ALL ABOUT THE MAGIC
A Conversation with Designer GARY FREEMAN of JANOS TEDESCHI
By Lori Zimmer
In a time when designers are looking back to “vintage” 90s grunge for inspiration, Gary Freeman is digging even further back–like hundreds of years back. The New York based stylist and designer is one half of Janos Tedeschi, a high end jewelry line that is beyond “vintage inspired.” Along with partner Janos, Freeman culls snippets of master designs that span the centuries–from Byzantine empires to 16th Century Europe. Screw repurposing glamour of the 1920s a la The Great Gatsby, Freeman’s collaborative designs delve into the root of beauty–reimagining ancient beauties, rather than stylized Hollywood persona of the last century.
I love their designs, because they transport me into my own fantastical narrative. Wearing a piece of their jewelry is like imagining yourself to be a queen of an ancient civilization, or holding court in a massive castle in the French countryside–and what adult can say what they’re wearing does that?
Lori Zimmer: How did you and Janos come to work together?
Gary Freeman: I had just finished a few big projects and I wanted to get out of New York for a while so I traveled Europe for a month to “get inspired.” Janos and I met in Berlin and instantly clicked. We both had an appreciation for extraordinary and beautiful things, he calls it “magic.” When I noticed the huge quartz pyramids on his ring, he told me he studied gemology and had it made for himself based on a piece he saw in a museum. He told me he always dreamed of having all of his favorite pieces made. Being a stylist, designer and New Yorker, I saw this as a business opportunity to do something big. Once I told him that we just kind of hit the ground running. A few months later the ring was in Elle Vietnam!
LZ: Your pieces are inspired by the original glamour–historic pieces spanning hundreds of years. How do you find inspiration for your line?
GF: The inspiration comes from the idea that centuries ago people were creating exquisite fine jewelry that still holds up today. These pieces are timeless and we feel inspired to share them with the world.
LZ: You live in New York and Janos lives in Berlin–two very modern cities. What inspired you to create a line that references history, rather than the cutting edge modernism of your adopted homes?
GF: Some of these designs have never been attempted again since they were created so long ago. That, I believe, makes them fresh and original in a time where everyone is trying to create something avant garde. I feel like that can become monotonous. We have pieces that originate from all different parts of the world. That, as well as the antiquity, lends a sort of universal uniqueness–as contradictory as that sounds–that sets it apart and kind of makes it cutting edge in its own right.
LZ: Is it difficult to collaborate across the ocean?
GF: Haha! It has its share of challenges, but we make it work. We have regular meetings via Skype and talk on the phone as often as our schedules permit. There is a lot of legwork that takes place here in New York, so my plate stays pretty full, but Janos also works closely with our goldsmiths in Switzerland, and he and our third partner Astrid, who is based in Thailand, source stones all around the world. It really is a global operation, which is great because we get to travel to our respective cities a lot as well as abroad.
LZ: You’ve opted to go the high-end route, with precious stones, 18 karat gold and .925 silver bezel. How do these luxury materials enhance your brand?
GF: We wanted to make the highest quality product we could, out of respect for the original craftsmanship, as well as the people who appreciate fine jewelry and essentially fine art. It really was no question that it would be a high-end luxury brand, but we do offer some lower price point alternatives.
LZ: Your collection also features two 16th Century inspired silk shirts (with a shirt dress for the ladies line), do you foresee a line of historic-inspired clothing in the future?
GF: Janos always had a dream of creating the jewel-set buttons as featured on our pieces. I designed this small collection to be inspired by the different periods represented by our brand but still maintaining a modern chic aesthetic that’s not costume-y. It is definitely clothing for someone who wants to stand out and exude luxury, but also appreciates high quality fabrics and construction. We used Cerruti silk cotton for all of these pieces and everything is made to order for a more bespoke experience reminiscent of royalty and Saville Row. You also have the option of choosing your stones and fabrication so you could really customize a unique piece for yourself. There will certainly be more styles with upcoming lines.
LZ: Where can we get our hands on Janos Tedeschi?
GF: Right now to keep in line with the made-to-order quality, Janos Tedeschi is available exclusively through our website. That’s not to say it won’t be available elsewhere in the future. We’re hoping to garner some attention on our own before considering Bergdorf’s or places of the sort. Currently we work one on one with our clients to create a special piece that you will love forever. It’s all about the magic!
Gary Freeman is one half of the high-end jewelry line Janos Tedeschi.
Written by Lori Zimmer
Photography by Hadar Pitchon
Design by Lulu Vottero
Gary Freeman, New York City, 2013, Photography by Hadar Pitchon