From humble beginnings to designing for stars like Australian singers, The Veronicas and director Baz Luhrmann, co-founding sisters Anna and Contessa Nicolaou have redefined the parameters of success.
Tessarella House started off as a passion project before officially launching in 2003.
Anna Nicolaou told Neos Kosmos about how she rose from the ashes and had a “fire light up from within” during a difficult period in her life.
“I was married at 20 and a single mother by 26…obviously my self confidence had taken a beating after all this, being left and hurt and a lot of stress and depression, so by doing all of this it helped my emotional wellbeing.”
Anna was forced to leave her job at an accountancy firm after depression had taken over and had later taken up a job in a local cafe to support herself and her young child Michael.
Falling on hard times financially, she stayed up until three in the morning making a necklace as a birthday gift for her friend who was incredibly impressed with her creation and led to a job that would essentially “give her life back”.
“I made that and then I had some enquiries from other friends… in the cafe I was displaying a few pieces and I got a lot of interest. And so then we went on to doing jewellery parties at peoples homes and getting a lot more traction and that’s when Contessa came into it.”
Contessa also left her job based in finance to help Anna build the business side of what is now Tessarella House.
“I noticed with Anna that she was quite creative and that she needed some business assistance and that’s when I came in and set up the business side of it. Through watching Anna I started doing my own thing, so now we both have our different sides of creativity.”
The dynamic duo blend Anna’s contemporary and abstract style with Contessa’s love for old Hollywood glam to create pieces that suit every woman for any occasion.
“It is actually quite empowering to make women look and feel better about themselves. I mean it’s jewellery but it makes such a difference when you’re designing specific for a client, it’s such an incredible feeling. And when you have the final product and they tell you it looks better than they actually thought,” says Anna.
While the sisters had found their stylistic balance, it took them some time to find their equilibrium with one another’s character.
“It was difficult in the beginning because we’re two different personalities” says Contessa.
“I’m the kind of person that if I get upset with someone I like to walk away because if you stay in the same room you don’t stop, so then we got used to each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we just learnt through the years to understand that and move on.”
“But we still do lose the plot,” Anna adds laughing.
“I have to say and I hate to admit this but I am the drama queen and she’s the one with the common sense and the pacifier.”
Anna and Contessa’s honesty sits front and centre along with their passion for their craft.
Unfortunately the coronavirus pandemic has halted one of their favourite components of their work; making custom pieces for special occasions.
“They would come in, bring the dresses or mood boards and fabrics and we would sit there and have a ball for two hours and bring out some champagne. Of course you can’t do any of that…it’s an experience and we haven’t been able to do any of that,” says Anna.
Despite order cancellations, the sisters have used this time to refocus and finish off a new range of wedding stefana.
“They are all handmade beautiful stefana and we’re also introducing some gorgeous christening favours, trinkets, charms and baby gifts to our brand. So we’re really excited about that,” says Anna.
Moving forward in a post-coronavirus world, the sisters hope to continue sharing their message of female empowerment through the spirit of a brand that forever changed Anna and gave her confidence back.