Like Cher and Madonna, Azature goes by only one name. But the jewelry designer, who specializes in black diamonds, has recently become a Hollywood favorite, as such one-name celebrities as Fergie, Rihanna and Beyoncé, along with two-name stars like Miley Cyrus and Scarlett Johansson have worn his designs on the red carpet.
In 2007, he launched his high-end jewelry and has added a contemporary fashion jewelry line, AZ by Azature, which retails from $50-$850. In Houston to show his collection at the St. Regis Hotel through Saturday, the designer, who dubs himself "The Black Diamond King," also has ventured into the world of chocolate, recently launching a line of hand-painted black-diamond pralines made from the rare "Wild Treasure" cocoa bean. A box of four retails for $18 and can be purchased online.
"Before creating a line I lock myself in an all black room and go in there all day and sketch out all details. Whenever I have the time or inspiration I just go in and sketch and design."
While setting his hotel suite up for the trunk show, which he is co-hosting with Coquette Atelier founder Rona Gaye Stevenson, the designer, whose full name is Azature Pogosian, took time out to talk about his work and how he went from diamonds to chocolate.
CultureMap: So I have to ask, is Azature your real name?
Azature Pogosian: Yes, I was born with that name. I battled with it sometimes when I was younger. I was embarrassed by it for so many years because it was so hard to pronounce (it's Az-a-tour). Over time, when I got into the jewelry business and wanted to be a designer, I started bringing it up again because people said it was designer-oriented. I used to go by various nicknames like Arthur, but now I have embraced it.
CM: Tell me about your personal backgound, where you grew up, and how you got into the jewelry business.
AP: I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I went to college at UCLA to become an attorney and studied in business and economics. One day I started a charity organization for fashion, which was the first fashion organization on the UCLA campus. I would always get a standing ovation for my section of design and I thought I really have to pursue this, this isn’t for myself anymore, this is everything. Then I went to design school (at New York's Parsons School of Design) and from design school did a little bit of styling.
I moved back to LA and did creative directing, which still didn’t feel right for me. So I went back to jewelry. I approached my uncle about investing money in my own store and he said, "Well, I'll give you $5,000 and that is all I am giving you and you have to start off with the jewelry business because that is something I know and I have a background in, and I can kind of guide you.”
I was one of the first people to use black diamonds. I fell in love with them because I had never heard of them before. My family was in the business for so many years, but had never really dealt with black diamonds. I googled "black precious stones," and black diamonds came up. I never knew the story behind them and I just couldn’t believe it. And also I always wear black, its my everyday (wear).
CM: What inspires your work?
AP: I always say my inspiration is the future. I don’t really take inspiration from time periods. For me I just take it as it goes. I can be inspired by a glass, or a particular shape and that is how I come about it. Before creating a line I lock myself in an all-black room and go in there all day and sketch out all details. Whenever I have the time or inspiration I just go in and sketch and design.
"The chocolate collection was again also by accident. Funny how all my businesses start off like that."
CM: What made you decide to create chocolate diamonds?
AP: The chocolate collection was again also by accident. Funny how all my businesses start off like that (laughs). It was something for me to give a "thank you" to all the celebrity customers I have and the high-end clientele that have supported me throughout the year.
I came up with this concept to give a box of chocolates to them but something pertaining to a diamond. So I came up with the shape and met up with a company. I also learned about the Wild Treasure, which is a special cocoa that only grows three to four months in a year in Bolivia. When I put all the puzzle pieces together we came up with these kinds of chocolates. Once I had sent the "thank you's," I kept getting orders for weddings, events and parties. People kept asking me for the chocolates. I thought why not launch them.
The packaging comes in a jewelry box, so its like you are actually getting diamonds. The various colors are based on different diamond colors and represent different flavors. The collection has eight total flavors such as champagne and chai. The one that has my signature on it (the only one that is not a diamond) is a special white chocolate. I made it only for my happiness because I didn't want a white chocolate that was too sweet.
CM: Where would you like to see the brand in the next five years?
AP: I take life day by day. I never knew in four years that I would be where life has taking me today. I want to allow the universe to direct me and see where it goes next. I never anticipated to be working with the type of people I am working with and having the following.
My ultimate goal is to give people the opportunity to understand the importance of jewelry and how is was back in the day. To me there is so much time, energy and emotion that goes into each individual piece from cutting the stone, setting the stone, and designing the piece. I'd like to tell people about it and present it in that way.
Azature and Rona Gaye Stevenson offer a trunk show of "Couture & Diamonds" Friday and Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. at the St. Regis Hotel.