Sometimes your studies can take you to unexpected places. For Emily Tonelli, studying to be an Egyptologist met with her innate creative flair and gave birth to some of the most distinctive aesthetics in jewelry design online. The young accessories designer, based in St. Petersburg, Russia, has taken the internet by storm with her intricate jewelry and headpieces that combine fantastical details of pearls and lace along with ancient Egyptian and Greek influences.
Tonelli is the quintessential new type of curative creator; her work was part of the first HF MET Gala, an online event created by the high-fashion Twitter community –and won her a much-coveted feature at Dazed Digital. The self-described “avant-garde minimalist” with the eclectic influences talks to us about fashion history, her vintage treasures, and that rising St Petersburg fashion scene.
When did you start creating fashion, and what inspired you?
I’ve always been interested in fashion and fashion history, with the houses of McQueen, Schiaparelli, Comme des Garçons and Margiela being among my favorite throughout the years. Two years ago, I decided to start designing accessories and upcycling clothes and it took off from there. It was never supposed to be a serious thing for me, but I was always inspired by how those houses I mentioned above emulate such an eclectic sense of identity and fashion — especially exemplified in the most recent Margiela collection. That is what drove me to start designing.
What do you find exciting in creating accessories?
The most exciting part about it is having an idea and seeing how it actually comes out. I’ll have many ideas in my head, and when executing them, either they come out exactly how I imagined, or something completely different. Both outcomes are fantastic to experience.
You are from Boston but currently living in St. Petersburg, Russia. How different is the fashion scene between those two cities?
In terms of American fashion vs Russian fashion, the most significant thing is that in St Petersburg, people always look so put together despite the weather and regardless of personal fashion tastes. This started a journey into my personal style as well. In America, I find that people are less likely to pay attention to details, so now I always make sure to look presentable even when I am running across the street to the grocery store. Also, in this city, so many local designers and thrift/vintage shops exist, that now almost all of my wardrobe consists of vintage and second-hand finds from here, or from local Petersburg designers. The inspiration here is endless.
I think High Fashion Twitter inspires me and pushes me to be a better artist or designer — whatever I am — and everyone is so supportive. Having a group of people from all over the world with all different experiences allows you to grow as a person, artist, designer, and friend.
You come from the High Fashion Twitter community. How influential do you think are those subcultures?
We are a tight-knit community, always uplifting each other and helping each other. I think High Fashion Twitter inspires me and pushes me to be a better artist or designer — whatever I am — and everyone is so supportive. Having a group of people from all over the world with all different experiences allows you to grow as a person, artist, designer, and friend.
How would you describe your personal aesthetics?
It’s always a journey, but I’ve started to describe my aesthetic as “avant-garde minimalism.” I have curated practically an all-black closet, which allows me to add very interesting and colorful pieces from my favorite local shops for personalization. It gives me freedom knowing that, if needed, I can look presentable without much effort. Still, I have no limitations. If I like something, I will buy it without the necessity of making it fit into a certain aesthetic.