ZOOT meets Belgrade-based accessory designer, Srdjan, the creative force behind the Harem Royal brand, to talk about the intricately beautiful yet fierce ‘taxidermy jewellery’ designs from his ‘Screwpulous Jewellery’ collection…
By Lucy Mclean
ZOOT MAG: What 3 words would you use to summarise your artistic style?
HAREM ROYAL: D.econstructive, E.clectic A.nd D.angerous.
I love to break things into their smallest segments and facilitate their progressive metamorphosis, infinite manipulation and endless play with different styles, while maintaining basic identity, aesthetics and function.
Z: Where does the name of the collection, ‘Screwpulous‘, originate from?
HR: It`s a sort of homophonic pun suggesting multiple meanings. It was a challenge to successfully blend the meticulous with carefree, seduction and death; power with danger, devotion and deceit; all essential layers in a tension that lies between attraction and aggression inside the Harem Royal paraphernalia.
Z: What do you think makes your work unique and innovative today?
HR: Innovation is a very personal expression of mine. I am interested in the moments of transformation within precious objects that bridge the gap between who we are, when we are vulnerable and who we are when we are unbreakable. Thus, the jewellery I create possesses sculptural heritage, as well as wearable body adornment, with a life of their own.
Laser cutting, repetition and multiple layers are fundamental aspects of building flat elements into a 3D form. By using metals alongside organic materials, I am questioning the traditional notions of preciousness. And also with new technologies as a tool, I am questioning existing perceptions of craft.
Z: Tell us a bit about your studies and how you learnt such fine jewellery techniques?
HR: I started as a costume designer in the theatre and continued to develop technical costumes skills in the movie industry. Later on, I worked as a fashion accessories designer, where I was producing designs for fashion weeks in Milan, Paris and New York. It was very hectic and challenging but also ephemeral, so I lusted for something eternal and etheric, and that’s how the ‘Harem Royal – Screwpulous Jewellery’ line began.
Z: There is a heavy focus on natural elements in your designs, most controversially using real butterfly wings, porcupine quills and genuine deer or fox furs in some of your designs. Has taxidermy always been something that fascinates you?
HR: It might come as a surprise, but I’m not at all fascinated with taxidermy. I do use some organic elements because of their tactility. The tactile, symbolic and inherent qualities of skin attract me. Its smell and texture draw me closer to working with it. Touching things allows a more intimate perception.
Organic materials such as fur, exotic skins or horsetail hair intend to create delicate and tactile balance versus cold and sharp metal constructed cages. I`m fascinated with Pagan beliefs, Greek myths and Medieval heraldry, but also Jung’s understanding of the psyche and boisterous nature of sublime, with the hint of therianthropy as an experimental view of identity and metamorphosis.
Z: You describe your designs as ‘fierce yet glamorous’; do you think there is an aspect of cruelty to any of your work?
HR: People can complain that roses have thorns, but they should be thankful that thorns have roses. One always remembers the unpleasant longer than the pleasant things in life. Would you deem a rose cruel?
Z: Where do you source these real life elements?
The natural materials are sourced from ethical outlets, keeping things as cruelty free as possible. All of the organic materials are either recycled or come from reliable, legal sources or they are collected during my childhood days.
Z: Do you think it is important to make controversial and thought-provoking fashion in today’s climate?
HR: In my opinion, it is more important to build a society and culture where there will be no need for radical atmosphere or controversy forcing fashion to rise.
Z: Many of your designs also include intricate coats of arms and traditional hunting imagery or gothic symbols, what message do you want each piece of jewellery to portray?
HR: All’s fair in love and war. Love is a battlefield and you are allowed to be deceptive in order to get what you want. Like the famous quest for the Holy Grail, true love is a medieval literary creation. In other words, the chalice of courtly love and all the romantic sentiments and eroticism that fill it – it’s an illusion.
Z: What do you do to find new inspirations?
HR: Inspiration sometimes opens the door. Other times, you have to open that door for yourself. I actually think that inspiration is overrated. Motivation works best for me.
Z: What music are you listening to at the moment?
HR: Wagner and Electric Youth.
Z: Who would you most like to design a custom accessory for and what would it be?
HR: Royal body armour for Madonna. I’d like to haremize her for eternity and rise her up like Tutankhamen under the Sirius.
Z: What is your favourite part of the creative process?
HR: Making jewellery can be quite a messy and dangerous job, which means getting cut, burned, scraped, splintered and smashed. My favourite moment is the transformation from the dirty work into reality… The moment when a tangible object appears leaves me with such an intense relief that I forget all the hard and sweaty times during the process.
Z: You often use eco packaging to present your jewellery, is remaining environmentally conscious an important part of your work?
HR: Certainly. I`m glad more and more people are aware of the importance of ecological systems. Unfortunately it seems that it`s not enough because there are so many of them who did not.
Z: Are there any specific materials you would want to work with in the future?
HR: I would love to combine the richest materials and highly skilled craftsmanship with a subtle use of cutting edge technology.
Z: What is next on the agenda for ‘Screwpulous Jewellery’?
HR: To challenge myself to deliver perversely elegant greatness beyond the known and the unknown, where imagination flies and fantasy is the ultimate limit, or simply to cut, burn, scrap and smash my way to the Throne…