Narcisa Pheres, jewellery designer to the stars, offers an exclusive glimpse into her world
The Hong Kong-based visionary and socially conscious founder of luxury brand Pheres talks about the secrets to her success, the challenges she's faced, and how the pandemic has impacted her life.
Narcisa Pheres is nothing short of inspirational. A GIA certified diamond expert, she studied fashion design at Instituto di Moda Burgo in Milan and fashion marketing at Central Saint Martins, London, before launching her eponymous brand Pheres nearly 20 years ago. As creative director and CEO, she continues to lead the company with the same candid enthusiasm as she did when her journey began, designing extraordinary one-of-a-kind jewellery pieces and exclusive collections. Pheres also maintains her role as the official jewellery supplier to Her Highness Princess Olga Romanoff.
Pheres jewellery designs have graced red carpets from the Oscars to the Golden Globes and have been worn by a host of iconic women, including Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Madonna. We caught up with the influential designer on her current projects and how she hopes to change the world.
You are globally recognised for your accomplishments as an entrepreneur and creative in the luxury goods industry. What are the secrets to your success?
In short, a lot of hard work! It may seem like a glamorous job on the face of it, but designing in my studio or being with the goldsmiths in the workshop is far from the polished image one associates with jewellery. I've spent decades studying, working to build a business, and ultimately trying to prove myself. A lot of it also comes down to intuition, combined with a deep understanding of what people want, sometimes before they themselves know. I never stand still—I continue to learn and be inspired by art, architecture, travel, and history.
What is your proudest achievement?
The moment I saw one of my rings on Michelle Obama during former President Barack Obama's farewell speech in Chicago. That was a wild, life-changing moment! I woke up in Tokyo to hundreds of messages from friends and family, and interview requests from publications around the world. It was overwhelming! I have such deep admiration for Michelle Obama—for her grace, her intelligence, and for being someone who knows exactly what she stands for. It was an inspirational moment for me, one in which I made a promise to myself that I would keep improving, while simultaneously standing up for my values.
What are the greatest challenges you've faced?
Adapting to each market I operate in is a challenge. Our consumers are so diverse, between Europe and Asia and within Asia itself. For example, the spending power in Japan is mostly older men, while the spending power in China is mostly younger women, so we're having to develop with the customers' aesthetic preferences in mind. My greatest lesson throughout has been to keep an open and curious mind. After all, how can we progress and improve unless we're open to constantly learning new things?
What are you currently working on?
I'm designing a lot of commissioned one-of-a-kind pieces, which is what I love the most and where I can be at my most creative. Two of my favourite pieces recently were a rose gold bangle, adorned with multicoloured diamonds in a variety of shapes, and the tiara I created for Princess Olga Romanov, which featured 1,800 handset diamonds and countless hours of design and craftsmanship. To have the opportunity to design for royalty and become a part of history in this way is truly awe-inspiring.
What are the biggest changes happening in your industry?
Thanks to the pandemic, people's values have changed and their investment choices are all the more discerning. Consequently, the luxury industry is having to rapidly adapt, with many brands opting to tone things down and focus on their classic offering.
The future of the luxury industry, in my opinion, lies in sustainability. Thanks to increased awareness surrounding climate change and the impact on future generations, brands are having to take sustainability much more seriously and those that don't will cease to be relevant.
What does the future hold for you?
Last year, I co-founded the Global Responsibility 8 (GR8) Institute in Japan. We've since organised a number of events and conferences focusing on artificial intelligence, sustainability, female empowerment, and cultural diversity, but I want to do more. I'd love to open a similar sustainability-focused institute in China. I'm so fortunate to have a voice within the industry, and I try to use it as much as possible to highlight these hugely important topics. I've also just taken on an ambassador role between East Asia and Monaco, to help bring the Monegasque lifestyle of art and beauty into the region and become a cultural bridge. So lots of plans, but for now, I just plan to focus on what I know best: art and design.
What is priceless to you, and why?
Time. It's the one thing we can't buy and I simply can't get enough of. Time spent on myself, on being with family and friends, on helping to make a difference. I appreciate this valuable asset now more than ever!
The pandemic has had such a huge impact on not only my life but so many others. It's taught me to value what is truly important—my family, my friends, and time itself. Prior to COVID-19, I found myself constantly on a plane, travelling between Hong Kong and my various global offices and struggling to balance my time between work and family. Being grounded in this wonderful city I'm proud to call home, I find myself in this luxurious position where I can sit on my terrace and enjoy a coffee, taking my time to think about my designs. It's been a real eye-opener, not only in terms of how I run my business but how I live my life. It's encouraged me to slow down and appreciate every moment, no matter how small.