Caroline Ventura and her elegantly understated jewellery embody a thoughtful minimalism that doesn’t go out of style. A proponent of using reclaimed materials and conflict-free diamonds, Ventura has become a go to jeweller for the conscious woman. On a recent, pre-coronavirus-quarantine visit to Melbourne, we had the pleasure of sitting down for a conversation with Ventura. Photographer Peter Ryle came along to photograph her sporting her handcrafted jewellery and some of her favourite Caves Collect investment pieces.
We are so excited to share with you CAVES COLLECT CONVERSATION PART ONE with one of our many muses. We chat with this woman of substance and effortless savoir-faire about style inspirations, investing in quality pieces and making things last.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY PETER RYLE
CC. Your wardrobe is very cohesive and you have a very clear style. Is this something you’ve consciously done in building your wardrobe?
CV. My style has remained pretty consistent since I began dressing myself – I grew up in a family of boys so naturally I gravitated toward wanting to dress like my brother and cousins. I think because of that, dressing with a more masculine slant is what I’m comfortable in, but as I have gotten older I’ve become more comfortable adding in slightly more feminine details and materials.
CC. Your style has a wonderful balance between the masculine and feminine. When you were at the Caves Studio, you mentioned loving how old men dress. Can you tell us more about that? Do you have any other style inspirations?
CV. Menswear is so classic and really hasn’t evolved much in the last few decades for a reason. I love that era in the 40s and 50s when getting dressed properly was something that everyone did. No pyjamas on airplanes or sweatpants to the grocery store (although I’m totally guilty of doing both of those). When I look for style references, almost everything I am drawn to is a smart tailored trouser and materials like linen or silk. I love the way Amelia Earhardt dressed. She wasn’t afraid of being seen as an equal to the men around her and her confidence is what made her style incredible. I’m also quite influenced by the 70s and 80s punk scene that was happening in London. Joe Strummer is my ultimate icon and I look to him often for inspiration – thin suspenders, worn out combat boots, paper thin shirts. He really didn’t give a shit about how he looked, but ended up becoming one of the faces of a really important movement.
CC. It seems you are very considered in your investment pieces. What are some questions you ask yourself when investing in a piece of clothing, a pair of shoes or a bag?
CV. I always ask myself if this was something I would have loved 10 years ago. As I have gotten older and become more comfortable with spending money on clothing, I’ve learned that I can’t just spend frivolously on something that is trendy at the moment. I find it easy to imagine myself in a scenario where I’m wearing this new thing I want to buy and I get excited. Does anyone else do that? Except, that scenario rarely ever happens, so now I have this piece that I spent my money on and am not wearing it. I try and stick to similar cuts but maybe try something in a new colour or fabric.
CC. Do you do regular culls of your wardrobe to edit out things you are no longer wearing? Do you donate or sell the things you’re culling?
CV. I do! At the end of every summer my husband is usually out of town for a week or so and I use that time to do a big deep clean of our apartment. I don’t usually touch his closet (although sometimes I do, sorry Michael), but I go through every piece of clothing I have. If I haven’t worn something in over two years, chances are it will get put in the to-go pile. Unless it’s something special or vintage, I tend to hold on to vintage and antique items for a lot longer. I used to get really attached to the memories that clothing can hold so I would end up keeping stuff around because it reminded me of this certain birthday, or this wedding, or that one party. Everything I’m tossing gets donated to a charity shop here in NYC called HousingWorks, a non-profit that helps fund housing, healthcare, treatment, etc. for homeless and low income people living with HIV/AIDS.
CC. We love how simple and refined the jewellery you design is. It has no frills, bells or whistles. It’s very paired back and reductionist. For me (Jo), I’m quite chaotic in my brain, so I love minimalism in my environment, clothing etc. Can you tell us a little about what draws you to a minimalist design ethos?
CV. Same! My brain is a mess so I tend to keep all of my outward offerings really simple. I think living in such a busy city is a huge influence on the simplicity of what I create. I used to be really self conscious and thought that maybe because I was creating these very pared down items it meant I wasn’t talented or wasn’t a good designer. It took me a while to truly appreciate the idea that quiet simplicity holds a lot of power in an otherwise overwhelming world. I find I am often drawn to things that have elements of something you didn’t notice at first glance – a little stone hidden here, a little dent there where I hit my hammer.
CC. What are your 5 current favourite pieces of clothing that you rely on and wear to death?
CV. Vintage denim. I used to steal my dad’s jeans when I was in high school, not because it was trendy (I actually probably looked not cool in them), but because they were so worn in and comfortable. The perfect pair of vintage jeans are really a cornerstone of my closet.
High waisted trousers. I really really love a smart trouser. My favourite cut right now is one that is nipped in at the waist but has a nice straight leg. Bonus if it has a crease. There’s a line in a Sam Cooke song where he references dancing with “the chick in slacks”, and I just love that line. The chick in slacks is always the one you have to watch out for ; )
An old vintage T-shirt. I have one from the early 2000s that I got at a flea market that is my one piece I would take with me during a fire. It’s a 999 tour shirt from 1978 and it’s full of holes and becoming really delicate so I can’t wear it as much as I used to, but it’s the one piece of clothing I own that I love the most.
Men’s brogues. I wear these with everything. Trousers, dresses, paired with socks and shorts. They’re my favourite style of shoe to wear.
A men’s blazer. Easiest way to class up a regular look. Lately I’ve been into a shorter boxy silhouette, but a traditional blazer will never go out of style.
CC. What is your oldest piece of clothing?
CV. A vintage Christian Dior v-neck sweater that I bought at a thrift store in Los Angeles when I was in 9th grade. I was going through a bit of a grunge phase and it’s still something I wear from time to time. It’s perfectly oversized without drowning me and it brings back so many good memories.
CC. Do you repair/alter your clothing?
CV. All the time. Any piece of clothing that’s made well can be tailored to fit you, even if it isn’t your perfect size. And once you have something that fits you the way you want, it’s super easy to tailor similar silhouettes to match. And shoe dying! A lot of times I find vintage shoes that I love, but the color might be off, so I dye them in a tone that I like better. I change out buttons on things as well, which is a really quick way to personalize something and make it your own.
CC. Do you have any tips for laundering or repairing clothing, shoes or jewellery, to keep them in good condition and make them last longer?
CV. My shoes get wrecked living in NYC, where the weather can be a bit shit sometimes. So getting my shoes resoled once a year, or patched up in places where the leather has cracked open etc. is really important to help make them last longer. I always add extra soles to the bottom of my leather shoes to help keep them in better shape. And just because something has a hole in it doesn’t mean it’s no longer wearable. I think having mended patches on garments makes them have that much more character.
CC. TELL US WHAT YOU’D WEAR FOR THESE OCCASIONS:
CC. A day in the studio: CV. Jeans and a ratty T-shirt with converse, or an old boiler suit if I’m working on a painting and making a mess
CC. Your birthday drinks at a bar: CV. Ooh maybe some kind of suit. Black trousers with a blazer and a little camisole underneath, black leather brogues.
CC. Presenting at a conference : CV. I’m going to throw a curveball in and wear a dress. If I’m on some type of panel, I don’t want to be sitting in pants – sometimes sitting in pants isn’t the most flattering (I learned this the hard way once), so some type of flow-y dress is nice. Maybe I would make it a little more masculine and throw a cropped sweater on top. And if I’m not sitting, a breezy skirt is nice on stage as you walk back and forth. But would definitely balance out the feminine up top with some men’s shoes on the bottom.
CC. Going to the farmers market followed by a day reading at home: CV. Some biking shorts layered with an oversized button down on top. I like this look with a shirt that’s really long so the shorts are just barely peeking out the bottom.
And that’s the end! Thanks for reading CAVES COLLECT CONVERSATION PART ONE. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. You can check our Caroline Ventura’s work here.
Stay tuned for more CAVES COLLECT CONVERSATIONS.