In Conversation With

SIRAN MANOUKIAN

Santiago In Conversation With December 2, 2016

siran

Born in Los Angeles, of Armenian and Lebanese descent, a lifetime of travel has inspired designs that capture the motivations and passions of the modern woman. channeling feminine simplicity for any occasion, ease of movement, enjoyment and comfort are fundamental characteristics behind every piece.

Education and Career

I was born in Los Angeles but raised in London where I went to school. I would always go back and fourth to LA for vacation as it was like my second home, which I think has really influenced my character and style.

After graduating from high school, I went to the European Business school in Regents Park, London and studied business for 2 years until I realised it was not my true passion. I then went to GIA (Gemological Institute of America) and studied diamond and jewellery design. I learned about diamond grading, different types of stone and everything you could possibly want to know about jewellery. From there I did a few years of custom jewellery design for high profile and high-end clients. I would be approached to create and source pendants and all types of jewellery. I would have total control to design, choose precious stones and use my imagination to create some really
beautiful pieces.

I would only ever use precious stones and precious metals and would create really simple, elegant and classic pieces, rather than costume jewellery. I am allergic to the nickel used in costume jewellery so it wasn’t really an option to me to wear myself. Exquisite luxury jewellery has a style and quality I just adore. This is reflected in my choice of fabrics and style of clothing within my collection today, where I use very high quality fabrics that are not only aesthetically beautiful, but also luxurious to touch on the skin.

Interests

Growing up I was always into fashion. I would sit and read all the magazines and even from a young age I would look at outfits and clothing and would pick it apart and say how I would like to change it. I guess that has never changed since and that’s why I chose to create my own collection, where I could really design for myself and what I felt would make a woman feel sexy, confident but also comfortable. Even from a young age, every day before school I would dress my mum in her clothes and make her wear the outfits I chose to take me to school. I have been lucky enough to have been surrounded by beautiful clothing which has allowed me to have a good eye for it.

When it comes to jewellery, I have always loved art & art history. It was my favourite subject at school as it allowed me to be creative and allow my imagination to run free. I think I got that love from my dad who is a huge art collector and has a true appreciation for it. However, compared to my dad I have a much more relaxed approach in the way I create it. From a young age I’d always be sketching, painting and doodling in my own little world and from there I’d just come up with designs from my own imagination. To this day, that is how I create and design clothing and jewellery through free flow doodling.

Why Jewellery Design?

Even from the age of 2, I’ve always had a love for jewellery and sparkly things. My mom has the most beautiful jewellery collection that included timeless and one of a kind pieces that my dad designed just for her. When I was around 4, my mother had this gorgeous and very expensive ruby bracelet that I was obsessed with. So, for Christmas, she wanted to get a matching one for me, but tricked me with a less expensive one from Butler and Wilson. When I opened it, I immediately knew and told her I only wanted hers! I guess being involved in luxury jewellery was always meant to be.

For me, my love for jewellery is from the heart. I have a deep passion for it and it is not just about the materialistic aspects of it that makes me want it. My signature style is delicate, everyday wear with simple designs, and that is the same for my clothing. With my Siran collection, I wanted to incorporate soft, beautiful fabrics that look like jewellery, so you don’t necessarily need to wear jewellery with it.

Siran Collection

At the time, 5 years ago, there were so many new jewellery designers coming up, which made it quite difficult to truly establish myself as a designer. I’d love to go back to designing jewellery again in the future, but I do feel you can be more creative with fashion, which goes better with my free-spirited approach.   

With my collection, I designed clothes exactly how I would wear them and exactly how I wanted them to fall, to fit and to look. I would design everything that I could not find in store. With most of the big designers now being male, they don’t necessarily wear the clothes themselves so can’t experience how they feel on. The dresses they design are beautiful and appealing to the eye, but what is most important for me is what is comfortable as well. If you’re spending that kind of money on an evening gown, you don’t want the night to end just so you can take it off. You want it to be luxurious to touch and comfortable to wear day or night!

The name ‘Siran’ for the brand was the most difficult to choose and it actually took me a few months to finally make a decision on it. I didn’t want to use my own name initially because I was worried people would pronounce it incorrectly, or that it would seem a bit narcissistic. A couple of months later, once the collection was designed, I realized that the brand was so true to myself and everything I believed in that it made sense to name it Siran.

Inspiration

It is all based on my love for jewellery and my belief in always being comfortable in what you wear and in yourself. All the fabrics look like precious stones and metals. Beautiful to touch and to look at. They are simple, yet really eye-catching and classic. You can also mix and match the whole collection, dress it up or down, plus it’s multi-seasonal. I believe a collection should be timeless and classic, and I wanted women to be able to wear it at all times and all occasions.

Has it always been an interest of yours to have your own business?

It’s really important to me to be true to myself and genuine in anything I do and I think that’s what really drove me to want to start my own business. I am very independent and I have my own style and like to do things my own way. I think I have also got that drive and determination from my dad, who was a businessman himself. I have a fierce, entrepreneurial side to me, which my dad passed on and has really influenced how I run my own business. In fact, my whole family are all strong individuals and are happy to express their views, so I don’t think I could run my business in any other way. My parents are so supportive to me and the brand. They know it is truly my passion, which is always important.

Personal Interests and Hobbies

I love going to shows and seeing the collections on the runways, but I would only attend the ones that truly appeal to me. I’m not so keen on the mayhem and craziness of the shows
and parties.

I love going to see art exhibitions and try to go to every new exhibition there is, whichever city or country I am in. I am involved in a lot of charity work, which I really enjoy. My parents have their own foundation and I often support Unicef too.

I’ve recently started travelling a lot and have taken the opportunity to see the world. When you go on family vacations as a child you only experience so much culture. Now as an adult, I love to travel and I really love to immerse myself in the culture of wherever I go.  Last November, I went travelling to Bali with my boyfriend and had the time of my life. I fell in love with the culture; the spirituality of the country and how carefree and humble everyone was. I felt I could really relate to the locals and loved being in such a beautiful environment. I stayed in Ubud, where it was less touristy so I could truly understand the Balinese way of living and I tried surfing for the first time. It was an incredible trip.

Yoga and Meditation

I love yoga and I love to meditate, which I believe is really important to get in touch with yourself and to be able to clear your head. I used to have a lot of anxiety and meditating and regularly doing yoga has definitely helped. I can leave a room for about half an hour and easily zone out and have some time to myself if I need to. It’s strange as my mind is constantly going and I’m always thinking non-stop, but to be able to zone out for a moment keeps
me sane!

Describe your own style and where you get your clothing

I would say my style is refined LA style, with a touch of European glamour. It is really influenced by my upbringing from living in between London and LA. I love the laid back, free-spirited LA look, but I like to always add a bit of luxury to my outfit. I literally live in jeans and t-shirts but the fabrics will always be sumptuous to refine my look. I love E-com and I mainly always shop online. Net-A-Porter is incredible; you can see everything right in front of you, see all designers and filter it if you know exactly what you want. I love how much variety there is online and I also hate trying clothes on, so the ease of sending things back is just amazing. It helps that I know what I like and I know what styles suit me, so it is much easier for me to
shop online.

Philanthropy

I love attending the Unicef ball in the states, which is always such a great night and also for such an amazing cause. I support my parents foundation, where they help to support underprivileged children go to university around the world. I’ve also recently been asked to be on the board at UNICEF, which is really exciting. I try to do as much as I can to be involved in charities to help other less fortunate people out.

BIRTHDAY PARTY hosted in London

The week coming up to my birthday was really hectic, with people coming from all over the world to celebrate with me. I had a pre-party and was doing things with my friends and family the whole week so I didn’t really get the chance to properly think about my party.

When it came to the day of the party, it was everything I could have wanted. I had envisioned a Winter Wonderland, a happy place where people would be blown away and it would feel like you were in a different world. It was basically Narnia, which was amazing. I invited all my family and friends and we literally danced and partied all night. Even my parents stayed till 3am!

Because my party also fell on fashion week, everyone was in London for the week so many random people showed up to the party, which was hilarious. There were big celebrities there who gate crashed – It was so funny.

The highlight of my party was definitely when my younger brothers flew in from LA with his band and actually performed at the party. Everyone was loving the performance, dancing along. They had no idea that it was my brother! Watching him perform really inspired me to follow my dreams, like he had followed his.

I was in awe at how carefree and humble he was, and how focused he is on his work. He is honestly so talented and has the most incredible voice. My other brothers also gave the most beautiful speech, which truly meant so much to me. There was so much love and positivity in the room and I think that is why everyone had such a
great night. 

ALISA ROVER

Santiago In Conversation With March 26, 2015

International Outlook

I was born in Siberia. Many people meet me and say SIBERIA!? In a way it makes me laugh. I can see and hear their curiosity. But of course, to me, Siberia was normality. As a child wherever you are it’s your life. You go to school like anywhere else and make friends.

On the other hand, I can’t pretend that life in Siberia under communism was exactly exciting. The ethos was to conform. Like every other schoolgirl of my generation I had to wear uniform and the red scarf. First I was a Young Pioneer and later part of the youth party, Komsomol. So for me moving to America was an amazing experience: I was still at an age where the unfamiliar is exciting rather than overwhelming. In your early twenties, it’s easy to make new friends and absorb new influences. Everybody is exploring themselves and life itself. So I just went with the flow. It felt very liberating. Or that’s how I remember it anyway.

Of course, it would have been quite different coming here if I’d been my parents’age or the age I am now. Even relocating back to Russia, for instance, seems now quite a challenge. I’m thinking of doing that for a few months as I’d like my son to explore his Russian side. But, ironically, it’ll be me who’s feeling a little bit strange.



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Education

I have insight into two different types of education, because I did my undergraduate work in Russia and then finished my education in the USA. There’s a substantial difference. I don’t think I’m biased but I would say that the Eastern European and Russian approach force you to make more of an effort. 

At the medical academy in Russia, the expectations were more exacting. First, in order to pass the exam, you absolutely have to attend the lectures. The professors present and explain the theory and then you have to synthesize it into essays. And when it comes to the examination, it’s essay-led. I found that fulfilling. You learn and then you answer and then you develop your own thoughts.

When I came to the USA I studied in New York. It was a real eye-opener. In the USA you get a lot of books. You then read them and then you get set multiple questions. I think that is more superficial.



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My career

Both my parents are doctors and so it was natural for me to follow in their footsteps.

While I was at medical school, I specialized in obstretics and gynaecology. These are wonderful areas to specialize in because you are dealing with the wonder of the female body and the wonder of birth.

However, after I graduated, I took a slightly different course from what maybe even I had expected. I was becoming more and more interested in natural beauty and aging and I therefore applied to a very famous clinic in the USA called Path Medical. It specializes in anti-aging treatments and is reputed to be one of the best clinics not just in the USA but the world.

The clinic is famed for its use of blood analysis and the emphasis it puts on rebalancing the body’s natural resources. I ended up working with natural estrogen, progesterone, HGH and parathyroid hormones. So I’m still using my medical background but in a slightly different way from what I envisaged.

The decision to branch out into anti-aging medicine turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. Everything for me started to fall into place after that. Not only did I learn a lot, but it also introduced me to a new strata of society. It even ended up giving me my husband because he was thinking of investing in the clinic!



Philanthropy

I’ve been extremely lucky in my life and of course I’m medically trained. So it’s only natural for me to be attracted to medical charities.

The one I’m most involved in is Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research. They hold two black tie events each year to raise money – one in New York and one in London. There’s always a very moving moment when a one minute silence is held for those who have died. The charity’s co-founder is Denise Rich whose daughter died of acute myeloid leukemia when she was very young. Denise has become a great friend of mine.

The charity engenders a huge amount of support. We do everything we can to make the event something people want to attend. For instance, we usually hold the events at Cipriani on Wall Street. I think it’s becoming a fixture on the New York calendar.

More recently I’ve set up a related charity called Angel Helpers. The idea behind this is to find people who will actually support those who have cancer.



My Wedding

As a girl my head was pumped full with Russian literature and poetry. I think that mental landscape gave me an abiding sense of the power of love. Like any bride, I wanted my marriage to be something my husband and I would remember for ever.

I was lucky because I was able to indulge my sense for the dramatic. We married in St Tropez – a place I absolutely adore. Everything about the day was special. I can’t really single out everyone who was there. But, naturally, we wanted to have a lot of our close friends there. They included Janna Bullock, Carol Asscher, Steven and Christine Schwartzman, Ivana Trump, Monica Bacardi, Nicolas Begruin, Len Blavatnik, Mark Rich, Denise Rich, Maria Buccelati, Martina Navratilova, Andrea Dibelius, Nathalie and Carl von Bismarck, Ranny Davidoff.

One of the two best men was Fawaz Gruosi. The name, Fawaz Gruosi, of course is special to many people in so far as they adore his jewellery designs. Artistically he’s got such a vivid imagination and a great sense of what women like.

But for me, he stands for something else altogether. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anyone more warm-hearted than he is. He’s taught me what friendship really means and been an excellent mentor to my son. He’s totally generous and sees the good in everyone. 



On Motherhood

The most magical moment for me was when 9 years ago there was a huge snow storm in NYC. My medical office closed early, so I went for a walk in the central park. Crowds of children were rushing about, hurling snowballs at each other and having fun. I love snow and I had one of those moments where you just feel supremely happy. That night, I discovered I was pregnant with my son. I’ll never forget that day.

Everyone says that children change you. In my case it’s been for the better. My son is mostly very mature for his age. The only thing is we’ve given him a taste for eating out at Cipriani. In a school essay, he recently wrote it was his favourite food. It’s not really surprising, we always go to their restaurants in other cities as well as New York.

Having a child has also made me much more aware about the underlying ingredients of our diet. There’s a huge debate about this rightly and I’m glad that at the Expo in Milan people are going to be looking at the meaning and importance of food in the twenty-first century. On a personal and professional level I worry about the overuse of pesticides. So I understand why Gwyneth Paltrow insists that her kids only eat organic food.

My social life has also turned into a profession – as I am now the Social Ambassador of Haute Living in New York. I have to say it’s probably one of the best jobs anyone could have. It means I get to go to the best parties in the world and then report back on them. It’s an extraordinary opportunity.

It’s not the sort of job you think you’re ever going to get. It’s yet one more benefit of having worked at such a famous clinic. My job led to me getting to know a range of people including Dee Hilfiger, Ivana Trump, Denise Rich. Really everything snowballed from there.

I started going to charity fund raisers and sitting on boards and, in the process, people who began as acquaintances became friends. Then, even better some of these friends, become close friends and even confidantes. I think to be surrounded by friends is the secret of happiness.



In the Party Spirit

Because I’m a social ambassador for Haute Living, a lot of people ask me what my favourite events have been.

Obviously you can throw small parties together very quickly but the larger the party,the more important planning becomes.

In certain seasons and on certain occasions, the degree of planning needs almost military precision. For instance, during the summer season at St Tropez, people book their schedules months in advance so as not to clash with one another.

I’m always impressed by the atmosphere in the Rivieria, Cannes and St Tropez. It may well be because I carry memories of The Great Gatsby in my head. Really no one celebrated the Côte d’Azur more tenderly than F. Scott Fitzgerald. From the glamorous summer season to the glittering guest list, it’s still his Riviera party that so many of us think about. I think that is particularly the case after last year film by Baz Luhrmann.

And, of course, the better the food, drink and décor, the more a party swings. But when all is said and done, it’s the guests who make a party come alive. They don’t have to be famous but they have to have a positive energy to them. I love it for instance when everyone makes the effort to dress up.

I always say that Andrea Dibelius has an amazing facility to throw memorable parties. Her 1000 people Love and Peace party is of organization. It’s super fun and she brings together the best DJs in Ibiza. It’s the kind of party where everyone dances till dawn. You just don’t want it to end.

Another consummate host is Tony Murray. The sit down dinner he gave for 400 people with fireworks afterwards was a spectacular event in so many ways. A very different affair – but one where every detail had been thought through – is Gihad Saad’s Arabian night party. He covers his whole property with Persian rugs and the food arrives as a procession with fireworks, belly dancers, and men carrying whole roasted lambs and pigs. When you first get to see it, it’s amazing.

In the end, however, if I had to single out one party, I’d probably select Carol Asscher’s unerring sense of style. She seems to get it right every time.



Health and Beauty

As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more and more interested in what the Greeks already recognised: namely, that a healthy body makes for a healthy mind.

A positive outlook and healthy way really make you look and feel better. As someone who now works closely with cancer charities, I also believe that complementary therapies are an important weapon in the fight against cancer.

I do juicing every day and go to the gym whenever I can. Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve also been a keen runner. I find it a wonderful way to calm down. Once you get into a rhythm you almost go into another spiritual dimension. I love to run in New York Central Park and along Maimi beach – any beach in fact.



Down Time and Down Town

Because of being a social ambassador, it is really hard for me to separate my private life from my working life. On the other hand, everybody needs to have time and space to be with those who are closest to them without the pressure of being “on exhibition”

Robert and I love to eat out. For all sorts of reasons we love the Given an option I will always plump for somewhere like Cipriani. The great thing is that there are outposts dotted around the world. My son has followed my example. Rather amusingly, when asked at school to describe his favourite food, he simply wrote Cipriani! I’d say that’s better than just liking burgers. Our attitudes towards food are probably more those of French parents than American parents.

I’m extraordinarily lucky in another way. My girlfriend, Tina Storper, is onthe board of the Metropolitan Opera. This means she receives weekly tickets that give her access to the best seats. In Russia, I studied music and that interest has carried over into adulthood. I am a big fan of Italian operas and particularly love the work of Donizetti and Puccini.



My Fashion Sense

I get to attend quite a lot of fashion shows and that, naturally enough, influences what I wear. I particularly love Dolce & Gabbana clothes for their colors, flowers and prints. I find it very happy and feminine.

As an aside, I have to say that the Alta Moda runway event held each year by Dolce & Gabbana over a period of three days are quite extraordinary affairs as well as being beautifully organized.

I’ve attended their events in Sicily, Venice and in Capri. The planning and attention to detail is exquisite: they look after you in so many ways from picking you up at the airport to delivering surprise gifts to your bedroom. In addition the scheduled parties are out of this world.

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