IN THE SPOTLIGHT – SOPHIE BIRGITT JEWELS

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May 28th 2015, by Cara G Mcilroy in Fashion

GET TO KNOW-Sophie BirgittUntitled-p4sophie p3

1. What brought you to Hong Kong? Was it work or pleasure? I studied Political Sciences in Paris and ended up working in finance but I didn’t enjoy the abstract world of numbers. My innate nomadic sense of adventure combined with a pioneering entrepreneurs drive and an opportunity to work with one of my dearest friends brought me to Hong Kong. Since I was a little girl I have always been attracted to the oriental side of the globe.

2. How did you first get started making jewellery and how did your brand, Sophie Birgitt begin? It was a childhood dream to make jewellery. I began by taking private classes with Nathalie Melville Geary, my mentor. It didn’t take long before it became my biggest passion. I spent long hours behind the bench learning the traditional craft. There’s nothing glamorous about sawing, filing and assembling metal pieces but the gratification of seeing a piece of jewellery coming alive is indescribable. I realised very quickly that I am at my best when I am hugged by this enveloping, creative cushion. I needed to channel the creativity I had tapped in to so I organised my ideas and began designing day and night. From there it went very fast. It felt natural to me; when you are on the right track you meet the right people and things start to happen. A few months later, Sophie Birgitt was born. Quickly after that the founders of the fabulous award-winning e-tailer called Plukka, approached me. They had seen my jewellery at a fashion event and wanted to represent me here in Hong Kong. Plukka’s shop is in the Landmark and you can find my debut collection ‘Angles’ there.

3. What sparked your interest in jewellery – what have been your key influences? When I moved from Paris to Hong Kong, I found it difficult to find independent jewellery brands with a daring visual language. I can honestly say that I am designing jewellery that I couldn’t find in Hong Kong. I believe two main of my main characteristics helped me succeed. Firstly I’m a severe beauty addict, but not in the superficial sense of the word. I can’t function without it. I am very visual and I need to be surrounded by sophistication and refinement as it affects my mood. I find a certain logic in aesthetics, it is almost mathematical.  It allows me to relax, whether it’s interior design, fashion or nature. Secondly, I am a self-confessed annoying detail freak. It really is a must in this sector. Put those two together…

4. What materials and techniques do you favour? I am using 18K gold, diamonds and sapphires. All the pieces are micro pavé set. Everything is handmade by my team of highly skilled artisans. I like to play with new methods and ideas within the realm of traditional jewellery making. The signature for my debute collection is geometry, which gives a touch of power and independence to every piece. There are no round or organic forms in this collection and I have yet to come across a brand that has dared to do so. All my pieces are very abstract and sculptural, yet elegantly put together.

5. What’s your creative process and what inspires you? I am obsessed with straight lines, patterns and geometry. Anything that is stripped back to pure essentials, anything unnecessary needs to go. That’s why the different skylines of my adopted city of Hong Kong have been a great physical mood board.  I am infatuated by the shapes and patterns of the many architectural marvels here. My designer’s eye is constantly engaged by the not-so-obvious beauty of Hong Kong’s incredible cityscape. That being said simple minimalist design is the most complicated as every detail emerges that much more.

6. Do you have a favourite jewellery designer that you admire? The famously reclusive Paris-based, New York-born jewellery designer JAR, Joel Arthur Rosenthal. I have yet to be invited to his appointment-only shop on Place Vendôme.

7. When designing a new collection how do you approach it, and where do your ideas evolve from? It comes very naturally. I draw out most of my designs, but sometimes I go straight to prototyping my ideas into sterling silver by hand. The challenges come predominantly from transforming an experiment into something that is ergonomic and then transmitting this into a collection with a vision, a message. For my Angles collection this would be bold timelessness. I am creating for the contemporary independent woman. She is cultivated, sensual and a free spirit. Jewellery really is a visual language that isn’t ephemeral – partly because of the raw materials used –  and that’s what I like about it.

8. What is your biggest jewellery pet peeve? Fake diamonds.

9. Is there a piece of jewellery that you own that holds a lot of meaning to you? A diamond family piece.

10. What is the most valuable lesson you have learned as a jewellery designer? Be patient and work every day towards your goal.

11. What are your must-have accessories for the summer and why? Coola organic sunscreen (I am a beach aficionado) and my double reflection diamond ring with black and white diamonds. There’s nothing better than some nonchalant sparkle on the beach!

12. One of the philosophies of Sophie Birgitt is ethical jewellery, being fair trade and environmentally conscious. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your role and in Hong Kong in this regard? This is probably one of the most exciting elements of the industry – being able to make a change. People love hearing about the principles of a transparent and ethical supply chain but I feel it is still very early on and the consumer needs to be educated about the existing options. The customer has to know that they are in charge and dare to ask questions. My clients have the choice to order their piece in recycled gold or Eco-Fairtrade gold, on which there is a premium to pay offering a lifeline to economically disadvantaged miners and ensuring a Fairtrade minimum price, safe working conditions, abolishing child labour, and the responsible use of chemicals during the extraction process. Eventually I’d like to move to a model where Sophie Birgitt offers pieces uniquely in Eco-Fairtrade gold, but for this to happen the brand needs to grow. Real luxury is a product that you can trace all the way back to its provenance; where do the raw materials come from, who worked on it and in what conditions?

13. What advice would you give for young aspiring designers who want get into the same industry? Search for your individual creative voice and stock up on hand cream.

To see more of Sophie’s beautiful handcrafted pieces visit

www.sophiebirgitt.com

 Love,

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