Throughout 2020, a year of unprecedented glumness, social media was overrun with colourful, irreverent, daring rings that usurped the previous dominating silver and gold fine jewellery trend.
Take cult celebrity favourite La Manso, whose upcycled plastic knuckle dusters have been worn by the likes of Bella Hadid and Miley Cyrus; or Bea Bongiasca’s tendriled finger ornaments, which were THE FACE cover star Dua Lipa’s go-to accessory last year (plus Miley dug them too). Also blowing up our feeds were Mexican label Blobb, whose founder Sofia Elias uses resin to create amorphous, diamante-encrusted mini sculptures, and Isabella Lalonde’s Beepy Bella, whose mystical, upcycled bead masterpieces have been co-signed by Charli XCX and Halsey. Not forgetting Sandy Liang’s kitsch, chunky heart-shaped rings plus Corey Moranis’ translucent lucite wrap jewellery.
“This push to be more out there with colours and textures is basically about escapism and freedom,” explains Kathryn Bishop, foresight editor at strategic consultancy, The Future Laboratory. “We’ve been living in really heavy times around the world, and the way that we dress and how we accessorise is a direct response to how we’re feeling.”
With Brits currently enduring our third (!) national lockdown, many have been experimenting with fantastical internet-based trends to break away from the monotony of seemingly never-ending stay-at-home orders. There was the whimsical “cottage-core” aesthetic; birthed on TikTok, it focuses on idealising what rural life would be like, no doubt fostered through the nation reconnecting the great outdoors; the nostalgia-inducing ”dark academic” trend, which blends preppy uniforms with gothic finishings and started as a positive, bookish response to school closures; and – most noticeably – a turn toward off-the-wall, Zoom-commanding rings.
“I think a lot of the quirks in these pieces are what make them desirable,” continues Bishop. “They are unique but they’ve got something about them that feels raw, naive and unfinished, which is how people are probably feeling at this moment in time.”
The rough and ready nature of some of these brands comes from the non-traditional backgrounds of these new-gen designers. “Most of these ring-makers aren’t formally trained, which lends them creativity and an ability to think outside the constraints of your traditional jewellery brand,” continues Bishop.
For example, Adriana Manso, the brains behind La Manso, originally studied lighting design in her hometown of Barcelona, while Sofia Elias studied architecture and Isabella Lalonde is a graduate in Fine Art who studied at the prestigious Parsons School of Design in New York.
“I started it in my New York kitchen for fun,” says Lalonde on her label’s inception. “I was still working as a graphic designer at Helmut Lang before lockdown and only had around 3,000 followers in March.” Now the 25-year-old works full time on the brand, which has accumulated more than 28,000 followers, including British model Iris Law and digital avatar influencer Lil Miquela.
Elias also “never saw myself making jewellery”, but after studying architecture for five years she felt an urge to “use my hands and move away from the computer”. The 25-year-old started Blobb at the beginning of the pandemic with the aim of making “purposefully imperfect, mismatched, deformed, lump pieces”. Nine months later and the brand has four stockists, including cult New York online retailer Café Forgot.
“The outsider nature of these brands make them feel very one of a kind,” says Bishop, “and that really excites people to want to snap up products quickly, especially as Gen Z are motivated by things that set them apart, which explains the boom in these labels.”
The rise of these DIY designers has also been facilitated by the internationalism of Instagram and an overall increased consciousness to support emerging talent as a result of the pandemic. These two factors in tandem have welcomed a rejection of the traditional retail dogma, with the explore page replacing the search bar and DMs becoming the new checkout basket.
“With all non-essential shops closed for the majority of last year and for the foreseeable future, and a public pressure to nurture homegrown creativity over big corporations, Instagram has become a go-to in shopping,” continues Bishop. “This is a trend I see continuing throughout 2021 and beyond.”
So too will these bold, brashy finger creations, Bishop adds. “The pandemic has forced us to find joy in small moments and objects, and when restrictions ease up, I definitely see these fun, no-holds barred accessories continuing to reign as we hedonistically re-enter the world.”