Valérie Messika is a woman with many titles – a mother, a jewelry designer, and the first woman in France to head her own jewelry house, Messika. To say she is the epitome of a modern-day woman taking on a male-dominated industry would be an understatement. And while the jewelry designer was quite literally born into precious stones – her father is famous diamond merchant André Messika – she has long been recognized on her own merits.
Now, with 14 years in the jewelry game, Messika has created pieces for the red carpet, collaborated with Gigi Hadid, and even made fashion history with Beyoncé. Designing styles that give women the freedom to experiment and an opportunity to indulge, she aims to showcase the more delicate side of a diamond that, incidentally, pairs well with today’s love for understated luxury. In this exclusive interview with Savoir Flair, the jewelry designer opens up about the pressures of running a business, reveals the advice given by her father, and shares her reaction to that Beyoncé video.
Can you start by telling us what prompted you to go into the jewelry business?
When I started out, I joined my father’s business. He’s very famous in the diamond industry and, as I am his first child, the pressure was on my shoulders to follow suit. I enjoyed it very much, but I felt that my path was a little less conventional in the diamond industry.
I felt I could create new things with a touch of contemporary, casual cool. I’d always heard that “diamonds are forever”, and this bored me! It’s a great sentiment, but growing up with diamonds, they felt more playful and easy to me. I decided I wanted to create a brand that focused exclusively on diamonds, with pieces that women could buy for themselves.
Have you noticed that more women are buying jewelry for themselves as opposed to getting it from somebody else?
Yes, of course! The mentality is changing – that’s good for us.
What’s your design philosophy?
My philosophy is to make the diamond closer to a woman’s skin, like a tattoo. The setting that I use is very delicate and fits just right.
What is your favorite part of designing?
I love the process of creation. I can do it anywhere – in my car, in the bath – my ideas come one after the other. I see it like gymnastics; the more you design, the more it will help you develop your ideas.
You’re the first woman in France to have her own jewelry house. What is it like to be in such a powerful position?
I’m very proud because I love being a woman, and I’m proud to be a woman. I’ve observed how the brand has grown in less than 15 years – it’s not a baby anymore. We’re on the same playing field as brands that have over 100 years of experience. I think this is all thanks to my roots; my father’s expertise was strong. He started the legacy, and I think that’s a part of our success.
Have you seen any trends on the rise in the realm of jewelry?
I see that jewelry is appearing all over the body. I find it so cool! Hand bracelets, body chains – it’s everywhere – and that makes the diamond cool. I’ve worked on ear cuffs for a long time; I love the asymmetry, and I think women like it as well. I’ve spoken to women who tell me that they want to mix and match to create their own look.
Did your father give you any advice when you started your own company?
Yes, he told me two things. First, he said, “Please, never copy anyone. Find your direction, find your style. Be inspired by what you’d like to wear and don’t look to others.” He then told me to focus primarily on the diamond, saying, “The more focused you are on your expertise, the more your client will rely on you to give them quality.” Because we have the same last name, I have to uphold his legacy.
What’s the hardest part of working with diamonds?
It’s not always easy because when you work with diamonds, you have to reinvent your style. I tend to find inspiration within my own collections. For the ‘Move Addiction’ collection I did with Gigi Hadid, certain pieces were inspired by safety pins. I try to see things and adapt them to my world and my DNA.
What have you learned about the business side since you started your own brand?
Running my own business is so cool, but very hard. I have more than 200 people behind me, and it’s a bit frightening sometimes. I want to keep going and not let them down. I want to keep going higher and higher. When you reach this level, you no longer have a choice but to be successful. When you start, it’s playful and you have nothing to lose – now there’s pressure to grow.
What advice would you give your younger self in regards to starting your business?
My advice would be to keep going on your first impression. If you have the power to create a trend in your own world someday, keep going with what you’ve decided. If people love what you did the first time, it’s because of that. Don’t follow trends, just go your own way.
Is there any celebrity you’d love to see wearing your designs?
Well, I’m very lucky because my favorite is Beyoncé, and she’s a big fan. She has worn our pieces on the red carpet, and chose Messika for her “Apesh*t” video. Her people originally told me that it would be for a photoshoot – what they didn’t tell me is that it would be in a music video as well! I cried when I saw a piece of my ‘High Jewelry’ line in the music video.