Peter Lang Jewellery

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Peter Lang has been designing jewellery in Australia for decades and when it comes to quality jewellery from an Australian designer, it is predominantly Peter Lang that I think of.

Recently, I had the pleasure to interview Peter. Please see the interview below.

So you started in the 80s?

I started in the very early 80s. I started off doing belts. It was through necessity. There was nothing available. Australia was a void of everything. A friend came back from London with a belt. I desperately wanted it and I hunted and hunted and couldn’t find anything similar. So I ended up making it myself. It was elaborate. It was stencilled animal print and embellished so I made it. Made it and others and then grew a demand. People saw it, so grew a demand. So then, I’m creative, it allowed me to express my creativity and also supply people with something that wasn’t available. It fitted two markets.

Self-taught. I then needed to go out and learn? So what do you do? Learn? Books, asking people – leather people and sourcing them – making mistakes and learning. Trial and error but I tend to think if you have a desire to do something, I tend to think you do it. You have a strong enough desire, you do it. I had the passion and I didn’t have any money. It was a passion of creating, a career in creating.

 

What were you doing at the time?

I was unemployed but I’d come from fashion so I knew that’s what I wanted to do. It wasn’t my formal training. I was trained as a surveyor so I did that and then needed to go from there.

 

When did you go into jewellery?

Jewellery I went into in the decline of belts. Belts were a big fashion thing in the 80s. People wearing 2 or 3 with studs. Heavy duty and fun. Then all of the sudden it became minimalistic as it crept in towards the 90s. Belts disappeared into a fine ribbon and then it turned into jewellery going crazy. I then followed the trends. I was travelling then as a part of business to have a look to see what was happening.

And there’s no leathers here. So I used to go and import the right kind of red. Go to Milan, go to the tanneries there buy it and send it back. There were only one or two tanneries in Australia., people who sold leather. One was New South Wales that still exists. They would go and buy the offcuts and say that you have that particular colour of red. I would say “but that’s pink” and they would say “no, that’s red. It’s in my eyes, it’s red”. You would either have to suffer with the crap they had and the expensive prices or you go and find it. You follow your passion.

So that’s what I did. That then ceased and I had a factory with 10 people in it. 15 people maybe.  I could see belts were declining. I employed 15 people to just make belts. But then rather than dropping out, I  saw in travelling that jewellery started happening. So I grabbed some products, put them on the table and pulled them apart. I had a creative gay guy working for me so I created a fun party scene.

Had some friends, threw them some pearls and things and came back an hour later they made spectacular jewellery. They also had no formal training, were creative. So I created a fun party scene. People who were creative who couldn’t get a job elsewhere. Maybe they couldn’t write or maybe they couldn’t…but they were creative.

 

No formal training for them either?

Formal training is a bit of bullshit. You teach yourself. I taught myself jewellery. I could see that there was a market for it. I could see that it was a viable proposition commercially.

Took a lot less time in jewellery than in belts. Belts are time consuming. You have to cut and then you have to shape and then colour because you couldn’t get. You could buy raw hides but then you’d have to use a colour. So we developed different colouring methods. I was lucky enough to then get Chinese workers who were skilled from China. They came over and brought the skills with them because Australians didn’t know anything.

So then I started doing jewellery. I saw the benefit of jewellery and then started doing it. For me it was the frustration of belts because you know — Being creative, I created what I liked and what I’d like people to wear. So in jewellery, it gave me a whole new sphere of creativity because jewellery is what you’re wearing today.  You couldn’t do that with a belt. It could but it wouldn’t be bought. It wouldn’t be afforded. But in jewellery they’d do so it gave me another freedom so then took a blast.

 

Did you have to learn how to solder and weld?

How do you learn? How do you learn? You don’t have to go to school. You just do. Same as anyone here. As I’ve grown I’ve got a chap who’s been with me 20 odd years, John, and he came from a company who used to cast. And casting is how that jewellery that’s around your neck is made. You make the mould and then you pour metal. I mean it’s not done now. Australia had it for a while but now it’s lost it because most of the people have gone offshore.

 

Yeah and that’s sad that we keep losing it.

Yeah but it’s the Australian public that’s to fault.

 

Definitely because we’ve just had an interest in cheap

They won’t support it. They mouth off that they will and as soon as you do “it’s more expensive”. I know from running the shop or having the shop here that “well this is made out the back and I care to give an Australian a job” “well I just want it for $5 cheaper”. It’s I, I, I.

 

Yeah I know everyone is so selfish and I think almost everything is made in China now.

Most people. I know that when I tried to get into bags, I couldn’t find anyone to make a bag because they had all retired or retrained.

 

When was that?

Um… that was in early 2000.

 

Because Leo Monk does bags and started here?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Leo Monk started out working for me doing belts. He was doing bags for a little while. I had an Italian guy who couldn’t speak any English or chose to speak very little English. Leo is from an Italian background so Leo was a little bit of an interpreter for me. So he worked for me, doing bags, this Italian man, who came out of retirement and started then doing handbags.

So I then for a second had a run here of bags. It went well but prices started to go up. Because you know I started doing proper costumes and “ooops too dear”. You know. So anyway, now they’re done in China, what I do in bags and belts.

 

How do you go about finding a manufacturer in China that you’re going to be happy with quality?

Well it’s trial and error. I’ve got some Chinese production girls here whose job then is to supervise production in China.

 

So they go over there? Or they get progress pictures?

No, working through internet, working through samples when they arrive and then telephone. You know so it’s all of the above. Um, so far so good. I do all of Cue’s production.

 

That was something I was wondering about because Cue is still largely Australian made as well.

Yeah totally Australian made. They’re one of the few remaining. You know that are, that support Australians. And they’re very good in supporting Australians. They’ve been excellent in supporting me, supporting a lot of manufacturers. I think they’re the ones that help the industry survive in this country. You know it’s an easy job to go off-shore.

 

And that’s the thing. The prices that they are charging. They’re not charging any more than your Witchery or other similar level, but the others are getting it all done off shore so they’re just not being greedy with their profits.

Yeah. They’re a very good company. One thing that I’m very proud of is that I’ve been able to work with them for so long.

 

I saw the post that they put up last Winter, of the choker? Crushed velvet looking with stars

Yes, it was in a grosgrain or a crushed velvet. They’re wonderful to work with and they’re creative. They go not with the norm. They go beyond the norm. So it’s been a great pleasure for me to work with them. Again, it’s down to what makes money for them.

 

That’s the thing. You’ve gone towards the fine jewellery trend.

Because there’s a demand for it.

 

That’s where fashion is going

Yeah so you have got to follow the fashions. You can’t do. We used to do what you’re wearing.

 

I know! I miss this

It’s there. I have fights with sales all the time. Not everyone is pencil thin, 18 years old with perfect perky skin. I went through it in the early days of the later 90s and it all changed to very fine jewellery.

 

Fashion’s very cyclical

It is very cyclical. But it was then you know like yeah you had to try to do what the customer wanted.

 

Of course, what the current trend is

Bottom line, it lasted for a short time and this lasts for a short time. We used to do a lot of what you’re wearing – not what you’re wearing – it’s quite over the top. Or even down to what we have. In doing the fine, and fine is trendy, what does sell because Australian girls aren’t pencil thin. They’re healthy girls. They’ve got skin that’s damaged by the sun. Not everyone is lily white and can wear a fine gold chain.

 

It’s something that covers you. You know.

Peter Lang Blog Post IMAGE 1
NB: The piece from the Milkshake collection that I was wearing at the time of interview

 

 

The problem I have with the fine is how does one designer stand out from another?

They don’t!

 

They all look exactly the same!

You compete with the others. And everyone is doing the same and you’re no different. And with the market that there is

 

All the other stuff you’ve done has been so different that no one else was doing

Yeah but then it goes against the fashion. Fashion is not about wearing something that is outstanding.

 

It should be!

Yeah it should be but I’m a sheep. We follow what the magazines – as we know within a year or so we’ll go back. So that’s what it’s about. That’s old fashion. That’s new fashion. Okay, get rid of it, buy new. So it’s all about consumerism. That’s what makes the world go round.

 

Before you launched in the belts, you said you had a fashion background but you were between projects?

No, I worked in retail. I worked with a chain of retail stores. So I knew what was happening with that. I had a passion then for fashion, left that, did something else and then got back in with the belts. It was a way of entering, a way of being creative, of expressing creativity.

 

Do you have an all-time favourite piece?

Yeah you do. There’s a lot of favourites.

 

You’ve made thousands by now.

There’s a lot of favourite pieces but you know the favourite is seeing someone looking good and happy. I do like seeing people. I quite often see people come in here wearing old pieces. I don’t know whether they bring it in to show – I don’t know – but then you go out and you see things that are 10, 15 years old and I go up and say to them “that’s a nice piece” and they’ll say “thank you. It’s my favourite piece”. So then I get round to say “I made that!”

It’s great to see that they do instead of buy the likes of whatever for that week and throw it in the bin, throw it wherever. You don’t see my pieces in second-hand stores. I see them occasionally in vintage stores. I don’t see them in second hand stores and I scour second hand stores looking for new components to use and that’s part of the creation.

Now I’ve got a team of designers that work, I’m busy running a business and I oversee what happens but as far as sitting down to the nitty gritty of putting the stones in and joining jump rings and chain you know, I’ve grown out of that.

 

Sick and tired of that?

Well, not sick and tired. It’s just that you do need a younger eye to come in. I don’t know the likes of, not that I am likening myself to, but say Karl Lagerfeld, how someone like that could. They offer, as I do, offer my experience of years of experience of knowing what looks good, or of being a style master and knowing what looks great and letting the young kids design and what they know as being fashionable and then twist to use your expertise to make it what you think, a little more saleable, more wearable.

 

So you were saying about seeing people in the street or out and about wearing your pieces and the older pieces. You’ve had a lot of celebrities wearing your pieces as well. Any particular highlight there?

Probably Kylie with the opening of the Olympics in 2000 but that was only because it was shown throughout the world. And I did the headdress for her that she closed the Olympics with. So that was in a way a highlight.

I think from what I remember there was a major wind and luckily it was open, it was fixed on her head. She had to hold it on her head a couple of times!

PINTEREST KYLIE OLYMPICS HEADDRESS
(Image from Pinterest)

 

You exhibited at The Box in Paris

The Box, The Box, The Box… Yes, it was run through Swarovski I think. That was a while ago. To get a bit of standing, it’s nice to say you are in Europe, but when it comes to actually making money out of it. It’s cost but also the fact that you’re here, they’re there. It’s easier for them to deal with the locals. I had an agent working in London —

 

Do you ever think that you will do jewellery for men?

Um… well I started in doing it for men. The belts was about guys, but guys don’t spend. Some do.

 

The gay men in Sydney? They do!

The women do. I’m not going to do jewellery just for gay men. It’s easier to deal with women. They buy, daily. Guys do buy. I did a wonderful range of belts for men and you know the best seller? The plainest you could imagine!

Yes I’ve done in the past.

Men don’t buy. Well maybe they do but it’s easier to deal with women. Specialise. That’s the key. I’ve got a factory full of crystals and pearls and beads and things. Men don’t buy that. “Give me something in a nice sturdy masculine brown.”

Look I do a lot of leather for guys. They might want a leather cuff. Girls like to be embellished. So hey as a gay guy, it’s nice to be embellished. Gay guys totally like to be embellished but they’re only a small population, percentage-wise and you know I wanna eat. I want to eat! I don’t want to go to McDonalds!

 

How do you keep motivated and inspired?

I suppose it’s just part of it. You just are. You have the passion for fashion. So you get inspired by everything. Everything inspires you. I know when I was designing it was being creative by anything that.

I’ve got girls here. The design team here. They get inspired by things they see overseas. You see things and work with exactly the same. Clothing manufacturers do exactly the same. Australia is in a bad position because we are seasonally behind. It’s a very lazy position. I’ve had designers who have worked for me who have said “Peter, please send me overseas. I can’t believe you haven’t sent me overseas” and it’s like “it’s the end of you if you do, you become lazy. You then rely on them and you become lazy.

Run on your own creative juices. Work with what you’ve got, your creativity. I mean in my time when I started there was no internet but I know that then I was creating and doing and creative juices seemed to flow at the same time that I put out belts and then you’d see in magazines ones that are much the same. You go in a similar direction. You know or you might hear from someone who come back or in the days when I could afford to travel, you’d see what was happening. You’d bring back ideas of what it is and create from that. Go off and do your own tangents. But also working with what the retailer wants. You can design as much as you like but if it’s not what the customer wants, it’s not worth doing.

 

If they’re not going to buy it

Exactly.

 

So how much of the production is made here now.

Leather goods, all produced offshore. Jewellery, probably 30% produced here and the rest is produced offshore. Especially at the moment with the finer look, we can’t do it here. It’s too fine. It needs to be done in brass. It’s too costly to do. So for the retailer and the customer who want affordable pieces, it’s much easier to produce in China. They’re much better with what they do than what my people can do, they have the facilities, and they have the machinery. I get a great job. I deal with one company in China and yes, you can swap around and ask questions about how you source it.

I’ve always prided myself on quality. So you then try, I’ve gone through dozens of factories. My first lesson was learnt when you pick something up out the bag and it falls apart as you pick it up. You know?

 

Do they use Swarovski crystal? Do you supply crystal or do they source it and invoice you?

No. They supply it. I don’t do Swarovski stones as much as I used to because it’s too glitzy. It’s beautiful but it’s too sparkly and it’s not the look of today. Again, fashion goes through its cycles. There are times when they want to be blinged to death but myself now, I like to have the colour and I like to have the different stones. China do some good stones. They’re not as brilliant in their cut, they’re not as fine, but that’s what I like about it. I used to deal with Swarovski stones and strip the backing off it so it was more of a crystal rather than a brilliance. So it’s just working with what you can do.

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One of my favourite colourful pieces from a few Summers ago

Trial and error

Yes, trial and error for that modern line, China’s much better at it than Australians can be.

 

How many staff do you have in production here?

I’m probably down to very, very few. Probably got half a dozen where I used to have 3 dozen.

 

Was that when you started making it offshore?

Yeah, I was making it off-shore you know so bang.

 

When you were making it all here, how were you remaining competitive with everyone making it offshore price wise?

I wasn’t. Part of that was the reason that I needed to go off-shore because you weren’t competitive and I could get this for that price but bottom line, I’ve never been greedy with mark up. The greed came from retailers. I’d see things that sold to them for $50 and they were selling for $500 and that was “you know, I need to get my mark up.”

 

That’s quite a mark-up.

Yeah but if you sold it for $100 or $150 you might sell five of them whereas this is still sitting on your rack but out of my control.

 

Do you still do PL by Peter Lang

That was the start of making offshore. The PL was a diffusion range for price orientated and the fact of there’s a lot you can do with China that you can’t do here. But then it gets to minimums. You can’t just buy one piece. They’ve got minimums, they’re not huge but they’re not small. Unless you’ve got big retailers. I mean I can deal with Cue, because they’ve got a lot of retail outlets and they can buy certain quantity you know the minimums, MOQs – Minimum Order Quantity – You know they need to do it. I know here even just someone pulls out the stones, etc. to make one piece. I say “Don’t. Make five, make six of them. You’ve got it all out make six.” It take the same time to make one as it does for six by the time they get it out and have the momentum happening.

 

We spoke about Leo Monk earlier because he started out making the belts. Am I right in thinking that Ryan Storer is your nephew?

Yeah, he’s my nephew. He’s doing well. He came up from Melbourne and came up to Sydney. I knew he was creative and he was working in a café. I said “here’s an opportunity, come to Sydney”. I gave him an opportunity. I’m gay, I don’t have any children. I gave him an opportunity to you know build a craft, “see if you like it”. He’s very good.

 

You must be proud of him them. He’s made quite a name for himself with the ear cuffs.

Yeah and you know I think that could be what you’re talking about with the fashion parade. He’s done a lot for stars. I know he sells on net-a-porter. I don’t think he deals with the retailers here. I think it’s part of the website.

 

Everything is going online

We work with online. It’s your customer base. When we changed from what was known as Peter Lang to this minimalistic look about 2 years ago, we were a bit late in changing over.

 

Resistant to it?

Not really. No, I had stepped out of the arena of that. Most of what I did then was Cue and I got great turnover from that so Peter Lang was you know minor and I had a designer in and she went off on her own tangent and I didn’t really keep an eye on her. I suffered the consequences of sitting behind with design and it was only Greg, my sales person, who said “Peter, this is what the customer is after”. You know.

So then, bottom line, you’ve got to be on the ball, alert, your head spinning around for fashion. With that, we got this new range, we put it up, we launched this new range on the website, and nothing happened, which is a disappointment. But what we had as a customer base for that older look, someone who wanted something with a bit more coverage, something more substantial. And even now, yes, into the modern, it’s something of substance and Greg would say “you’ve got an older customer base”. And it wasn’t until we analysed it that “no your customer base is of all ages”. I’ve always stuck with – I dealt in America for a while and there you target you’re going to deal with – you’ve got 350 Million people, here you’ve got 25. I’m a bit of a money orientated person. Australia, we’ve got a smaller population. If I market towards the 20-25 year olds, it’s you know miniscule. So you deal with 20 to 60. Give them a little bit of your range that will cope with everyone. Deal with everyone in mind.

 

Trends?

You see them coming if you have your head in the fashion cloud. You see on the internet coming through. My ideal is to travel. A bit of cleansing. You’re bogged down by doing, doing. By travelling you open your mind to cleansing and new things.

 

What will we see in the next collection?

Along the same lines, it’s diversifying. We’re working with again what works. You utilise customer direction, where customers go. These days it’s gone away from being able to follow trends. It’s gone a little bit more with gut feeling. You don’t have the time now. Producing in China, we’re working with now Summer of next year. We’re half way into Summer for next year. It doesn’t go into stores in Europe until January of the next year. By then we’re busy working on the next season. So we’ve got to now work with interpretation. It’s wonderful. You get creative juices going. You then have to develop your own areas. You think a little bit of a progression from that. I think you can now work with a customer who is a little bit more savvy with what they buy. They’re not “oh it’s flowers”. It’s about yes, we do get a little bit of, “there’s a few things coming through for next season” but it’s a little bit more of a calculated guess and a progression of seeing and seeing what sells. Other types of looks work, I’ve seen that something more substantial works.

Especially dealing with the minimalistic which is a bit more foreign than what we’ve dealt in before, where we were doing embellishment and crystals, a bit more evening. People don’t go out as much or they don’t get dressed up to go out.

 

It’s a shame isn’t it? I like to get dressed up to go out.

It’s great to and it’s wonderful when you do see a group of people dressed up.

 

You go to the theatre, where people always used to dress up and now most people are in their jeans.

It’s true. In March, I was travelling and still made an effort to carry something good to wear. I was in London I went to see something at the theatre that was a opening night or second night and I was just surprised with what people were wearing and that was London. You know here in Australia, we’re casual and that’s part of the life you understand here. But as far as putting out jewellery, they don’t really go out to wear…. The great thing about having the shop open to the public is that you get to talk to people, see what they like and see behind the scenes of what they want to wear it for. The majority of our customers, it’s for weddings, you know for that traditional Peter Lang side was about bridal. Now that’s where it goes, it’s the tradition of weddings, you do dress up and you know especially the honour of dressing the bride and the bridesmaids. It’s a wonderful honour and to help them choose something that helps them mark that special moment in their life. You know makes you proud.

 

Peter Lang Blog Post IMAGE 3
One of my favourite pieces – some may say it’s bridal – I like to wear it for any evening occasion.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Do your passion, do your thing. Perseverance, and desire. It’s a desire to achieve, if you have a desire to achieve anything you get there. If you give up, where are you? At the bottom you know. So you go on until hopefully you find something that is for you.

 

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Salara Jewelry by Salvatore Rutigliano of New York City

Apologies for not having posted over the last few months, it has been a busy start to the year.

However, I have a post that was certainly worth waiting for. This post is about a man who truly is an artisan, using old techniques passed down to him from his Father and his Father’s employees, which he observed as a child and perfected as an adult.

I first came across Salvatore’s jewellery quite by accident via instagram, where he updates us with work in progress. At the time, he was working on a piece of jewellery to surprise his girlfriend with.

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BEGINNINGS

Have you had any formal jewellery making training or are you self-taught? If you trained, where did you train and in what? If you taught yourself, how did you go about it?

A mixture of all of the above. My father had a retail jewelry store and I was practically raised there. He had 2 full time jewellers on and even before I was old enough to comprehend what they actually did I was hooked. Constantly watching these two men, Sergio was from Argentina and Ezra from Yemen, and there was always a language barrier. I learned, at first, by watching. I became quite the observer and by age 11, I was sizing and soldering rings with ease.

The lessons became more advanced, and I would mimic what they demonstrated. That was 23 years ago. My training was concluded with several comprehensive courses on jewellery production and design. Including a 750 hour course at New York’s City’s Studio Jewelers. This was the final touch and with 9 hours a day, 5 days a week for the better part of a year virtually every facet of this industry was taught by the best instructors in the field.

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Did you always intend on starting your own jewellery making business?

It always seemed inevitable that I would take up the family trade. I spent a few years in banking for a while, I became a licensed financial advisor. It simply wasn’t for me. I let my licenses expire and came back to jewellery. But I found buying, selling, trading and repairing various articles was no long enough. I wanted to create it as well. The rest is history

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Do you have any words of wisdom to pass on to fellow designers hoping start their own label?

My advice to anyone aspiring to launch their line or label would be this: find that design you feel compelled to create and do it. It is your responsibility to bring the work to life, something you will not accomplish unless you truly have passion and love for the project you are launching.

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CREATIVE PROCESS

When you are creating new pieces, how do you find inspiration?

The only thing that I have a passion to study as much as my craft is history. I would be equally happy being paid to poke around some ancient battlefield for a living as much as I do with my current occupation. My love of history, elements, and a study of natural and manmade beauty, not to mention jewellery, truly combine when I start getting in my construction phases.

Being from New York is wonderful in that sense…I can see turn of the century architecture, bridges of the industrial revolution, the deco styling of steel and shine surrounding the Empire State Building, then travel a few blocks and the art nouveau style facades of local buildings greet you.

New York is beautiful, yet fierce. It is a shining example of innovation and modern society with all its achievement coupled with a global mixture of endless traditions of the people who make this city great…..for me the inspiration I draw from my city is endless.

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What is the process for creating a new piece? Do you simply draw it and then create it or do you start playing with the metals etc. to get ideas?

I hardly ever draw or sketch anything, and for no other reason than that I am horrible at it. Aside from my metal-smithing and carving ability for creating jewellery and metal sculpture, I have no artistic talent. I am unable to achieve symmetry, proportion, scale, depth or detail any other way than forging raw metal, but the process of the true design is exactly as we discussed. Sometimes, it is the stone that inspires me, other times it is when I find a suitable piece of silver or gold to work with….then I try to feel every surface of that stone and learn every grain of metal, after enough time I just seem to know exactly what I want to do….then I just do it

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Are you influenced by current fashion trends during the creative process?

Fashion trends frighten and confuse me. Hard as this is to believe, I just found out what stacked rings are! It’s not that I don’t appreciate the world of fashion; I simply cannot keep up with it as it would pertain to making jewelry for a specific genre or trend that is going to be gone as soon as it arrived.

The thought of trying to figure out what the world wants gives me a nosebleed. I truly am lucky in a sense that I am able to do something I love, and thankfully enough of the public seems to really like it as well.

If a client hands me a detailed blue print to custom make, then my job is simple, If someone knows exactly what they want, I can make exactly what they want. Otherwise it will have to be exactly what I want, haha!

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Do you work to a season when creating your pieces?

Working to a season really throws my rhythm off… I’m addicted to my job, I work constantly…every day something new catches my eye and I’ll incorporate a new texture or shape, a slight variance. I have no quotas to fill, and new pieces which can sometimes appear to be a mini-line in their own right, such as my Tudor roses, never get boring for me to make, as before that happens I’m inspired and compelled to switch.

When building a line, you must prepare endlessly meet production quotas and there’s constant pressure to produce a Better line than last time, while worrying about how you will improve the next one. That sounds an awful lot like work to me. My way has left a trail of one of a kind items, handmade and they are as much a pleasure for me to make as they are for others to own

How long does it take to make one piece?

The time it takes to make a piece varies on how much prep work I do. Sometimes the image I see as to my goal is so clear in my mind the entire process is mechanical, other times I simply find a gorgeous stone to set. Those pieces are usually the ones that have additions in the later stages that not even I saw coming. So in those cases a very complicated, unplanned “let’s wing it” piece can take up to two days. But if the projects at hand are solid in design before I ever started cutting then I work quite fast.

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PRODUCTION

One of the things that really appeals to me about your designs, apart from their beauty, is that you are a part of the anti-mass-produced fashion movement and are unique.  Do you have any others in your team that assist with the production process?

I don’t think I ever even thought about mass production in a pro or con sense.  I truly am blessed to do what I do, it’s working out for me.

I would never design, produce or endorsed a piece of jewelry I simply didn’t like. And in that sense I would appalled at the idea of mass producing that jewelry.

I was fortunate to find success through my own designs. And to any jewellers out there reading this, if you landed a good position at a well-known retailer, who mass-produces the flavour of the week I say keep your head up, do your job well, and be proud of work well done….and the best part about most mass produced commercial jewelry is when held side by side against my designs, my pieces look that much better!

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CHALLENGES

What are the challenges in keeping production on-shore in the USA when most fashion brands are opting to have their products made in China?

I stay competitive by doing as much as possible with as little as possible. I’m trained in traditional silver-smithing. To make a product like my signature roses for instance, you can order high quality refined and sanded metal sheet from one of the various online or walk in distributors. This milled polished silver in thicker gauge can be priced three times what it melts for. Most jewellers don’t have a choice in the matter. Yet, a Silversmith does.

For just about $1.00 above its melt value most pawn shops will sell you broken pieces of jewelry and bullion. If one is able to melt and rework that into a refined sheet then the cost basis is substantially lower, Rio Grande will sell you 100 pre-made stone settings for $50.00 plus shipping. And they will arrive next week. I can make those settings in under a few hours for about $12.00 of raw sterling reforged.

Then there’s the quality comparison, or rather, lack thereof. I actually wonder how those companies plan to compete with me haha. I exist without all the high-tech gadgets with as little expense and overheads as possible without compromising design or quality. Many of my pieces on instagram I refer to as “the Frankenstein collection”. I have become quite proficient using the table scraps of the jeweller’s world.

Competing with cheaper labour or going up against the likes of nations such as China or a major retailers is not even a concern in my thinking, I have no plans to go head to head with anyone.

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So a lot of your pieces are made from broken pieces or quite recently and old spoon and an old fork. This gives your pieces a timeless quality and knowing that they have a story before they were crafted into something else just adds to this. Is it purely for economic and time reasons that you use old pieces and solder them or are you also attracted to the element of them having a past history and you are breathing new life into them?

I call them my Frankenstein pieces, LOL! It is true that there is a huge economic advantage in using pieces such as that. However, using basic bench scrapings, such as those does give me a sense of satisfaction. Knowing that I made something I consider gorgeous, using things others see as scrap metal, always makes me smile. ☺ Also, material can be quite expensive, and sometimes ideal metal is difficult to come by. There is much waste when it comes to workable metal in the design aspect. Working in broken or discarded silver, or even silverware such as my spoon items forces me to think creatively and will always give me a competitive advantage over my peers. And as you say, giving an old piece of silver a new life and a new appearance has an almost meditative effect on me, my glimpse into the sublime so to speak

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How do your customers find you? Is it word of mouth and Instagram?

Mostly instagram, which has had a tremendous effect on my ability to reach a wider audience. I simply shoot my work as I see it, and hope those who view it see what I intended to show.

LATEST COLLECTION

Your latest pieces are using the amazing Alexandrite stone, which changes from a purple to green depending on the light. Do you search out particular stones or are you guided by the stones when making your pieces?

There have been many pieces where I go hunting for a particular gem, but more times than not, it is a gem which found me and I, in turn, was inspired. The alexandrite is the golden standard of that rule.
A jeweller could spend a lifetime attempting to secure a single stone of the type currently in my safe. They are the most stunning gems I’ve ever laid eyes on, and it is an absolute privilege to be able to create pieces using this rarest of gemstones.

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You have made quite a few pieces featuring flowers. Do flowers hold a special place for you?

Flowers represent all that is beautiful in nature. They are delicate, fragrant, bold in colour and both intricate and simplistic in design. They also can be representative symbols of the most powerful things on Earth…clovers are the symbol of luck, roses represent love. The Tudors of England chose a Tudor Rose as the symbol of their royal bloodline. Anne Boleyn was insistent on having one prominently displayed in her State portrait.

Beauty, love, power, majesty….I was hooked. The only true flaw to natural flora is their fleeting existence. My flowers are eternal…

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REFLECTIONS

Do you have a favourite piece of all time? How about from this collection?

My favourite piece is my earliest flower, the first of its kind and I think one of my better pieces. I gave it to the most wonderful woman I have ever met, my girlfriend Courtney. They truly belong to each other. And both are beautiful on their own, but together, nothing will ever be as beautiful

How does it feel when you see people wearing your pieces?

It’s a really awesome feeling. No lavish explanations needed. Awesome.

Have you had any particularly notable moments when someone has worn one of your pieces?

Once in a theatre in Manhattan, there was a couple who I was certain I had never met. I overheard a few words and not even the voices were familiar. But one detail was unmistakable, the beautiful pendant she was wearing that caught the light was one that I made a year earlier. I don’t remember to whom or where that piece was sold. And I’m not sure how she came to be wearing it. But I know she looked beautiful, and happy, and knowing that at least a part of that was because of her pendant was a wonderful feeling.

How do you feel that your designs have evolved since you started out?

I keep surprising myself in the regard that I was never creative in the earlier parts of my life and the evolution of my creations is the most surprising aspect of all. Some people talk of creative blocks, yet I have been fortunate that as soon as I am finishing one design, several more are usually spinning in my thoughts.

FUTURE

What are your plans for the future?

I have quite a few plans, several collaboration projects. New designs, new stones, new ideas, the future is sure to see plenty of what I plan to display. In a word, the plan is to conquer!

You can find Salvatore’s beautiful unique pieces at his Etsy store at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/SalvatorePaulCustoms

I also recommend that you follow him on Instagram so that you can follow the journey from metal and stone to a piece of wearable art: https://instagram.com/salarajewelry

You can also follow him on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/salvatore.rutigliano1?fref=ts

If you want to contact Salvatore about making a piece, he can be contacted by email at: srutigliano26@gmail.com

Lakota Bijoux

Lakota Bijoux

This week’s feature is beaded cuff maker, Lakota Bijoux. A relative newcomer to the jewellery scene, this is certainly one to watch. Follow her on instagram and facebook.

Who is the person behind Lakota Bijoux?

29 year old Lakota Taylor, a crazy melange of Indian, Irish, Spanish, and English heritage

Where are you based?

The South of France

Where does the name Lakota Bijoux come from?

Lakota is my name and ‘bijoux’ means jewellery in French.

Do you have any formal jewellery training?

None at all. Everything I know, I have learnt along the way.

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Do you have a background in fashion?

No.

How did you start your brand?

I have always loved making things by hand and LOVE accessories.   As a hobby, I started off making headbands and hairpieces with feathers, and then used the same concept for earrings and necklaces. These were very popular at music festivals, and a few shops ended up buying all my stock.

Then in 2009, I was in Israel and chanced upon an area full of craft shops, basically Lakota heaven. In one of these shops, I found a beautiful book full of the most amazing bead embroidery jewellery. I had never seen anything like it and became completely obsessed. I ended up visiting that area every day and bought so many beads, big beads, small beads, gemstones, crystals, but I had no real idea of what to do with any of them.

I started putting beads to fabric anyway, learning as I went along. If there was a technique that I wanted to learn, I would go to Youtube or buy a tutorial online and do it over and over until I mastered it. The first few pieces I made were just for me and I had no intention of selling at all. But every time I would wear one of my cuffs, friends, and complete strangers would ask me where they could buy it, often offering me money to take it on the spot.  It was only this year that I started making pieces to sell.

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When did you start your brand?

I have been in the planning/experimental stages for a few months and launched one month ago so it is still in its very early stages.

Where do you find your inspiration?

From the beads themselves. I just start working and ideas come to me.  My best work happens when I have no outside distractions and am able to become completely immersed in what I am doing. I am also lucky enough to have an insanely talented group of family and friends whom I can bounce ideas off and whose opinions I trust implicitly.

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I saw on facebook that you had purchased a green stone from a museum but didn’t know what to do with it and later turned it into the central detail on a beautiful cuff. Do you often purchase stones and beads without knowing what you will do with them at the time?

Yes. I don’t do it intentionally, but that is actually that is how all my pieces start. I just love using gemstones and minerals and find beautiful stones (or should I say they find me) everywhere: museums, craft stores, exhibitions, flea markets, even the Organic Store.  I am a complete beadaholic and if something catches my eye, it will absolutely come home with me for use at a later date. Swarovski crystals are my weakness and the colours, shapes and sizes of their Elements range are forever dazzling me. I buy them by the hundreds with no particular piece in mind.

Do you make all of the pieces yourself? What is the process from idea to finished product?

Yes, everything from start to finish. I start off with the focal stone, and then I think about what smaller beads will go with it. I never design or draw anything in advance, I just let the beads tell me where to go and I am constantly learning and acquiring new bits of knowledge. I often work on 4-5 pieces at one time and my workspace is forever increasing.

Beads are stitched, one by one, on to a felt or suede like base. When the embroidery part is finished, this is then attached to a soft leather or suede backing.  It can take up to 30 hours hours to complete one piece. Wearability and comfort is the most important thing to me and I want my pieces to fit the wearer as though it was made especially for them. For this reason, many pieces remain unfinished until they are bought, and then the clasps are added according to the measurements of the buyer.  I like to post pictures on my Facebook page which show my progress with each piece as I go along.

With custom pieces, I work together with the customer, using both their ideas and mine, to design their perfect piece.

Where is your main client base?

Europe and America

How do you find your customers?

I don’t avidly search for customers. A lot of contact is by word of mouth and also through Facebook and Instagram.

What are the challenges in making your creations known?

I much prefer creating to advertising or making my work ‘known’ so I have not come across any real challenges in that respect so far.

I found you via an Instagram post. Do you find social media important?

Definitely. It really makes my day when I stumble across an amazing designer, outfit or piece of jewellery that I may never have discovered without social media.  Pintrest is my favourite out of them all.  For my own brand, I think it is just great that people in all parts of the world, who I have never met, can see my work and connect with me through Facebook or Instagram.

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Do you create pieces other than your beautiful cuffs. For example, have you considered taking those skills and applying them to beautiful beaded handbags?

Oh absolutely. Actually, I have made bespoke pieces, including a bag, which I haven’t published pictures of. But yes, I would bead everything if I could. The amount of time each piece takes is the only thing that limits me. Cuffs are definitely my passion though, and I think you can completely change the look of an entire outfit with a perhaps “not so simple” piece on your wrist.

Where do you see the future of Lakota Bijoux?

Doing bigger, more daring pieces. My to do list includes large collar pieces and jackets.

Do you have any words of wisdom to pass on to other designers who want to launch their own business?

Focus on the product – it helps to be completely in love, possibly boarding on obsession, with what you do. Everything else will come naturally.

BUBA LONDON

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Buba London started out between two people who kept bumping into each other in acts of serendipity. They produce bags that are works of art and luckily for us have also expanded into sandals, jewellery and homewares with more to come.

I interviewed Lesley Silwood, one half of Buba London recently. Please read the interview below and find out more about the Buba story. Allow your eyes to be dazzled with their beautiful creations at http://www.bubalondon.com

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BACKGROUND & BEGINNINGS

You both met wearing near identical outfits at London fashion week then bumped into each other at the India embassy and then arranged to meet on a beach in Goa.

Yes, we found each other as agreed, neither thinking that the other would show up.

Do you have a photo of yourselves in these matching outfits?!

No I wish we did. We didn’t know each other very well; we had met at a party once and my friend Elliot was taking photos of me for the independent newspaper. Euan tapped me on the shoulder laughing. As I turned around, we looked at each other; shocked that we were in matching clothes. My friend Elliot could not stop laughing saying “did you plan to be matching?’”. I didn’t even know Euan was in the country as he was living in India at the time.

Which year was that?

2000

Were either of you travelling to India with the intention of starting a fashion label?

Euan was already living in India and designing with Jade Jagger on a label called Jade inc. Jade had just been signed to Garrard and the label was about to close, this is when we met. We had lots of friends in common from work and the travelling we had both been doing, we just hadn’t met each other yet.

Do either of you have a background in fashion?

Yes, at the time I was a fashion photographer working with Alice McCall when she was styling so I had been in fashion for a long time. I had just started my own brand of bikinis called Club Tropicana.

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CREATIVE PROCESS

What is the process for creating a new piece? Do you simply draw it and then have it produced in India or do you start playing with the leathers and stones to get ideas?

Euan and our creative team start playing with materials, stones and leather and also looking at past embroidery swatches and colour pallets. We also create mood boards for inspiration. Euan draws everything by hand on special tracing paper for the embroiderers. The designs are then pinned to be transferred to the embroidery looms. He then will work hands on with the embroiders applying the various materials piece by piece. 

How do you stay inspired?

Travelling to different countries helps us stay inspired. Looking at different cultures, traditional arts and handicrafts. Regular visits to London to see galleries, exhibitions and bookshops and perhaps above all constantly observing nature in all its wonder on and around our island home.

Do you create pieces around a theme for a collection?

Some parts of a collection have a strong theme and some just move on organically from the last collection. 

You launch 2 seasonal collections each year. How many pieces do you create for each collection?

Over 100 pieces in each collection if you count the bags and jewellery together.

You’ve also launched into sandals and jewellery, as well as homewares. How did the expansion into these areas come about?

We have always wanted to expand into home furnishings. When you experiment with scale you realise that a lot of the detail of the embellishment for the bags and jewellery translates beautifully when enlarged onto a bigger canvas, just as some of the ideas for the jewellery and bags begin life as large designs. The same with the sandals, essentially the starting point was having a simple shaped sandal to embellish with a similar motif to that used on the jewellery; something elegant and beautiful.

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PRODUCTION

Did you choose India as your production base solely because that’s how the two of you met or because it is home to artisans with particular skills?

The latter, it seemed natural to stay working in India as Euan had already set up a production unit in India which had carried on from Jade inc closing and we wanted to carry on working with the artisans. 

Is it difficult to find people in India who will work with cowhide given their religious belief that the cow is sacred?

Most of our bags are made with sheep nappa so we do not have the issues above. 

How do you go about sourcing an overseas production house?

It’s hard. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re not going to live in the country you’re working in.

How do you oversee quality when production occurs overseas?

The staff in india have been working on our brand for 12 years so they know what to look for.

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Do your production team in India work only on your label or do they work for many labels?

Only ours, although we sometimes do some production for Swarovski. We produced all of the Christopher Kane collection for ATELIER SWAROVSKI.

How do you prevent overseas production houses from producing your designs and selling them off to other customers themselves?

It’s ours [production house] so it is usually ok.

What is involved in producing a BUBA London bag?

Too much to go into but there are 10 people who work on one piece at different stages.

Why was it so important to you to keep the traditional techniques of crochet and whipstitch as opposed to the use of a sewing machine?

Embroidery by hand is a dying trade which is usually only used for saris and for traditional Indian dress. We love our pieces looking unique; we do not mass produce so that they all have a little bit of love from all who make the pieces. Our staff are really proud of what they do.

Why does it take 3 weeks for a bag to be made – is that the actual hours involved in producing a bag or does it also factor in postage from India back to London?

No it does take 3 weeks to make. There are so many stages from the embroidery to pasting to finishing. There are 10 people overall that will do a stage on the bag. Then it takes a few days to come to London.

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Does that mean that all bags are made to order rather than you keeping stock in London?

Yes, everything is made to order and we often do bespoke pieces for important clients.

Do you oversee the working conditions of the artisans in India?

Euan is there to oversee the sampling and some of the production. I don’t go so often these days as we have two children together but when I do it is great. I miss them. We are all a team.

How did BUBA LONDON enter the competitive fashion market?

With a bang! We had designed a few pieces that were being sold by the Cross shop. They suggested we enter our pieces for New Gen sponsorship at London fashion week. I didn’t think we would get it as it is so competitive but we did.

I was 9 months pregnant at the time with our first baby and when I arrived on the stand Neiman Marcus and Saks were arguing about who could have the brand. I shouted at them “I’m 9 months pregnant – who was really first?” Saks said they were so I started to write the order. We did not have the funds to produce all the orders so we had let some clients go. It was sad but we could not take on too much otherwise we would break the brand before we had started.

You showcase your jewellery lines at London Fashion Week and Premiere Classe in Paris each season. How much have these showings contributed to your brand being successful?

We get all our clients from the shows; all the most important department stores and boutiques come to Paris.

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FUTURE

As I mentioned before, you’ve moved into sandals, jewellery and homewares as well as your original handbag line. Are there other avenues you’re going to expand into on the horizon?

Euan would like to do some scarf developments and a line in printed and embellished t-shirts. I would like to work on some more interior pieces. 


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Sandals are obviously a Spring/Summer collection item. Will you be expanding into Winter boots and the like too?

No. At the moment, it would be difficult for us to sell shoes alongside the bags and jewellery as it’s a totally different market with a whole new set of buyers; new shows, manufacturers, etc…. With the interiors it is easier to gradually introduce a few products at a time and utilize our current production base.

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What else do you see in BUBA LONDON’s future? 

We are building a new home so I see our interior collection growing. We are also looking to open a flagship store.

REFLECTIONS

Do you have a favourite piece of all time?

Euan –  Vb fairy and mine had to be the Travel bag as originally I designed it to be our baby bag.

How about from this collection?

Euan – freesia day bag and me the same

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What are your best-selling pieces?

All our clutches, purses and large travel bags. Our cuffs and bracelets are the best-selling jewellery pieces.

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CUFFS

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How does it feel when you see people wearing your pieces?

It’s funny as we do not produce on mass so Euan often thinks he knows the people wearing our bags. There have been some funny episodes in Ibiza where we have met people at restaurants or boarding the plane wearing Buba.

Have you had any particularly notable moments when someone has worn one of your pieces? 

Apart from the obvious reference to celebrity, I have about 5 different photos of babies being put and carried around in the Travel bags, which makes me smile. I also have some wonderful pictures from weddings with the bags.

How do you feel that your designs have evolved since you started out?

Naturally they have evolved: the stitching and pattern details have become more elaborate; the range and quality of the materials has broadened and increased but essentially the handmade, artisanal quality remains. 

Do you have any words of wisdom to pass on to fellow designers hoping start their own label?

Design from the heart, do your own thing and don’t follow trends.

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That was the interview. Check out the beautiful artisinal pieces at http://www.bubalondon.com

OCTA BAG

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OCTA is a relatively new brand coming out of Thailand, which produces women’s bags in a variety of diamond shapes and gorgeous hues. The brand is currently only available online at its website at http://www.octabag.com and ships worldwide. Check out this brand, which is being coveted by celebrities and bloggers alike.

Recently, I interviewed the team behind OCTA bags. The interview is below.

BACKGROUND & BEGINNINGS

Who is behind OCTA bags?

The Founders of OCTA are two sisters from Thailand. The creative director of OCTA Sirikran Chaithavornsathien and her sister Thanya takes care of the operations side of the business.

What is the background of the people who are behind OCTA bags?

Our designer Sirikran is 27 years old. She didn’t graduate from fashion school, she studied Business Management but she loves fashion and is very creative. She mixed her knowledge of Marketing and her ability to design together and started doing what she loves.

Thanya is 31 years old and graduated from political school. She supported her sister in the creation of this brand.

How did OCTA bags come to be?

After she graduated, Sirikran wanted to build her own business and needed to decide between clothing and accessories. She discussed with her sister Thanya, who supported her to create womens bags.

A week later Sirikran drew an octagon bag, showed it to her sister and said “This is it”.

I assume that the name refers to the shape of many of your bags: octagonal. How did you come to this design?

OCTA means eight, which is Sirikran’s favourite number. Everything she creates, she put the symbol of eight behind it. She picked an emerald diamond to represent number eight and that became the concept of the brand.

On your website you’ve stated that “We want to create a mid high brand so, people can have a luxurious style in an affordable price”.  For example, your clutches start at US$235 for the Candy, your cross-body at $210 in the Octavia, and finish with the Davia top handle bag at $650. You also have the Octavia wallet currently available in 6 gorgeous colours for $145. How do you keep the prices reasonable without sacrificing the quality?

In each price range, there’s a difference in the finishing of the leathers and the details. For example, the Octavia is a plain design, we don’t add much detail to it and the leather is of a good grade but does not have any texture. For Davia, we use premium leathers with nice textures and there are a lot of details including the design of the shape.

As for the quality, we have highly skilled craftsmen, so that we can control their fineness and quality.

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CREATIVE PROCESS

What is the process for creating a new piece? Do you simply draw it and then have it produced or do you start playing with the leathers and stones to get ideas?

Mostly, our designer will draw it and she will seek the materials and hardware herself. She will discuss it with the pattern maker and create a prototype. After that she will let a team comment upon it. She really loves stones and she’s developing them now.

You said that the designer loves the stones and is developing them now. Do you mean that she is creating her own stones for use or she is developing a range of bags around particular stones?

She is developing a range of bags around particular stones.

How do you stay inspired?

She loves to create new things, so she always observes a trend and combine it with her imagination. Most of her works express herself, her favourites and her style a lot.   

Do you make bags for different collections (seasonal or otherwise)?

We will start to do the seasonal bag next season.

Is there a theme for a collection?

Yes, we have a concept about the power of diamonds, which can control all women’s desire.  We will present it in monotone.

For example, at the moment you have some beautiful pastel colours. Are these intended for a Spring/Summer theme?

Actually, we launch all bags in pastel colors because we would like to express the freshness of our brand to seem like the tenderness of youth.

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PRODUCTION

Is Thailand your base because that’s also where your designers and founders are based?

Yes, it is.

The majority of your bags are made from leather.  Is this locally sourced and tanned leather? Is it cowhide?

It is cowhide and most of the leathers are from Italy and finished in Thailand.

What is involved in producing an OCTA bag?

  • Sourcing materials
  • Producing the prototype
  • Design proof

How long does it take for a single OCTA bag to be made? What are the processes involved?

It takes around a day for one single bag.

How did Sirikran go about sourcing people to make the bags?

The family has its own manufacturer.

Do you have people who work solely on OCTABAG such as your own production team?

Yes we do.

How did OCTA enter the competitive fashion market?

We start from social media (facebook and instagram) with the reasonable price and unique design. Customers then need to not be afraid to purchase even though they haven’t seen the products in real life. After that, it is word of mouth by customers, which helps us a lot for the message of reliability.

I found you via Instagram and to be honest it was that long ago that I don’t actually recall how, whether you liked one of my photos or I saw someone feature one of your bags. Do you find a lot of your website traffic and customers come from Instagram?

We would say all of our customers come from Instagram.

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How important is social media for a brand such as yours?

Now it is so important, as this is a method which is really effective when you have a low marketing budget. It also allows us to create awareness all over the world without travelling.

How do you find customers on Instagram? Do you actively like photos with particular hashtags or like photos taken by followers of particular pages to attract them to your page to discover your bags?

We have many influential pages feature our designs on their page, which attracts customers and followers .

REFLECTIONS

Do you have a favourite piece of all time?

The Asscher, it is the signature and it is the first design for OCTA

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How about from this collection?

Mini Davia in Tangerine

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What are your best-selling pieces?

Asscher in Mint.

How does it feel when you see people wearing your pieces?

I feel like I’m successful, my products cannot be found in stores and we are nobody. If they have it, that means they had high enough an incentive to visit the website and decide to buy it.

Have you had any particularly notable moments when someone has worn one of your pieces?

I remember, I sat alone at the airport and could not stop smiling when I knew that Bar Refaeli was wearing my bag . I could feel that the girl next to me noticed and laugh at me. It’s a bit embarrassing but I couldn’t help it!

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How do you feel that your designs have evolved since you started out in 2012?

This is unbelievable! Within two years we have gone so far and faster than we’ve planned but we will make it better and better.

Do you have any words of wisdom to pass on to fellow designers hoping start their own label?

I want to tell them to start doing what they love. Sometimes passion can make you go further than knowledge. You can learn it while you do it. Imagination cannot be studied in class. You just need to know how to make it real.

FUTURE

What’s on the horizon for OCTA bag?

Within 5 years we aim to create OCTA SHOES, OCTA WATCHES and OCTA JEWELLERY. Watch this space!

BALYCK JEWELLERY

BALYCK JEWELLERY LOGO

Balyck Jewellery was started by Jessica Balyck in 2010, at the young age of 23, and has rapidly grown into a respected Australian jewellery brand. Based in Sydney, Jessica designs and creates the pieces herself.  Its motto “once adorned, forever transformed” is not only catchy but true of how you feel once you’ve worn her incredible, timeless pieces.

View Jessica’s latest collection, The White Lion at http://www.balyck.com

BALYCK White Lion Collection

Recently, I was lucky enough to interview Jessica Balyck. The interview is below.

BEGINNINGS

How old are you? How old were you when you started out?
I’m 26 (27 now in November) years of age. When I started studying fashion I was 19 and starting the Balyck label, 23.

I read that your jewellery making skills are self-taught. How did you go about teaching yourself?

It was through a lot of trial and error, research and watching others that I came to learn the craftsmanship of jewellery making. My father taught me it costs nothing to ask or to call someone to ask questions to learn and so I did just that. I would spend many hours sitting with people talking about the various methods or watching them but then would always have to practice repeatedly myself being the only true way I could learn.

You mention that your father telling you that it doesn’t cost anything to call someone to ask questions to learn was valuable advice. Has your Dad been a mentor to you?

My father is my hero. He has always encouraged me to do the impossible and pursue my dreams. He guides and advises me constantly even though we are in complete different fields; his belief in what I do is incredible.

Did you find that advice rang true? Did you call other jewellers for assistance and did you find they were willing to help or did they see you as a competitor and not want to assist?

Thanks to his advice, I took chances and met with people who have aided me through my journey and helped me develop along the way. Not so much other jewellers, more so people within the fashion industry, bloggers, photographers, designers and people who have started their own businesses. His advice indeed did ring true and I quickly learnt nothing will come by doing nothing.

When you started your studies at The Fashion Studio in Sydney , did you intend on starting a jewellery brand?

No initially, I never intended on starting a jewellery brand. I have always had a fascination with fashion and creating since before I could remember and loved all aspects of it. However prior to starting my course, I would make pieces of jewellery for myself to wear on a daily basis. I then went on to study and pursue fashion. I am extremely grateful I did this as it furthered my abilities to create, gain knowledge on the history of fashion and the styling and creative process. After the course though my passion remained with jewellery as I found I had more passion for it.

How did you start your brand?

The starting of the Balyck Label was a gradual process. To begin with I would make designs for myself to wear out and compliment outfits I had.  This then slowly caught the attention of my family and friends who I would then create pieces for. Seeing how much they loved the designs and how much I loved creating them gave birth to the idea of starting a label of my very own. This was followed by the long process of research to see if I could make this dream a reality.

Do you have any words of wisdom to pass on to fellow designers hoping start their own label?

I do. Finding what you love is a gift and if you’re lucky enough to have found one, do it justice by working hard at your trade for the more work you put into something the more results you will see. The results will be addictive. What they don’t tell you is that it won’t just come overnight. Many people have a “gift”; it takes consistent work, though if you love what you want to do, I promise you are already one step ahead.

As my father always say’s “it costs nothing to talk to someone to learn” so talk and get in contact with people who have established themselves or have started their own label listen to their process what they have found to be successful or where they have failed and take note. You will be surprised who will be willing to help as we all had to start from somewhere and some of the most amazing knowledge I have gained was just by putting myself out there asking others much more advanced than me if they would like to get a coffee and discuss ideas.

Most importantly find your point of difference because sometimes the thing that separates you from everyone else is your sheer determination to succeed.

BALYCK

CREATIVE PROCESS

When you are creating a new collection, how do you find inspiration?

Inspiration comes to me in all shapes and forms: my surroundings, my dreams and the things I hold close to myself. Often, it’s when I am actually doing things that are non-creative related and am in a relaxed state as I’m not pressured.

What is the process for creating a new piece? Do you simply draw it and then create it or do you start playing with the metals etc. to get ideas?

Most of the time I start pulling out material in my studio depending on what the theme or inspiration of the collection is (and as you can imagine I would be surrounded by trinkets of all sorts) and through trial and error objects start to form before my eyes. My creative process isn’t really structured or organized prior. I start to create pieces and then let that dictate what will be added or need to be sourced in order to be completed. Sometimes it can take a while as it can be the matter of changing one design feature to differentiate it from being ordinary to extraordinary.

How do you stay inspired?

I constantly surrounded myself in the fashion world and creative people who share the same passions, my love of travel and most importantly my family.

Are you influenced by current fashion trends during the creative process?

No not really. I’m appreciative of current fashion though I’ve never been one to be dictated by it. I personally prefer timeless pieces and when buying something for myself or creating, I will always invest in good quality and design, which is what I try to create for people myself.

Do you work to a season when creating your pieces?

No, I like to create pieces that are versatile and non-seasonal so that people are not limited as to how long, for what or where they can wear them.

How many collections do you create each year?

For the moment, it is one main collection a year, though shortly I will be releasing the “Trinity” collection which is a bridal capsule collection with The Dark horse and Wedded Wonderland. There will also be the introduction to my new men’s designs to the Balyck Label.

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PRODUCTION

One of the things that really appeals to me about your designs, apart from their beauty, is that you are a part of the anti-mass-produced fashion movement.  In doing so, you have kept production in-house. Do you have any others in your team that assist with the production process?

I solder set and make everything myself in-house though I send the designs out to get plated as I do not have the resources to do this. I like to keep everything onshore as I am extremely supportive of the Australian fashion industry and working with other businesses like my own. I know it would be a lot easier/cheaper to go offshore or have others do the work for me though I think if I did this it would lose everything I love in the first place about creating and bringing special pieces made by myself to my customers. As the label expands though, I know eventually I will need help and I plan to hire other like-minded creatives who have similar passions to help me do so supporting our Australian economy.

You do your own designing and soldering but plating is contracted out. So for example, with a piece like the Lion Head Cuff, do you make your own moulds and soldering?

The moulds I sketch or I find a photo of an object I like and then that is also contracted out here in Sydney and made for me. But an example of the lion head cuff would be how I found a photo of the lion and asked for it to be made into a mould, I then sourced the base cuff and soldered them together, followed by being sent out to be plated and brought back for me to set the stones and ring.

BALYCK Lion Head Cuff

Your pieces are all hand-made in Sydney, how many of each piece do you make? Do you have a cap on how many of each piece you will make or is it simply driven by demand?

I Have put a cap of 100 of each design/colour way. As I ultimately would like to build a reputation and be known for that when Balyck releases the main collections, once the pieces are sold out they will not be reproduced. For me, it’s not about mass production though but creating limited pieces that hold special memories to the people who buy them and want something special.

CHALLENGES

What are the challenges in keeping production on-shore in Australia when most fashion brands are opting to have their products made in China?

First and foremost cost. Things would be quite significantly cheaper offshore, however I think the quality of Australian made products opposed to Chinese speak for themselves. I also like that I can oversee and control the whole process bringing the finest quality to my clientele.

How do you keep your pricing competitive with those brands that are making their products overseas?

My label itself targets a niche market that appreciates quality over quantity so the prices are not as cheap as other brands producing their designs overseas though I try when creating and pricing the collection to cater and vary the pricing from low to high so everyone can enjoy and buy from the label.  Also, even though the prices may be higher than the mass-produced labels, the Balyck collections are designed and created to be worn many different ways to give customers value for their product enabling them to wear it for a long time opposed to these companies that produce pieces that are seasonal, a current trend or of cheaper quality.

Your company is relatively new, having only been launched in 2010. How do you break into the competitive fashion market?

One of the most important things is recognising your point of difference and focusing on that. I mould the label around my clientele and target market catering to their needs and what I would like to deliver to them. There are so many talented people competing in the fashion market, however the Balyck label is focusing on a niche market.

One of the most beautiful things about Australia and the opportunity it has to offer is that you can immerse yourself in the fashion industry, work hard and make brilliant contacts, which will then lead you to work with the larger labels, celebrities and bloggers. An opportunity, which I think would be a lot harder to come by elsewhere.

You’ve said that it is important to recognise one of your points of difference and focus on it. What would you say your point of difference is?

I think my main point of focus is everything is made and overseen by myself and made here in Sydney. I want to give the best possible result to my clients and I want them to know that I’m there to deliver all those finer touches to make the product special to them.

You’ve said that you mould the label around client and your target market and that you’re focussing on a niche market. Who is your target market?

My target market would have to be those who appreciate fashion, quality and timeless pieces.

BALYCK White Lion Collection

LATEST COLLECTION

Your latest collection is called The White Lion. Can you please tell us a little about it.

The White Lion collection was created to be worn as individual pieces of art or worn all together as a dynamic runway statement. When creating this collection I kept in mind the customer and what I visualized them to feel when wearing the designs. I wanted it to empower them and evoke a special memory of the moment they bought the design and would wear it. I think one of the most important things we have is our memories and if I can provide happiness through my designs for my customers then I have succeeded in everything I want to accomplish. The most important factors of the collection are that they would be versatile and timeless.

Does the lion hold a special place for you?

The lion Does hold a special place for me. In my travels when I was In Taormina in Italy, I took a beautiful photo of an exquisite old lion door knocker. I loved the quality and craftsmanship of the lion and was instantly inspired to create a collection around this. The name “The White Lion” then contributed to the rarity of the collection and what Balyck jewellery is trying to embody.

On your website, it is stated that you were inspired by medieval times when creating this collection. What did you draw your inspiration from? How did you come to be inspired by medieval times?

I love history and how we have progressed over time. One of the main things I was inspired by from the medieval times is how they created incredible pieces of jewellery and designs with such limited resources and materials and still of great quality.

Do you have a special piece from this collection?

My favourite design would have to be the lion head cuff as it was something I initially made for myself after falling in love with the beautiful door knocker which then went on to give birth to an entire collection.

This collection is “limited edition”, again in a move against mass-produced fashion. How many of each piece are you making?

100 of each design and/or colourway

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REFLECTIONS

Do you have a favourite piece of all time?

I made a one-off lion necklace encased in silk that I wear all the time.

How about from this collection?

From this collection I wear daily the linked lion rings in silver.

What are your best-selling pieces?

The linked lion rings have been by far the best seller.

BALYCK Lion Rings

How does it feel when you see people wearing your pieces?

I am honoured and extremely flattered. When I see people wearing my designs, I feel like I have done my job and am happy to have contributed to the fashion world. It’s all quite surreal really.

Have you had any particularly notable moments when someone has worn one of your pieces?

Yes, it was a beautiful moment when Dannii Minogue wore my jewellery on Australia’s Got Talent, Karise Eden, the winner of The Voice and working with various Australian bloggers. One of my all time favourite moments was when I was interviewed by FTV for Balyck jewellery, having grown up watching and loving everything about it.

Dannii Minogue BALYCK Cage RingDannii Minogue BALYCK Cage Ring2

(Images from Danii Minogue’s tumbler page)

How do you feel that your designs have evolved since you started out in 2010?

I feel like I have developed stronger branding and sense of direction for what Balyck is and its specific clientele and designing for them. I have learnt further methods of creating and intend on continuing to do so to bring the best quality products to everyone.

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FUTURE

What are your plans for the future?

I intend on continuing to expand into the Australian market and becoming a household name, working with like-minded creative people. Being primarily online focused, I would like to from next year’s collection distribute to shops within Australia and then internationally.

And that has been Jessica Balyck from BALYCK JEWELLERY. Keep an eye out for her in boutiques in 2015. In the meantime, check out her beautiful pieces on her website at http://www.balyck.com.au 

Accessarration – Narrating the stories behind the accessories – Why this blog?

I’ve long had a passion for accessories, with people often telling me I have too many and me looking at them dismayed thinking “is that even possible?” Rather than following in the footsteps of many other blogs out there, which showcase how to style accessories, I wanted a point of difference. I’ve always had an inquisitive mind wanting to know the story behind what I see. Seeing a beautiful piece of jewellery or a standout handbag is no different. For me, I want to know who made it, who designed it, how it was made, how it came to be.

So for those of you that are hoping to see me styling jewellery or other accessories with an outfit, you’ll probably want to move on to another blog. However, for those of you who are reading this sentence, (already for that: a big thank you!) you may have a desire to know the back story as I do.

I’m not talking just about how a designer came to be known or how the designer came to even be in the industry. I’m wanting also to explore the people who are often forgotten about and not seen. The people who are using their hands creating the very pieces we are wearing. Those in production houses, factories, call them what you will. The people whose talents we often overlook.

That’s not to say that the designer shouldn’t get any credit! Of course they should, and through this blog, they certainly will. It’s about giving the narrative of the whole of the behind the scenes process from the creative inception right through to its production.

Still with me? Great! I hope that you find these designers stories as interesting as I do.