For Fotini Liami, Greece really is the word. And the world. The colours of the country; its white houses, deep sapphire seas, azure skies and deep, jewelled sunsets. Its particular light; clear, bright, reflecting and sparkling on the waves. And its historical and creative heritage, artisan skills forged in the crucible of one of the world’s great civilisations and honed making treasures that still awe today. Fotini harnesses these influences, and distils them into treasures of her own – her jewellery designs. We adore her goddess-worthy cuffs – fit for heroines – that fuse ancient Greek aesthetics with a disco sensibility – imagine Circe at Studio 54.
Fotini graduated with a degree in English literature from the University of Thessaloniki in 1980, but, despite teaching English in private schools for four years, felt no pull towards the profession. Instead, she wanted to express herself artistically. She says, “It was an inner power which pushed me to change life completely”. In 1987 she founded her brand, FL Private Collection.
She started picking up anything that caught her eye; colourful Murano glass, tiny, patterned African trade beads, semi-precious stones and crystals, and began experimenting. Initially, her designs were naive, but year-on-year they matured and became sophisticated. A huge turning point came when she met a Greek master goldsmith and persuaded him to teach her his methods and creative process. He showed her how to make a prototype, how to cut metal by hand, “because we want them to have these little discrepancies that makes them unique”, how to hammer a finish and gold plate impeccably.
According to Fotini, a piece’s tactility is as important as its looks and design. It’s about creating something easy to wear and light, but with enough heft to mark out its quality – she calls it ‘fairy elegance’. Her technique uses bronze leaf, plated in gold or silver. She explains, “We use very light leaves of bronze so that the piece is like a feather but without losing its gravity.”
Inspiration comes from her travels, “Different civilisations always give you new perspectives, fantastic images, new fresh ideas”, but most of all from her sheer love of designing. She takes a random, fresh approach every season, “Simply scattered beads and metals may give me a divine idea for a whole collection and usually that's how it starts. Every season, I throw everything on my table!”