Valérie Messika, Founder of Messika, On Styling Rihanna's Pregnancy & Collection with Kendall Jenner
"That’s why I started Messika Paris, as I really wanted to change this idea and break down any sort of age on style barriers that had been put up," says Valérie Messika, the Founder and Artistic Director of the eponymous brand. Messika transformed the image of diamond jewellery and became a game-changer in the industry. In combining the heritage of diamonds with her contemporary design style, she has managed to build a brand that appeals to a sophisticated and seasoned diamond-wearing woman, as well as a younger, millennial woman, shifting purchasing habits from shoes and handbags to diamonds.
Today, Messika is a luxury fashion house with around 300 employees worldwide. It has become one of the most sought-after jewellery brands globally, with a cult fan base including celebrities like Rihanna, Beyoncé, Bella Hadid, Kate Moss, and many more.
Here, she shares stories of the birth of her brand, democratising diamonds, styling Rihanna and collaborating with Kendall Jenner.
This article is also available to read in Chinese (HK).
Messika was founded in 2005. How did you grow into an international business that is adored by celebrities and A-listers alike?
When I founded Messika 17 years ago, there was a real fear and apprehension around diamonds and most women only really wore the diamond for their engagement ring or for very traditional evening wear. A lot of women also thought of it as a stone to wear when they were ‘older’, as they had this notion that it is an aged them. That’s why I started Messika Paris, as I really wanted to change this idea and break down any sort of age on style barriers that had been put up. Little by little, step by step, by trying new things, I have created new collections that obviously answered a market need. Indeed, I noticed that there was a gap to be filled between big jewellery houses that offered mainly very serious and classical expensive pieces and other jewellery brands that offered costume jewellery made without precious stones. I had the idea to create diamond jewels to be worn on an everyday basis. Today, Messika can be considered as a luxury fashion house. We started this journey with five people and now we are a team of around 300 worldwide.
Any favourite pieces you’ve designed recently?
I loved designing the necklaces for Rihanna’s pregnancy. I wanted to pay a tribute to this time of joy of being pregnant with a drape of diamonds surrounding majestically Rihanna's belly. Three necklaces were designed in a bohemian style with different diamond shapes. For the Fenty event, she chose to wear only one, but we know she loves all three and has worn them before. Our technical challenge was the sliding system to allow the adjustment of the necklaces according to the progress of her pregnancy and to make it an easy-to-wear fashion statement.
Any exciting initiatives in the pipeline?
Everything is going so fast at Messika. I feel like I am living in a dream! I hope Messika will continue to evolve, we are still a young brand and there are so many things to do.
We are working on a High Jewelry collection … which is still very secret! We are forever pushing the boundaries of jewellery design, working with gold and the most precious of stones to create unique pieces, sometimes requiring thousands of hours of work.
Also, at the end of September, there will be the fashion show, our annual rendez-vous! It will be a big achievement to see my pieces on the runway again as I’m always drawing some of my biggest inspirations from fashion. To concept a real live runway experience with the codes of fashion combined with Messika style sensibilities and exceptional pieces from my High Jewellery collection is truly a dream. Lots of exciting projects!
In 2021 Messika opened its largest Asia flagship store in Hong Kong. What challenges have you encountered entering the Asian market and how did you respond to them?
Messika talks to many people in Hong Kong and around the world, and the desirability of the brand is surprisingly strong. The first figures went well beyond our expectations. Thanks to our wide offer and competitive prices, you will always find something, be it indulging yourself and finding the perfect gift for your loved ones. I create elegant diamond pieces to be worn on an everyday basis. A modern mix between timeless and contemporary pieces, but always with a little twist. It is also very surprising that we have the same bestsellers all over the world. The positioning of the brand, which is aimed at modern and independent young women, appeals to Chinese as well as French or Middle Eastern women. In China specifically, we see a stronger appetite for diamond pavé over the non-pavé designs.
What I love concerning Asian customers with, is that they mix feminine and masculine jewellery. For them there is no gender in jewellery and I really appreciate this mindset!
Recently Messika collaborated with Kendall Jenner. What have been some of your most exciting moments to date?
It was very exciting to shoot the campaign with her! We shot in the south of France, in Saint-Tropez. We chose to create a luminous and solar campaign based on different shades of blue: the blue of the sky, the sea … This multitude of blues is reminiscent of the different facets of a diamond. This mythical colour is also the idea of infinity and of escapism. Kendall embodies one facet of the different personalities of Messika. I see Kendall as an incarnation of the alpha woman: mysterious, free, and in control of her own destiny. She is both a free and confident woman. She is one of the 2.0 top models: a reflection of the new generation.
It is this spirit that I wanted to convey in the campaign which illustrates it perfectly. We had fun creating movement and dynamism around our pieces with sportswear and offbeat looks.
Recently she was wearing the Diamond Spears High Jewellery necklace while going to the Gold Party hosted by Jay-Z and Beyoncé during the Oscars; she looked stunning!
What leadership traits and characteristics do you feel are required in your pursuit of excellence?
My advice for those who would like to follow in my footsteps is that if you want to be a business leader, you must find your voice and your passion. When we are passionate about something normally, we find our voice easily, we execute it and we have fun while working, so somewhere we increase our strength.
Try to find something different and never deviate from the guideline set at the beginning. When Coco Chanel launched her brand, she had values, and DNA and respected them. At my smallest level, I wrote my ground rules from the start, I set them in stone. Despite the evolution and changing trends, I try to stay true to these values.
Regarding my own leadership, as a female leader, I lead my company with empathy and with my heart. I manage with kindness and energy instead of power and strength. I think this gives good working energy to Messika. I prefer to communicate the passion I have for my job, the desire to always do my best, and my passion for entrepreneurship instead of leading with power.
Regarding my own leadership, as a female leader, I lead my company with empathy and with my heart. I manage with kindness and energy instead of power and strength.