Myself and Lee became friends through a mutual friend Simon Unglus who was on the same MA course at Central St Martins as Lee. I had just finished my apprenticeship as a fine goldsmith in Hatton Garden, at a workshop which created all the fine high-end pieces for some of the most prestigious stores on Bond Street. Lee often visited my atelier where I would be crafting pieces from diamond solitaries to diamond tiaras. He was fascinated by my skill and attention to detail not to mention the beautiful materials I was working with fine gemstones and different coloured golds.
It was here where Lee then asked if I would create jewels for his catwalk shows. At first this was a very daunting task as I was a fine goldsmith and conditioned that way. At first I found it hard to imagine how I could create large pieces for the show in the material I was used to working in but it was Lee who said to me “Shaun you’re such a skilled craftsman, if you just apply your skills to other materials you can create anything”. He helped me change my thought process explore different materials and methods to create the pieces for the show.
This was a very exciting and challenging time, Lee had given me a creative platform where there were no boundaries, where I could experiment and explore and push my design and craft skill to the ultimate.
The process to how we worked would vary from Lee knowing an actual piece he would like created for show, or we would both look at the mood boards to the concept of the show and we would discuss designs of several pieces for the show. One of the first shows I worked on was The Hunger S/S ’96. Lee asked me to create a large silver stag horn silhouette piece to go across a skirt. This was the largest piece I had created at the time apart from Tiaras. It was a beautiful organic form of from which came the tusk earring each model wore.
This is where my signature was born and how our work continues using fine, refined lines to create powerful statements.
As this was an early piece, I want to recreate it to be part of the reflective series. We have created a beautiful tusk earring consisting of a Gem set in 18kt White Gold holding a black anodised aluminium Tusk. .
For one of the shows, I created a silver choker which I had set with genuine pheasant claws with strings of luxurious Tahitian pearls. This was a great way to build contrast; the softness of pearls in combination with hard macabre forms created a wonderful balance of colour, texture and style.
Through creating catwalk pieces I have discovered the beauty in fusing traditional jewellery craftsmanship with new materials. The result of fusing the old with the new created my style of modern classics.
One of the most challenging pieces between our collaboration was the Coiled Corset (A/W 1999, The Overlook). Earlier that year I had worked with him on an African-inspired neckpiece for Bjork’s album cover. It was a challenging project as I had only just began self-teaching silversmithing to meet the demands of the catwalk.
When McQueen asked if I could create the same neckpiece but for the whole torso, I knew it would absolutely challenge my skills as a goldsmith. I remember him saying to me that “nothing is impossible”, if I can make the neckpiece, and I can also make the corset. After that, I had spent 16 hours a day for 10 weeks creating the piece.
Since then, we continue this mantra that “nothing was impossible.”