With an aesthetic that screams sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, Russian jeweller Lilya Areifulina sticks two fingers up at the establishmentOctober 7, 2019 By Isabella Rose Celeste Davey
A razor blade medallion, a marijuana signet ring, a drug decanter in the form of a baby bottle… welcome to the world of Runa, the fine jewellery brand from Moscow that looks to the present for its iconography.
Though its motifs are anything but traditional, these are undoubtedly luxury jewels. Combining precious stones, such as sapphires, garnet, diamonds, lapis lazuli, amethyst and topaz, all to be set in silver and gold, Runa jewellery does not hold back when it comes to the rocks.
Other jewels that catch the eye and raise the brows include a massive, dazzling disco ball encrusted with rainbow gems that opens into a pendant. Necklaces spelling out ‘BAD’, ‘REBEL’ and ‘LOVE’ reveal a secret chamber, its use for you to decide. A screw earring sparkles with diamonds, while Light My Fire matchstick earrings glitter with rubies.
Not your average jewels
Runa is smashing the status quo of what we define as fine jewellery. It’s no surprise that Colette, the now sadly closed Paris luxury institution, was one of Runa’s first stockists, and the jewels have since been picked up by go-to luxury hub Moda Operandi.
Having been left frustrated by the style of fine jewellery on offer, Runa designer Lilya Areifulina decided to create her own, putting pen to paper and manifesting the images in her head. Having taken a fancy to the results, a pal asked Areifulina to construct something for her, which she did. Suddenly, a mini collection had formed, with a friend-fan wearing one of her pieces to Colette, only for the buying team to enquire where the jewellery was from.
The domino effect, when it happens, always strikes quickly. Runa suddenly burst forth, from a twinkle in Areifulina’s eye to the velveteen display cases of one of the most respected retailers in the world. “There are many [highs of the brand], of course, as in every story, but a few I remember very clearly,” she says. “First, of course, was the first order placed by Colette. It meant a lot to me as they were free, independent and had the best and most modern view on fashion and art, while still being very commercially successful.”
Pink, Madonna, Miley… you?
So who exactly is the Runa woman? Madonna is a fan, as are Pink and Miley Cyrus: you can’t help but feel their audaciously forthright approach to life perfectly reflected in the unapologetic designs. “The Runa woman is open minded, independent and loves to travel,” says Areifulina. “She is interested in culture and enjoying life.”
You see this woman coming through in Runa’s collections – the independence in the fiercely alpha designs, the interest in culture and the lust for life. How does Areifulina align all these facets?
“I believe that past and present always go together,” she says. “India, Egypt and other cultures still bring me a lot of inspiration. I like to read about symbols or legends about jewellery and I use this and implant these ideas into modern world.”
And speaking of the modern world, how does the high and low referencing – screws, matches, drug-cutting razor blades, mini decanters with tiny spoons for unmentionable substances, all made in gold with gemstones – tie together her ethos?
“The main idea was to have jewellery that you can wear every day, and mix it with other bijoux, different styles,” says Areifulina. “I guess that the design is the most important thing – not the materials. Even when I am using diamonds and emeralds, I don’t want people to take my articles too seriously. I want them live and enjoy their life with these jewels. They are made for happy, relaxed people with a sense of humour. My jewellery is there to bring an interesting idea or story. To decorate a look, but never to overshadow the real things of life: simply tint them and add some spice. I always wanted it to be, on the one hand, a piece of jewellery, so it brings you energy with stones, warms you, becomes your talisman and is a precious thing. And on the other hand, to be a fun, modern, light item, which is not to be worn only on special occasions but every day.”
And the diamond-studded penis? “It’s not a penis, it’s a lingam – a Hindu symbol, which represents all the energies of the world, generating power in nature,” claims Areifulina.
Between her tsavorite marijuana stud earrings, diamond grenade substance decanter, and gold penises – sorry, lingams – does Areifulina feel that fine jewellery is undergoing a contemporary, albeit tongue-in-cheek, revolution, with Runa jewellery one of the driving forces?
“Yes and no,” she muses. “Ear cuffs and rings on upper phalanges, body chains, head chains – these items have [revolutionised fine jewellery], but quite a long time ago. But using modern motifs rather than traditional jewellery motifs is an evolution, as seen heavily in rap and hip-hop culture. I like these hyper-magnified items that are exaggerated, with a lot of precious stones, which almost look unreal as precious items.”
When asked about her favourite people, places and things, a theme seems to come through: the rule breakers and the bright lights in the history of art, from Basquiat to Banksy, New York to Rio de Janeiro. She describes her love of Rio as stemming from “its unstoppable energy, young generation vibe, feeling that all is possible”, while Basquiat appeals because “nobody can repeat as it was just inside him, this specific energy”.
Areifulina cites each recent creation as her favourite of the moment, with her design process pushing her to constantly review, improve and evolve her jewellery. When asked about her key iconic pieces, however, the razor mono earring is the first to be summoned. “All the mono earrings as an idea really,” she says. “In the beginning, many people asked for a pair.”
With two fingers up to outdated conceptions of what fine jewellery should mean, Areifulina continues to design, innovate and push boundaries, giving us a little more ‘pow’ with our diamonds.
The design is the most important thing – not the materials. Even when I am using diamonds and emeralds, I don’t want people to take my articles too seriously. I want them live and enjoy their life with these jewels. They are made for happy, relaxed people with a sense of humour