Mexico City natives Phoebe and Annette Stephens are the sisters behind jewelry line Anndra Neen. Inspired by their grandmother, artist Annette Nancarrow, who designed eclectic jewelry for Frida Kahlo, Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein, the sisters channeled their creative childhood into a unique line that draws on ancient Egyptian motifs, Japanese design elements and Bauhaus graphics. Since the brand was founded in 2009, Anndra Neen has been featured in Harper’s Bazaar’s first Accessories BAZAAR, collaborated with designer Matthew Ames on his Spring 2011 collection and picked up the prestigious Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize.
How did your early experiences in New York influence your desire to start your own jewelry line?
New York is a city that pushes everyone to accomplish what they always dreamt of. Even though it can be intense it never ceases to challenge and inspire.
In what ways is your grandmother (artist and jewelry-maker) represented in your work?
Her work has been a huge influence. The sculptural aspect of what we do comes directly from her. She created big bold pieces and wore them all at once.
What’s it like working with your sister? How do you divide the work?
Working together is one of the best aspects of our job. We spend so much time with each other we start feeling like twins. We have the same vision, taste and business perspective. We share every task…literally.
Are you traveling often to Mexico City to oversee production? How many collections a year do you produce?
We go to Mexico every two months to check on production. We produce two collections a year.
Your line is very unique and not guided by current trends – was it difficult at the beginning for retailers to get on board and carry your pieces?
Most retailers were very excited by our pieces. When we launched everyone kept saying how different and refreshing the collection was from what was in the market at the time.
The cage motif is your line’s most recognized signature – what inspired this design/shape?
We had created a piece that had the motif and decided that it would be interesting to make a clutch out of it. The cage creates a dialogue between what’s inside and its incasing. It became a staple of ours and we incorporate it to every collection.
Art is cited as a major inspiration for your jewelry – who are your favorite artists?
Some of our faves are Gauguin, Brâncuși, Matisse, Kandinsky, Maxwell Gordon, Picasso, Henry Moore, Max Ernst, Georgia O’Keefe, van Gogh, Alvarez Bravo, Modigliani, and Mondrian.
How do you personally describe your jewelry?
We sometimes describe our jewelry as Mad Max meets lady who lunches.
What designers do you like to see paired with AN?
Céline, Alaïa, Christophe Lemaire, Lanvin, Chadwick Bell, Pola Thompson, Tome, Givenchy, Proenza Schouler, Matthew Ames…to name a few.