Sparkling memories

Sparkling memories

Releasing a greatest hits album is almost a rite of passage for musicians whose careers span decades. While less common in the world of fashion, it is no less exciting a chance to look back when it happens.

Jewellery designer Simon Wilson of costume jewellery brand Butler & Wilson is doing just that, with the launch of his Vintage Collection.

The line consists of his favourite pieces from the brand's 45-year history. The brand, known for its bold and bling-y aesthetic, had a big moment in the 1980s heyday of costume jewellery.

As the 70-year-old Scotsman explains in a phone interview with Urban last week from London, he decided to reissue Butler & Wilson pieces after seeing his old designs being sold at other stores as vintage pieces, and getting feedback from younger customers.

"There's a whole generation of people who have never seen pieces from my archives," he says, adding wryly: "That's the only good thing about getting old!"

The collection, which ranges in price from $70 for a pair of earrings to $600 for a necklace, features more than 75 pieces including bold animal brooches and embellished necklaces. It is now available here exclusively at On Pedder at Scotts Square and Takashimaya Shopping Centre, where the brand has been stocked since 2010.

Butler & Wilson pieces usually range from about $80 to $1,600.

The brand actually has its roots in antique art deco jewellery, which Mr Wilson and his former partner Nicky Butler used to source at markets and sell. But the pair turned to designing their own pieces in 1969, as the antique jewellery supply dwindled. Mr Butler has since left the company.


Its first store on Fulham Road in London was located on a corner and had billboard space that was often occupied by its glamorous brand ambassadors.

French actress Catherine Denueve - who acted in the 1983 film The Hunger for which the brand had supplied the jewellery - was the brand's first poster girl, followed by icons such as Faye Dunaway and Charlotte Rampling.

"They were all glamorous women because they were strong, individual and had their own look," he says of his famous collaborators, who did the billboards for free.

The brand's most famous customer during the 80s may have been the late Princess Diana, who was in her mid 20s at the time. The royal used to visit the store as an ordinary customer and never demanded special treatment, says Mr Wilson.

"We never had to close the store, or send things over to Kensington Palace. It was just a young girl shopping and that was what she loved," he recalls.

"She could have worn the royal jewels but she didn't. She wanted to wear things that were right for her age."

Royal accessories of a different sort were his saving grace in the 1990s, when the business suffered in the wake of a recession.

"I saved the company by making tiaras. It was the wedding thing in the 1990s - tiaras and big white dresses. It sounds mad but it's what saved the company."

The brand still carries a limited selection of tiaras.

Decades later, it seems as though jewellery trends have made a 180-degree turn, with dainty pieces the popular jewellery look of the day.

Do not expect Mr Wilson to change his style, however.

"There's a million other people doing the little silver charm thing. But it's never been attractive to me," he says.

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