I met Sabrina in 2017 when we curated our first Adorn jewellery exhibition, Ceramica during LFW. At the time Sabrina was experimenting with the possibilities of 3D manufacture in jewellery, specifically focused on different material capabilities within this space. It is not surprising, given her digital capabilities, that Sabrina recently launched some of her physical pieces in digital formats on Dress X. It was time to have a catchup.
Juliet Hutton-Squire (J H-S): What are you working on now?
Sabrina Facchetti (S F): I am in the process of defining my new jewellery collection and working as a freelancer designer, developing both physical and digital products for forward-thinking brands and companies.
J H-S: How has your work evolved over the last five years?
S F: During the past couple of years, especially since Covid, my work has evolved at an incredible speed. I have a background in industrial design, so I am used to creating digital versions and renderings of the products I am working on.
Simulations and predictive design have enabled me to optimise everything in advance before going into production. These processes are now being embraced by complementary industries such as fashion and accessories.
And it is not just about product - it is also about context. Inspired by the gaming world, I am creating digital photo shoots in previously inconceivable places, or with materials that were previously deemed ‘impossible’ in jewellery: it's incredibly exciting. There are also some amazing cases of digital photo shoots ( Chopard) where the environment, model, garment, and jewellery are all digital iterations - this is an incredible way to create advertisements for a new collection.
J H-S: How do you think we can commercialise digital jewellery? Is it too early?
S F: I started commercialising digital jewellery earlier this year and I have to say things are going well. We are still in the ‘pioneer phase’ of the curve. The time is right: for sure, some concepts are going to work better than others right now, but it really is more a case of how we market these digital propositions – the product creation is already established.
Sabrina's physical and virtual earrings on Megan Kaspar
Take for example my 'Water Surface' earrings worn by Megan Kaspar during a Yahoo Finance webinar. In the real world, they are made in hand- polished brass and they sell for 360€; their digital version is more affordable and sells at 25€. Digital propositions are not a replacement but an additional income stream opportunity.
Lydia Courteille; Bibi Van der Velden
I believe that the ‘Try on’ app is also a very interesting starting point to increase engagement and awareness around digitial product. It is a solution that engages/serves the customer and facilitates sales. Jewellery designers like Bibi Van der Velden and Lydia Courteille have ventured into the world of AR filters to enable followers to virtually wear their jewels.
J H-S: What are the opportunities around replicating a physical piece in a digital format? Does this diminish or enhance the value in your mind?
S F: I think comparing the two worlds is really complicated and probably unfair; the digital world doesn't want to take anything away from the real world and vice versa. The real world of course needs to respond to natural laws and the jewellery needs to be tangible. In the digital world, jewellery is defining its own identity. The metaverse is full of new opportunities and new stimuli – the creative potential is infinite.
One of the many benefits of the upcoming metaverse is the boost of creativity. In the digital world, we can be more sustainable and the possibility to optimise or test or check how a product could be perceived by customers minimises waste and supports supply chain efficiencies. Digital formats play a key role in sustainability. I don’t source precious stones, for example, as I try to keep my environmental footprint as low as possible using modern technologies like 3D printing. However, I could start creating diamond pavé pieces in the digital space, remaining true to my brand DNA around sustainability. In this case, digital jewellery becomes an enabler and facilitator of new opportunities.
To my mind, the two worlds are not in competition with each other; in fact, I see the metaverse as an extension of the real world.
J H-S: How do we navigate the NFT world with digital jewellery?
S F: It's normal to question how we value something that doesn't exist in the real world and especially with jewellery, where value is determined by craftsmanship, design and the preciousness of materials and stones. However, I believe if there is opportunity to sell a product in the real world, there must be a way to sell it in the metaverse. We would only have to redefine how we measure value.
NFT certification records ownership of a specific virtual asset. NFTs are unalterable and blockchain records ownership. These are attributes that in themselves drive value around product.
J H-S: What would your advice be to a mainstream brand interested in this space?
S F: I strongly recommend that brands should figure out authentic ways to enter this world of digital jewellery. There is room for everyone, and each brand can define (like in the real world) their own style and how to benefit from the metaverse. Even if the jewels are not sold in their digital format, start with customer try-on solutions. There is no limit to what can be done, and we are still defining new parameters and exploring new ideas – they key is to keep an open mind and start the journey.
J H-S: Do you think this is very much suited to a Gen Z and Gen Alpha demographic? How do we captivate the imagination of the millennial?
S F: I think that there is a natural uptake with this kind of technology with digital natives – Gen Z and Gen Alpha – but thanks to some leading luxury brands like Balmain, the concept is becoming more familiar to millennials. To captivate the imagination of millennials, and in general older audiences, the introduction of digital assets needs to be authentic and true to brand DNA. This can be perceived as both daunting and exciting.
J H-S: Hybrid design – where jewellery becomes clothing, for example – really flourishes within this sector. How important is it to have jewellery-making knowledge?
S F: Having almost no physical constraints encourages creative expression beyond what is known or familiar. Exploring opportunities that in the physical world feel impossible is what makes the idea of the metaverse an extension of our physical world. Jewellery knowledge is not essential: we are seeing creators cross category, which supports this concept of hybridisation. Some designers do reference ancient craft techniques as a starting point for their digital designs, but unlike in the physical world, this democratises jewellery design by opening it up to creators as opposed to jewellery-specific craftspeople.