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Rodrigo Otazu

Jewellery designer Rodrigo Otazu tells Laura Jackson about his journey from humble beginnings to designing for Britney Spears.

How did you become a jewellery designer?
I left home as a teenager to seek my fortune and began by selling leather bracelets on the beaches of Argentina. I soon moved to Sydney where I lived for a few years and that was when my design career began to flourish.

I started making couture pieces and Australian Vogue got hold of my name and called me in to discuss my work. I decided that it wouldn’t be good manners to turn up empty-handed so I crafted a piece especially for the editor and took it with me. The team loved it, and next thing I knew it was on the front cover of the magazine.

Are you still based in Argentina?
No, not any more. I have two main bases, Amsterdam and Bali. Amsterdam for the blondes and Bali for the beaches. Also, I like the cultural differences when travelling between Europe and Asia, and this is crucial to keep my design juices flowing and stop my mood from becoming stagnant. I like to think that constant change and pushing the boundaries is reflected in my work.

Where do you draw the inspiration for your designs?
I travel a lot and it is the mix of art, culture and passion that I see in these different places that inspires my creativity. It can be something as simple as the beautiful colours of coral and fish I see when I’m snorkelling. I think of each piece as a love story, between me and the beautiful things I design.

Where do you source your materials?
Everywhere. I like to look at things that wouldn’t usually make luxury pieces and incorporate them into my designs. I have used everything, from plastic to diamonds, and at the moment I am working a lot with semiprecious stones, coral, pearls and Swarovski crystals. I will actually be showing jewellery at both Fashion Rocks and Runway Rocks this year, both of which have been commissioned personally by Nadia Swarovski.

Do you produce different ranges?
Yes, I have my Bijoux line of diamonds, which has run for five years and uses one-of-a-kind colourful diamonds. I create everything from dramatic pieces to daywear and the pieces regularly sell out. I started a sterling silver collection last year which has been really well received. This is for men and women, with the men’s line quite rock ’n’ roll and the women’s more delicate, light and sexy.

Do you know of many celebrities who wear your jewellery?
I saw a picture of Diane von Furstenberg wearing one of my necklaces the other day. She is the type of woman who I think epitomises
my style – she is a classic and confident woman who wants to look fabulous. I have worked with Nelly Furtado and Madonna, Janet Jackson, Pink and Penélope Cruz. These people are all such inspirational personalities, I love working with them.

What has been the highlight of your career?
One of the craziest things that ever happened to me was when I was asked to design the jewellery for Britney Spears’ Slave For You performance with the huge python at the MTV Awards in 2001. It was the first time I’d worked with her and, at one point, I was standing backstage talking to Slash from Guns N’ Roses and he was trying on one of my jewelled crowns. Britney was great and the whole experience was really amazing.

Rodrigo Otazu is a jewellery designer www.rodrigootazu.com

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