Memoir: Luminato artistic director Jorn Weisbrodt on why he loves a bit of bling
One day, not so long ago, I was looking in a mirror after getting dressed for the Met Gala, and I was blinded by my reflection. I was wearing a sparkly brooch, an even more sparkly scarf and a gold and coral pin that resembled a fishing rod. Next to me was my husband, Rufus, waiting with more: a bracelet, skull cufflinks and a hawk feather from the beach in Montauk for my bowler hat.
How did I get here, I wondered?
When I was about five years old in Germany I used to sit in front of my mother’s vanity table and go through her jewellery. It wasn’t all that much, as she accessorized modestly. I was particularly fascinated by an amber necklace—I imagined it was from the lost Amber Room in the Catherine Palace outside of St. Petersburg, but it was probably just handed down from her mom—and a silver ring that looked like a blooming rose, which mysteriously disappeared one day.
It was more than a decade later that my interest in accessories flared up again. It started with facial hair. After hitting puberty, I finally had some to play with. I figured that what makeup is to women, facial hair is to men—you can use it to change your look. I had them all—moustaches, sideburns, a chin strap, a Hollywoodian—but was so jealous when Prince was able to get the word “slave” into his beard. I couldn’t do that.
My first real accessory was a gift my parents bought for me on a family trip to Italy when I was 12. It was a gold chain like the kind Adriano Celentano—the Italian Paul Anka, a huge star in those days—always wore. My world was made of capri pants, chest hair (which I didn’t have, but wanted desperately), a nice gold chain and my dad’s heavy, thick chrome-rimmed sunglasses left over from the ’70s.
A few years ago, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Sneoren of the fashion house Victor and Rolf gave Rufus a beautiful carnelian ring with a profile of Hermès. I wanted it. Luckily it was too large for him and it landed on my finger. It started a collection.
At a benefit once, Rufus pinned a playing card, the joker, on my shirt, which was a great idea
I found a beautiful antique Austrian hunting trophy ring in Zell am See that looks like it could have been left behind by the von Trapp family. It has two stag teeth arranged in a heart shape and some silver oak leaves around it. Next came an engagement ring and wedding band, followed by a jade ring my husband bought me in Big Sur, where we spent our honeymoon. It complements my ring tetralogy—if I get any more rings I think I’ll need a weapons licence to carry them all.
I wear the occasional brooch to please my husband, as he often pins them on me, insisting that I wear something sparkly or unusual. To me, the key with accessories is eclecticism. If it looks uniform, it’s boring. At a benefit once, Rufus pinned a playing card, the joker, on my shirt, which was a great idea. An accessory has to have a narrative. It has to be a kind of trophy. When people say, wow, where did you get that, you should be able to say a flea market in Moscow, or Mali, or Carrie Fisher. Yes, Princess Leia gave me colourful bead bracelets as a wedding gift, and I found a silver-mounted bear claw pendant in Moscow that Tolstoy must have written about in a lesser work. But most times my favourite accessories are from my husband’s closet. And ultimately, he is the best accessory of all.
Jorn Weisbrodt is the artistic director of the Luminato Festival.