Designer interview: Claire Wilkinson, Aquamarine Ibiza

Aquamarine Ibiza designer Claire Wilkinson left her hometown of London at the tender age of 17, and has now spent more time living away from the UK capital than she did in it! Her path to becoming a fashion designer wasn’t direct – Claire spent much time working aboard boats (an obvious influence in her designs today) in the Caribbean before the sights and sparkle of Asia beckoned. It was here she developed a love of markets, attracted to jewellery and colours like a magpie, and she soon found herself holding her own stalls.

At the time when Ibiza started to become a destination on the traveller’s map, fate led Claire to the white isle, where she experienced a rocky start. 18 years later, she’s still here and spends her days designing dreamy beachwear for Ibiza’s ‘gypset’ girls and her brand, Aquamarine Ibiza is now available in four countries!

Were you always interested in fashion?
Basically my passion was jewellery. I’d been collecting it and making it, and when I was in Asia working in the markets I was making and selling my own jewellery. This naturally progressed to buying and selling clothes, then designing clothes, and over time, slowly, slowly, the clothes took over from jewellery – but you can still see my love of jewellery is evident from the embellishments and beading in my work.

What brought you to Ibiza?
I was ready to leave Asia, but I didn’t really know where I wanted to be. A lot of friends told me about Ibiza, they said there was a market scene here and so it seemed like a good choice. It’s like a cross roads between east and west. But when I first came here in 1996, I really didn’t like it… I hated it in fact! [laughs] I was doing markets in San Antonio and just didn’t really enjoy the experience, so I left again and went back to Asia… but of course, I didn’t want to be there either.

So what brought you back a second time?
A friend convinced me to come back. This time we rented a little shop on Calle de La Virgen, lived in a lovely little house, spent a lot of time with friends from Asia who were gravitating here… I had a completely different experience and I just loved it – I’ve lived here ever since.

How did you go from market stalls to designing a label?
I’d been designing clothes for my markets for a while and had another label, but it just wasn’t going in the right direction. Then in around 2003, I started working with silk and creating some more higher-end pieces and it was really well received. I decided to rebrand then, and it became Aquamarine Ibiza.

How do you describe the Aquamarine Ibiza style?
It’s quite timeless and classic – I don’t like to follow fashion and I never have. It’s also a little bohemian, but not hippy – it’s very Ibiza to me. Glamorous without being too over the top, sexy but comfortable, a lot of embellishments – the kind of thing you can wear to the beach or on a boat and then straight on to dinner and cocktails. It’s for the jet set girl who is slightly boheme. I use lots of colours, animal and reptile prints.

Is there a story behind the name?
Aquamarine is my birthstone, and it’s obviously the colour of the sea here in Ibiza. It just had to be Aquamarine Ibiza.

What is your design process like?
I start by sourcing and designing our fabrics – I work with a graphic designer in Ibiza and then run colour samples until I have exactly what I want. I then sketch my designs, which I produce in Bali. Each piece is handmade by a small family-run factory and I have worked with this same family for 14 years. They know me so well and really understand exactly what results I want – it’s a very personal process. Some of the pieces have over 1100 individually sewn beads on them and take a full day and half to complete one piece. I love seeing my ideas come to life in the finished piece.

Who or what inspires your designs?
Ibiza has always been a great inspiration. I’m always thinking about how each pieces is going to make you look and feel – a lot of them are low cut and revealing, or have quite high splits up to the thigh, and they are very sheer creating a subtly sexy look in an elegant way. It’s an elegant kind of chic. But it can be anything that inspires me – from people on the street, to pictures in magazines and on the internet, colours and shapes, places. And jewellery too – you can see my love of jewellery and jewel tones in the detailing and embellishments.

What is your own personal style like?
My style is quite simple – but I love to accessorise and dress everything up with jewellery.

Are you still making jewellery?
I haven’t had time to make any over the past few years, but I just did a silversmith last year, so I would love to.