Two things have revolutionised the way we shop in twenty-twenty. First, the internationalism of Instagram. Second, increased consciousness about how, and what, we consume. The two in tandem result in a welcome rejection of the traditional retail dogma.
New-gen jewellery designers are amongst those turning to Instagram to grow a community and to sell one-of-kind, consciously designed pieces to those in search of unusual (“Ooh, where did you get that from?”) jewels. It’s the best of both worlds: a more sustainable model that favours individualism and a see-now-get-now route to shopping success.
Throw in a pandemic, and now, more than ever, it’s important we nurture home-grown creativity by supporting emerging designers and small independently owned businesses. Here, we spotlight six up-and-coming jewellery designers embracing the alt-retail model that comes with social media sales.
Studio Sisy Phus is the creative entity of London-based Dutch designer Myrza de Muynck, known for her idiosyncratic, one-of-a-kind pieces that shift between nostalgic and future-facing. She’s coined them objets de vertu, an apt phrase that translates to “small items of luxury or rarity”. Check out her porcelain pin badges (as seen on the runway at Martine Rose) and crafty, painted ceramic drop earrings for proof. Slide in her DMs for custom designs.
Australian artist Rebekah Bide crafts unusual but wearable objects using processes adopted from both historical and contemporary sculptors: from chunky 22ct gold (on baked polymer clay) earrings, to a poured aluminium breastplate, and a mesmerising gold pill box. The inspiration for her rarities includes Christian Lacroix costume jewellery, the giant baubles of imitation crystal that her grandmother wears, and David Cronenberg’s 1988 psychological thriller Dead Ringers: “In the film there’s a set of gynaecological instruments that showed me how objects intended for one use could be corrupted in exquisite ways,” Bide says. Oo-er.
Jewellery designer and co-founder of GUT Magazine Georgia Kemball crafts intricate gold and silver jewellery inspired by folklore and fantasy. Think: goblin head earrings, a cupid pendant suspended from a chain, gargoyle rings and a devil and cherub pendant duo set with ruby hearts. Each piece is hand carved from wax, to achieve the imperfect, yet polished, finish, before being dipped in precious metal at London’s famed Hatton Garden. Her ethereal designs have caught the eye of design duo Chopova Lowena and London-based designer Dilara Findikoglu, with whom she’s collaborated on pieces for their shows. Check out her online store that’s just been updated with a new collection created during the lockdown.
Ellie Mercer has been blowing up our Instagram feed since her resin rings went viral two years ago. Worn by the likes of Lucien Clarke and Nick Grimshaw (among many others), Mercer’s gold, silver and resin rings (the latter is her signature material) are entirely handmade and draw inspiration from architecture, as opposed to fashion. As for her next move, Mercer is ready to push resin to its limits, whether that’s in jewellery or homeware.“I’d quite like to do some ashtrays, or even buttons, collaborate with someone on little accessories for clothing,” she says. Stay tuned.
Stylist and designer Isabel Bonner has fast become the go-to name for eye-catching, sculptural jewellery. Since starting her eponymous, modernist-inspired label in 2018, she’s dropped two product edits: Isabel Bonner Collection I (chunky, large-scale pieces) and Isabel Bonner Collection II (solely earrings, inspired by Brutalist architecture and modernist furniture). The Central Saint Martins graduate is just as likely to cite sculptors – the likes of Barbara Hepworth, Isamu Noguchi, Donald Judd – as sources of inspiration, as she is the work of fashion designers like Martin Margiela, Yohji Yamamoto, Helmut Lang and Rei Kawakubo. Head to Bonner’s Instagram to view her new lookbook shot at Shoreditch furniture studio Béton Brut, and to pre-order pieces from the collection.
EMILY FRANCES BARRETT
Frances Barrett is an artist in residence at Lee McQueen’s Sarabande Foundation in east London. As a self-taught jeweller, she crafts interesting pieces from mundane materials. Your trash is her treasure. Think: bottle tops, flower buds, shells, feathers, river washed glass and even an old fag butt, or two. (Case in point, a pair of earrings modelled from half-smoked Marlboro reds.) Her magpie approach has seen her work with notoriously wicked art duo Jake and Dinos Chapman and make runway pieces for emerging designers Jordan Luca and Katie Roberts Wood.