was the absolute first time we had an extrovert occasion for the brand. Until now, we only invited clients to our boutiques to preview the pieces when we were launching new collections. With Feelings, I was inspired to present the collection with an artistic installation, to showcase the jewelry out of cases and windows, and invite friends from all over the world to share the joy of presenting something, which was in the making for 18 months! It was still private, we didn’t send photographs for publicity and invited only 300 people, but it was a fascinating step that was worth of all the hard work behind it.