Émilie Duchêne’s communicative enthusiasm provides a bright contrast to an ever-gloomy sky. We are on the outskirts of Brussels with the founder of Thea Jewelry, who in fact looks more Californian than she does Belgian. This thirty-something with golden skin and cascades of blonde hair whose personalised jewellery is a smash hit the world over gives illuminating answers to our questions. Her assured tastes have been nourished by a past full of travel and interesting people. Having begun her career in Paris with some of the big-name magazines and designers, Émilie Duchêne is now back in her own country. It was the birth of her first daughter that lead to her making a new start as an entrepreneur. Since, the adventures have just kept coming. Thea Jewelry pieces all with that distinctive cursive Émilie Duchêne text can be seen adorning the necks and wrists of an impressive number of celebrities. The creator has come a long way since the days when she struggled to find someone to make her a bespoke rose gold ring studded with black diamonds. Now she is the one who holds our emotions in her hands. Discover creative synergies and exciting collaborations this morning on The Socialite Family.
I'm not afraid of mixing materials, prints, and colours. It needs to take on a life of its own. I need to feel that I'm living somewhere sunny despite the grey skies we have 80% of the time!
Émilie, can you tell us about yourself? What’s your background?
I am 100% Brussels born and bred, but I love travelling – it inspires me. I’m 37 years old, and I’m about to have my third child in mid-February. I studied fashion design in Brussels, followed by internships in fashion design studios (Isabel Marant, Dior, as well as Lacroix Haute Couture) an in the press (Paris Match, Elle, L’Officiel), finishing with a year working for Glamour in Paris as assistant to the chief fashion editor during the magazine’s launch. When I returned to Brussels, I spent ten years working as a marketing and communications director for two clothing brands, before starting out on my own with my concept of online, personalised jewellery, Thea Jewelry. I’m curious by nature and I love challenges. I love taking city breaks and meeting new people.
How did you come up with the idea for Thea Jewelry?
I’ve always loved personalising literally anything! When I first daughter, Thea, was born, I wanted a rose gold ring set in black diamonds with pretty lettering. To my great surprise, it was impossible to find. I therefore had one made and it was an insane success! Suddenly, I’d created this unique product via a completely simple website – a rose gold ring. Cuff bracelets were available, but not rings, and not really a “luxury” product. A few iterations later, I’d created my own typography, based on my handwriting, and the concept was born. The small site became a medium-sized site and then it grew a bit more. The product range diversified to keep up with customer demand, and it all took off from there.
Can you explain the international craze for personalised jewellery?
Jewellery, in general, is already an emotional affair. As such, it’s not a fashion accessory that passes with time. You wear jewellery as if it were a tattoo. That transcends different markets and countries. It’s also a product with a very American feel, with the Carrie necklace from the Sex in the City era. Americans were really in the mood for something “cheesy.” Then there were a lot of celebrities who wore them and that was it!
How do you want to see your brand evolve in future? What’s the latest news, and what plans do you have in store?
Thea Jewelry evolves naturally each year, with some wonderful collaborations. Every month, we have new synergies and new products. To sum it up, everything we’ve had has been right for us since the very beginning. We also take our inspiration from social networks and customer orders. We have a lovely community that follows us and that provides us with encouragement. In terms of projects, we will be launching a range of limited edition candles in mid-February, working with The Brandy Studio. A Thea Jewelry surprise is hidden inside each and every one! We are also working on a capsule collection with people from Tapage (My Little Paris), launching a range of colourful, personalised macramé bracelets for the summer, a little collection for children, and so many other things.
Why did you return to settle here, in Brussels, after spending time in Paris?
I wanted to get back to my roots, to catch up with my friends and the green spaces from when I was younger, and to experience the lovely quality of life that we have here. And of course, my family! I love being based in Brussels but I need to keep on the move to see what’s happening elsewhere and to take the pulse of a city as amazing as Paris. I visit Paris at least once a month, so it’s not as though I’m truly cut off!
What do you like so much about the city?
Brussels? The quality of life, the people, the living spaces, the restaurants, barbecues at friends’ houses during the summer, and Belgians’ easygoing mentality.
What would we find in your home, in terms of furniture?
A blend of vintage furniture and decorative objects that belonged to my parents (a Ralph Lauren sofa, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe footstools, Philippe Starck chairs and so on), mingled with vintage items that I’ve found rummaging through flea markets, objects I’ve brought home from my travels, and stuff from Ikea. I’m not afraid of mixing materials, prints, and colours. It needs to take on a life of its own. I need to feel that I’m living somewhere sunny despite the grey skies we have 80% of the time! It’s my vitamin D injection. I also have a passion for wallpaper.
What material or colour is your favourite at the moment?
Do you have a preference for a particular era, designer, or object?
I love fig candles, the 1970s, and fine books and flowers.
Where will we be able to find you in 2018?
I think I’ll be stuck in Brussels quite a bit with a new baby… who’s being born in five weeks! I’ll also be at the controls of my Thea Jewelry project, in harmony with inspirational concepts and brands.
Photography: Constance Gennari – Text: Caroline Balvay – Translation: TextMaster @thesocialitefamily