On The Rocks Magazine


Leane & McQueen


Silver bow choker created by Shaun Leane for Deliverance, spring/summer 2004 by Alexander McQueen

Over the next few days, the archive of pioneering jeweller Shaun Leane will be on display at Sotheby’s New York, in association with Kerry Taylor Auctions, before being auctioned to lucky bidders on the 4th of December. Among the many treasures going under the hammer are more than 30 pieces created for Alexander McQueen between 1996 and 2007. The relationship between Leane and the late Lee McQueen is one of the most fabled in fashion. Here, we revisit Leane’s feature in the inaugural issue of On The Rocks and extract some key quotes detailing the story of their unique collaboration. It all began one evening in the mid-90s, when McQueen came into the Hatton Garden atelier where Leane was working to wait for his friend to finish for the day… The rest
is history.

The spark

“It was an old Victorian workshop that you had to go up a wonky staircase to; with an old door and a peep hole and a loud clock ticking. It was quite romantic. When Lee came in, he was like, ‘Wow, is this what you do...?’ He liked the leather skin that hung under the jeweller’s bench to catch the gold dust. He said it reminded him of the workshops in the basements of Savile Row. Lee knew I was a craftsman but when he saw the level that I was working at, he was really taken with it.”

The proposal

“After I finished, we went to the Three Compasses and got pissed. Lee was working on a collection and said, ‘Would you make me some jewels?’”

The response

“I was really daunted by the idea […] I said to Lee: ‘I work in gold, diamonds and emeralds. How can I make things for this? It’s catwalk, you need large pieces. Where can we get the money? It’s not possible.’ Lee looked at me and said: ‘Why are you swearing at me? You are a craftsman – you can create anything. Think about the techniques you’re using!’”

The challenge

“I did some tests using different materials – brass; silver. And it was then I began to realise that I wanted to design, that I had my own imagination. Lee challenged and excited me. He was so interested in design, craftsmanship and techniques and in fusing them all together.”

The development of a style

“I realised that my design was strong and delicate, which is now the signature of the house [of Shaun Leane]. Lee taught me that balance of strength and femininity. He had a respect for nature.”

The legacy

“I think about him all the time when I’m designing. He taught me so much. Before I met Lee, I was a mere jeweller.”

Couture Fashion Jewellery – The Personal Archive of Shaun Leane is at Sotheby’s New York on 4th December 2017


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