For the ultra-rich, luxury is making an undeniable transformation. As top brands become increasingly accessible and more visible to consumers across the globe, exclusivity is being redefined and true design may be slipping from those nestled at the top of the world’s more renowned luxury bands.
Luxury artisans are slowly gaining influence. In Geneva, Suzanne Syz, Zurich born jewellery designer, has redefined the terms. Gems and diamonds in shapes of lifesaver candies, fruits, flowers, to ivy leaves or buttons, she dreams up most unconventional creations inspired by neo-expressionism. Like many contemporary artists she develops collections, and does not repeat anything she creates again. Her rhetoric is simple. “What is beautiful will stay beautiful,” she explains, “Good quality will always be good quality”. This philosophy stems from many decades of wisdom grown from being an avid collector deeply immersed in the international art scene.
When In New York
Her story begins in the grit and glamor of the less gentrified 1980’s New York. There, Suzanne Syz found herself on the cusp of a lifetime hobby, career, and passion. “When I was in my 20’s, I started collecting art. I think this period had a strong influence colour wise and also style wise on my work today as an artist, developing jewellery”.
Suzanne Syz became a collector when a close friend, Bruno Bischofberger, brought her into his artistic circle. Bishofburger, a major figure in the international art market, is known for bringing pop art to Europe in the 1960’s and American neo-expressionism in the 1980’s. He was the driving force behind placing and distributing the works of Andy Warhol in collections across Europe. Through him she met Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente, Jeff Koons and many others whose works have clearly influenced the bold designs and vibrant colours of her own pieces.
Syz’s husband, founding partner and general manager of Banque SYZ & CO SA in Geneva, Eric Syz, had brought them to New York when he started his banking career on Wall Street in 1981. She played an important supporting role for her husband during the bank’s early days in the mid-1990’s. “When you achieve something it takes always more than one person,” says Syz. “You make it work, you go the extra mile, and sometimes it’s very rewarding.”
When Suzanne came to Geneva after her children were grown, she found time to do something for herself. Reflecting back, jewellery seemed a natural extension after 30 years in the art business. She had enough experience and time to learn. She was completely ready. “I must say I was always very creative. Through the jewellery, it was in a way quite natural. I started 15 years ago to look out for beautiful stones and then I did my first collection. The jewellery was, in the beginning, for me and then everyone was asking what I was wearing and I was a bit reluctant to show it.” As interest developed, she started to grow a collection. Popularity grew by word of mouth.
“[Word of mouth] takes longer, but it also goes much deeper; we don’t create for everybody, we don’t do mass production. It is wonderful in the sense that your clients are special to you. You know them and you know what their needs are. Because we’re so small, it’s a very special relationship that we have with our clients. And I am like them; when you spend a certain sum of money on something you want the best and you have to get the best.”
Her relationships with her clients are a two way street. She has also refused clients that don’t align with her artistic vision. “I do different designs,” she says, “I don’t want to feel like a person that gets an order. I don’t work like that.” Her experience has shown her in what ways she is able to work and excel. Sometimes she gets an order and sketches it out on the plane or at a restaurant. “Sometimes I am a little bit ahead of fashion. When I started with my fruit, Dior picked it up. We really don’t repeat anything and it does not matter if we are copied. Dior will never get to this level of craftsmanship and that is fine. It’s good to be copied. Nowadays, you can invent anything— you just have to have ideas.”
All stones that Suzanne Syz uses for her pieces are selected and set in Geneva. “I have really travelled the world to find the right place – and I must say that Geneva is without a doubt the best. I have a very personal relationship with my setters. That I can only find in Geneva.” Suzanne Syz is a unique find with a rich background and exposure to some of the most recognized visionaries in contemporary art. Her persistence for innovation and creativity are refreshing elements in a largely unexplored market that combines ultra luxury with raw imagination and passion.
Article by Lindsay Michiels