From rising 24-year old Irish actress Eve Hewson to 81-year old writer Elinor Klein, Eva Zuckerman tapped a diverse group of 21 women to participate in her latest project, “XXI Women.” The common thread being that these women have all inspired the designer in one way or another.
“Everyone involved is somebody with a meaningful connection to my life,” explains Zuckerman with pride. “I met the stylist [of this project] Deborah Watson when I was 18-years old living in Williamsburg. She’s become a muse, sister, and mentor to me.” Each woman who sat for a portrait can be described as some combination of muse, sister, mother, mentor, and friend. The project, which lives on the Eva Fehren website and in book form, is a way of celebrating these women’s distinct perspectives, and in doing so, beautifully reinforces the Eva Fehren point of view.
Visiting Zuckerman’s studio, it’s easy to see how important point of view is to the designer, who’s fingerprint is in every detail of the space, from the white floors she had bleached and stained just so to the matte black furniture and white marble tables she designed herself. The portraits were shot in the space over a two-day period by photographer duo (and close friends of Zuckerman) Dimitri Scheblanov and Jesper Carlsen of Herring & Herring. Below, Zuckerman opens up about the dynamic shoot and why now made sense to launch this project so close to her heart
The Window: Why did you decide to do this project now?
Eva Zuckerman: I had just gone through the CFDA Fashion Fund, which involved a lot of analyzing my business and an enormous period of growth. I felt like I really wanted to reconnect with the thing that really drives me to make jewelry and the more emotional part of what I do. I’m happy and proud to celebrate the woman in my life. They’ve helped me grow as a person and a brand in such an important way, so it was the stage in my career to thank them and focus on them. It’s easy to get sucked into a lot of things that don’t matter in this business, and this was something that I knew really mattered to me. I was so excited to work with my peers that I admire.
And what is it that drives you?
I’m incredibly inspired by the woman who I make jewelry for. My favorite thing about fine jewelry is that it’s not seasonal—it’s more about celebrating a moment. It holds a lot of meaning whether you receive it from someone or buy it for yourself. Funnily enough, a lot of the women in this project had bought pieces for themselves, and described it as a really an empowering and emotional thing. I wanted to dial into the more personal reasons that I have for designing and that connectivity. I was trying to peel back the layers of why women feel so connected to jewelry and why my jewelry. As I started to explore this, I realized that the discovery process for that was being with these women who wear my work.
What about the process for casting these women? Were they all close friends or did you meet some of them in the process?
It felt effortless and clear to me from the start who I wanted to be involved with the project. For the most part, I was very close with all these women before we got started. In the case of a few of the people, we were mutual fans of each others work but didn’t know each other well. For example, Andrea Marshall and I were big supporters of each other, and this project allowed us to finally collaborate and work together.
Going through the CFDA and just being a young brand, I’ve asked myself what is my point of view? The point of this project was to say that we are so many things, and the women who wear Eva Fehren are so many things. What united them is that they are bold, confident, and strong individuals. They aren’t one age or one demographic. I find women who want to express their own point of view so exciting!
Tell us about the process of actually shooting—were you on set for each portrait session?
We shot everyone here in the space and set up a full photo studio. It was one of the most fun weeks of my life! The hardest part was the scheduling, because everyone involved is so busy, yet somehow we managed to shoot it in just two days. People were hanging out between shots. There was one point where it was like Gucci Westman, Athena [Calderone] and Garance [Dore] were all getting their hair and makeup done at the same time, and I was just amazed watching them all interact. It was just so fun to see the mix of women hanging out together.
Did you get the post-shoot blues when it ended?
My mother [pictured above] was the last person we shot, and it was really emotional having her there. It made me so happy and proud. But I was probably more relieved than sad when it was done!
Did anything surprise you about the shooting process?
One thing that surprised me and that I thought was wonderful was how much most of the women needed me there while they were being shot. I would stand and talk to them and help them get into the spirit of what we were doing.
Also, my jewelry can be worn, stacked, and layered in so many ways, which is a core philosophy of the brand. What surprised and delighted me was how everyone chose and styled the jewelry in such different ways. That was one of the more magical parts of the experience—seeing how so many different women could reflect their own personal style using the pieces. Speaking to the women while we were shooting them, it became really clear that they consider their Eva Fehren pieces part of their second skin. It’s really exciting and cool to me to feel like the work we’ve made can become part of who people feel like they are.
Everyone featured in the campaign gave a quote about what inspires them. What would your quote be?
The whole point in focusing on these women was that it wasn’t about me, so that’s hard to answer! I really care about my customers and the woman who wear my jewelry, so this was all about how they inspire me. Right now, I feel inspired by strong, bold, creative people in my community. I feed the most off the energy of the people in my life and the work they create.
How important are creative projects like this to the brand as a whole?
For me, it’s essential to my brand. I’m trained as an artist, and I really see all of these facets of the brand as part of a bigger whole. They really feed my creativity and the story of who we are. I’m always trying to think of surprising ways to show the jewelry and to describe what Eva Fehren is without necessarily using words. Of course I care about the jewelry, but the jewelry lives in my world—it’s all part of an identity. Creative projects allow me to reintroduce the brand and the point of view to my customers without having to reinvent the product, because I don’t think the product should change every five seconds. Fine jewelry is about being timeless.