For a man who is called the King of Bling in some circles, who once sang on stage with Sting and George Michael at the Royal Albert Hall, and who happens to be the father of an Oscar-winning writer, filmmaker and actress, Theo Fennell is exceptionally down to earth. Consider the very first line of his early memoirs, I’m scared for this boy: some chapters of accidents, which came out this spring: “You’ll probably have no idea who I am,” he wrote.
It’s quite the opposite, and not just because his aforementioned daughter is Emerald Fennell, who had a few stellar years – she was the showrunner of Kill EveThe second season of , for which she was nominated for two Emmys, then had an Emmy-nominated and SAG-winning turn as Camilla on The crown, then made her directorial debut with Promising Young womanwhich earned him an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay as well as Best Picture and Best Director nominations.
Long before the birth of his children — he shares Emerald and his sister, Coco, who is a fashion designer, with his wife Louise, a screenwriter and novelist — Fennell Sr. was an extremely eccentric man in town. And since creating his eponymous jewelry line 40 years ago, he’s adorned the likes of Sir Elton John, Elizabeth Hurley, Madonna and Lady Gaga in his signature cheeky designs (for Prince George’s birth in 2013, he created a famous £10,000 ring charm bracelet that doubles as a diaper cream holder).
Now, at 70, he’s also a published author, which happened by accident. During the Covid-19 quarantine two summers ago, Fennell decided to write a book intended only for the eyes of his family. “I always wished my dad had written some of his pre-WWII stories and that kind of stuff. He never did and I always regretted it,” he says, echoing to an almost universal feeling. “I thought I would write a bunch of what I thought were fun stories for my daughters and my wife.” The original plan was to have a few dozen copies published for distribution to relatives and close friends. Then a friend, whom Fennell had asked to take a look at his draft, passed it on to an editor, who realized the material was too good for just 50 people to read.
In effect, I fear for this boy, a title that comes from a school report Fennell received in his youth, is a charming compilation – more of a “how not to book” as he calls it – of laugh-out-loud vignettes of a colorful life that exudes self-a derogatory wit, a bit of gallows humor and a poignant sense of perspective that comes with age – not to mention having lived through many episodes of truth is stranger than fiction and d lived to tell these stories. Among the book’s gems: there was that time when thieves broke into his London studio and got away with not just the entire safe, but even the guard dog. Or when he called 20th Century Fox and got the rights to do star wars jewelrywhich turned out to be less of a lucrative business and more of a painful business lesson.
For all its juicy treats, however, the memories are nearly devoid of dirt. “I didn’t want famous people involved because these ‘famous people I’ve known’ things are incredibly boring,” Fennell said. “Secondly, no sex, obviously, because my daughters were going to read it. Thirdly, I didn’t want anyone to get hurt. It was really fun and the only person who was going to come out badly was me.”
Fennell also discovered his career as a jeweler by accident. He went to art school, as he had always wanted to, but in the end had not yet chosen a specific discipline. He still has to find a job and the first person to offer him one comes from a goldsmith company. “By pure kismet, this turned out to be the perfect solution,” he says. “It was something in which I could combine all the things that I loved, whether it was allusions to music, to images, to architecture, in a way that I never thought possible.”
Despite a prominent clientele, Fennell has always sought to keep a low profile and maintain a certain IYKYK quality in his work. Branding was never the goal, although that changed the minute he handed his company over to investors a long time ago. “Very stupid,” he said. “It’s become a very ordinary situation for a young creative to spend twenty years fighting to get their name back.”
He finally regained full control of his business nine months ago and returned to the original mission statement, where craftsmanship takes precedence over mass production, and bespoke and one-of-a-kind creations make up the majority of his work. . “It’s been very cathartic. It suddenly feels like I’m 25 again, except my body doesn’t work,” says Fennell, who now spends time mentoring students and designers so they can avoid falling into the same traps.
To put a ruby-encrusted cherry on what is turning out to be a fantastic 2022, Fennell has another personal milestone to celebrate: it’s been 25 years since he quit drinking. And while he doesn’t regret the wild behaviors of his youth – they made great literature, after all – his ability to be clear in hindsight, and to live in the moment, and not care about what than people think, and taking things in stride would never have come if he hadn’t sobered up. “Quitting drinking gave me a lot more self-awareness and allowed me to look at what was really important,” he says. “Family, friends and fun. I just made up the three Fs. Maybe there’s a fourth F but I’m too old for that now.”
Leena Kim is associate editor at City & Countrywhere she writes about travel, weddings, arts and culture.