Game-changing fashion jewellery brands are setting a new paradigm for sustainable practice.
As consumer attitudes towards socio-economic and environmental issues continue to evolve, and transparency and consciousness become new business parameters, we are seeing entire sectors implement positive strategies.
As a player of size, the global jewellery industry – which is set to reach an estimated value of 291.7 billion U.S. dollars by 2025 – has the means to drive positive change and sculpt future standards towards inclusivity, diversity and environmental activism. As veteran civil rights activist and Diamonds Do Good co-founder, Dr. Benjamin Chavis Jr, stressed in an interview with JCK: “I believe the jewellery industry can play a leadership role in helping move towards more inclusive, fairer, more equitable solutions to the challenges that the world faces.”
Three independent fashion jewellery brands are showing how this can be done, setting a template for change that upcoming generations of brands can continue to adopt and implement. Embracing new dictums – Repair, Rediscover and Repurpose – WALD Berlin, Chopova Lowena and Tétier Bijoux bridge yesterday and tomorrow, showing what mindfulness and an appreciation for the ‘already existing’ could look like and can be translated into – progressive, valuable objects and decorative messengers.
WALD Berlin - Repair
As the co-founders of Berlin-based jewellery label WALD Berlin, Dana Roski and Joyce Binneboese were early adopters of the conscious progress model which has been slow to gain traction in the bijouterie sector. “Since the beginning we had very strict production rules: Everything is manufactured in Germany; We only utilise recycled gold, silver and if possible entirely recyclable materials; Ideally, our pieces are fabricated by our fair trade mothers collective,” says Roski.
Outsourcing production to larger volume manufacturers, some of which are responsible for precious metal treatments, enabled Roski and Binneboese to grow WALD organically whilst sustaining their values. “The factories have been working with circular alloy and recycling methods for almost 300 years,” observes Roski.
As a fair trade brand, WALD relies on a collective of women including mothers and grandmothers, to assemble their manual finishings - a step which allows WALD pieces to be disassembled and repaired at a later time. The concept of disassembly forms the base of WALD’s game-changing free-of-charge repair facility, through which the founders intend to buck the pervasive throwaway mentality. If a jewel breaks or suffers smaller imperfections, the team can take it apart and work on refinements such as new platings or replacing strass stones. Roski describes this service as “part of WALD’s DNA and idea of a mindful purchase”. However, as a 100% self-funded company, these commitments press on the brand’s financial pillar and raise the prices of its products.
The competition does not sleep however, and the dreamy, playful visual language of the brand is being copied at cheaper price points. Customers whose attitudes have been distorted by the throwaway culture that underpins fashion jewellery purchasing, seem not to understand that transparent, progressive production comes at a certain price. Roski continues, “this issue makes it so much harder for us, mentally and business-wise. Nonetheless we notice that our customers are getting more conscious and pay our prices because they know that we care."
Chopova Lowena - Rediscover
In a world of digital cultural accessibility, losing sight of one’s personal heritage is easy. To highlight the importance of culture and craft, London based design-duo Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena of Chopova Lowena, vowed to hold on to their Bulgarian roots by translating their motherland’s already existing craft into bold, punky jewellery and clothing. Rediscovery and upcycling became their core principles in a practice that juxtaposes heritage and modernity.
Chopova Lowena’s one-off creations hold a sense of escapism. Bulgarian kitsch and English pragmatism – portrayed through the use of upcycled vintage charms or pendants and bold, punky chains – take the spectator on a journey through time and place. Upcycling – the collection’s red thread – gives each detail its raison d'être. Each creation tells an individual story. You don’t have to be from Bulgaria or England to grasp a sense of the founders’ homes.
Manual production – as well as time-intense sourcing processes – elevate prices, locating the family-run business in the mid-priced fashion jewellery segment. Chopova’s mother hires local beaters, leather makers and jewellers, whilst the founders and team members are responsible for sourcing and purchasing the vintage pendants and manual finishings that inform the brand’s aesthetic. Seeing what these finds were, and what they have become in the designers’ hands, is what excites their customers.
“I hope that if people really understand what they’re buying, they’ll have a deeper emotional connection with it. Luxury comes with a price tag, and that price tag should mean something […],”Chopova told Vogue last year. “I think when people can see the process and see the skill, and then a really beautiful thing emerging from it, you can understand its real, tangible value.”
Tétier Bijoux - Repurpose
Since founding her eponymous brand in 2016, Florence Tétier has made it her mission to transmute everyday waste products into thoughtful, beautiful jewellery.
Sourcing abandoned waste Tétier transforms items such as small toys and grocery store items by melting them, or processing them in other ways, in order to repurpose them for her statuesque bijouterie artworks. Tétier’s use of plastic may seem couterintuitive, but for the designer plastic has a multitude of benefits over traditional precious jewellery materials, including the range of colour and pattern combinations, and the ease of production, moulds and shapes.
Then there is the sense of pride that comes from wearing a handmade, repurposed creation. Tétier’s circular conviction not only reclaims waste – it fights a global crisis by transforming single-use objects into everlasting collectibles whose existence counts as a contribution to the environment.
The fashion and jewellery worlds have taken note. Tétier’s weirdly chic creations are being featured in renowned fashion and culture publications. Her collaborative AW20 collection with British designer Charlotte Knowles catapulted her into the ranks of the jewellery elite. Yet she still reaches higher. Nothing if not driven, Tétier – who is also the art director / founder of Novembre Magazine and the creative director at Jean Paul Gaultier – is seeking to partner with an environmental organisation that can support her to collect and recycle the plastic found in nature.
Today, the circular techniques of recycling and repairing act as slowing principle of the ever-turning fast-production wheel, enabling designers to rethink their strategies and become more eloquent with what already exists. “When you make things yourself, you start to see the object as an assembly of labour and materials,” said Tetier in an interview with iD. “Because you made it, you know how you can repair it, or what needs to be done in order to make it function again. Losing this connection with belongings makes you apathetical, and therefore I like to create things with my own hands. In my work I try to reflect on consumerism. Why do we desire to be constantly gratified, and what is it we really need?”
Words: Lilly Meuser
Images: Wald Berlin - Studio Malé / Chopova Lowena - Lyst; The Editorialist / Tétier Bijoux - Nicolas Coulomb for AnOther Magazine