Will Kahn is the closest thing we have in jewelry to Wes Anderson. The Town & Country Accessories Editor is always personally meticulously turned out, like the celebrated film director. Professionally, his styling for the publication, similar to the stylized look of Anderson’s films, is done just so. Will works with saturated colors and a complex array of goods in his shoots, creating a personalized vintage vibe with a blend of desirable heritage products.
Then there is Will’s Notebooks. Could anything be more Wes? I think not. In Anderson’s movies the characters always have old-school accessories like a record player (Moonrise Kingdom) or T. Anthony luggage (The Royal Tanebaums). A handful have used a pencil and notebook, most memorably perhaps Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Well, Will has done something in the same vein on Instagram under his hashtag #willsnotebooks. He lays out precious pieces on a lined notebook and diagrams them in pencil with everything from carat weights to his thoughts on a designer. The posts stop me from scrolling down my feed at a breakneck speed every time.
The gracious editor told me all about how he came up with the idea, not to mention those notebooks, his pencil and eraser. Read on for the interview and pick up the August issue of Town & Country that hits newsstands on July 4 to see Will’s “Bright Things” story where he diagrams more jewels.
Your hashtag—#WillsNotebook—stands out in the Instagram feed as something special and uniquely your own. How did you come up with the idea?
Thinking about how to photograph and present jewelry in interesting or challenging ways is a huge part of my job. It’s a challenge to make sure the jewels look exciting, expensive and give them the respect they deserve. As a man in the jewel world I can’t just pop an earring on or put the rings on my finger—plus my nails are rarely manicured!
The first notebook shot came about when I was on set shooting and I had these insane gorgeous fire opal earrings from Irene Neuwirth which unfortunately wouldn’t make the shot. I thought I would put them on Instagram instead!
The light was so good in the studio and I had put them on top of my notebook for a lighter color background. I had all the information from the insurance form about the piece and that moment it clicked and I started writing around it like a sort of infographic. Combining the image with the information rather than just writing information in the caption. Jewelry is not just pretty—it’s about context. You need to know the stones, the carat weight, the metal, the provenance in order to truly understand and appreciate the piece. I also love that the lines of the notebook help to understand the scale. The lines remain the same in each shot so you know if a piece is large or small even compared to past posts.
I love that you still use a notebook when everyone seems to take the modern shortcut today and snap photos rather than write things down. Do you use the notebook for every preview?
I use the notebook every day. It all started back in my W [magazine] days when I would make long lists of what our editors and stylists needed for our shoots. When Alex White or Edward Enninful would call me into their office I would NEVER show up without a notebook and pencil ready. When I was promoted to Accessories Editor at W my good friend Olivia and her parents sent me this Hermes one that I still use now at T&C. I also have a smaller one from my boyfriend that’s more travel size.
What is in the notebook that we don’t see on Instagram?
I make notes of everything I need to do each day, what pages I need to finish, what I need for my shoots, notes of what Nicoletta or Stellene might need, and even sketch out ideas for pages of the magazine I’ll be styling. Sometimes I’ll sketch something from a fashion show or appointment to remember it as well. There are also personal to do lists—like for this weekend: buy white Levis, white Jack Purcells, new sunglasses, hostess gift.
I love that you use a pencil. It’s so old school. Please explain your love for the pencil rather than a pen.
I’m not gifted enough to use a pen. I have to have a few goes at something before it looks right. I need the eraser. I use a big pink eraser. The ones on the pencil never really work as well. The look and feel of the pencil and sometimes even seeing a mistake I made also adds to the visual. It feels real because it is real.
What inspires you to create a post in the series?
Any piece that catches my eye could be a post. I think I tend to be drawn to larger, colorful pieces and anything with interesting architecture to it. If a jewel has a great story or materials, its perfect because you get to really explain it. I have noticed I only like earrings lately, so I need to cool it with them for a while.
How long does it take you to put one together?
It can happen very fast, like 5 to 10 minutes. It’s always just done spur of the moment between my real responsibilities for the magazine. I wish I had more time to commit to them. I hope to make them more involved and more informative as they evolve.
Have you gotten any memorable remarks in the comments section of a post?
Nothing that memorable, just a lot of really nice positive feedback which I’m so happy about. I’m glad everyone is loving learning about the jewels as much as I am.