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On art and fashion with Krystyne Griffin

Close up of black coral beads
1 year ago

Krystyne Griffin, a fixture of local best-dressed lists who is celebrated for her striking and original style, has been credited with single-handedly bringing serious fashion to the Toronto. Raised in Vilnius during the Second World War, Griffin launched a fashion career as Eaton’s Paris-based designer fashion buyer in the 1970s, and was later appointed president of YSL Rive Gauche Canada.

No stranger to the Yorkville neighbourhood, she helped launch the flagship Holt Renfrew on Bloor Street and encouraged high-end boutiques like Hermès, Giorgio Armani, and YSL to set up shop in Hazelton Lanes. Today, she designs a highly-coveted collection of artisan jewellery sold at the Gardiner Shop or privately. A recent feature in our weekly e-newsletter generated a flurry of interest—almost all of her pieces in the Shop are now sold out!—so we decided to ask Griffin a few questions about her jewellery collection and personal style.

Black and white image of Krystyne Griffin

You’ve had an incredible career in fashion. When you decided to create your own collection, what made you choose jewellery as your focus?

Having been involved in the fashion world for most of my professional life, in Paris first, and then in Canada, I felt a new energy when I decided to create my own jewellery collection. Of course, fashion—clothes—expresses your choice of how to look, but nothing expresses your style more than accessories. One can wear a simple pair of jeans and white shirt, or a plain, perfect, little black dress, but it’s the scarf, the bag, the jewellery that will put the touch of your style on your look.

Finished with working in clothing, I set my imagination to accessorizing, in particular jewellery, made by artisans with a modern, almost organic quality. Mostly I use silver, turquoise, amber, agates, and semi-precious stones. I particularly favour old beads and antique coins to make necklaces and bracelets. These are antique beads made of black coral or “oltu” black amber. I find them in Istanbul, Cairo, Tehran, and Sanaa. Originally they were crafted and used as prayer beads, but when they break, they are discarded and can be found in the bazaars.

Necklaces made with black coral and antique coins

Would you say that you have a signature piece or style of jewellery that you’re known for?

The pieces made with antique black beads have become my signature over the last decade. I’ve made connections with merchants who contact me in order to show me what they have found, but I also travel extensively every year to search the bazaars myself.

Necklace with antique blue and silver beads

It’s clear that your travels play such an important role in your fashion. What can you say about the relationship between fashion and memory?

What you wear, if it’s original and beautiful, will deserve to be remembered. It can bring back the memory of a trip, or even a visit to a museum in that country.

Silver bangles with blue stones

What makes a piece of jewellery art?

A piece of jewellery becomes art through the great skill of the artist or artisan. It is one of a kind and hand-crafted, not machine-made. For my jewellery collection, I work with a skilled team of silversmiths in Taxco, Mexico.

How do you dress for an art event like an exhibition opening? Does an art gallery or a museum inspire a certain kind of outfit?

Personally, a gallery or museum will always influence what I will wear—it is the inspiration from the art in these places that makes me put on something special. It could be connected to the theme of the exhibit. The art around your neck should reflect your appreciation of the art in the cases or on the walls. As an example, to the Gardiner Museum I might wear an Egyptian-style neckpiece made of antique ceramic beads.

Find jewellery by Krystyne Griffin at the Gardiner Shop, on site and online, and check back often for new stock!

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