Jess Blak for Village News, April 2019
Big thanks to Laura Churchill and Chelsea Sipthorpe for the photos
· Tell me about your background and what led you to start your label?
I have always had an interest in bespoke fashion and craftsmanship, I was a bit of a late bloomer regarding my career interests, I tried a few things that never really made sense to me, so I endeavoured towards the arts. I started my fine art degree in Melbourne, favouring sculpture, but when I migrated back to Brisbane in 2015 (where I am originally from) part of the curriculum was ‘jewellery and small objects.’ I just fell into it and understood how the materials worked and I’ve always loved playing with fire so that was definitely a drawcard! I bypassed the intro to sculpture unit and wrote my own course for my second semester (I had credits from previous study) and made sure I just kept learning techniques and chasing pieces I would want to add to my own collection, it’s just snowballed from there and now I have my own label and store.
· How do you describe what makes you unique as a jeweller/maker?
I think it comes down to my philosophy of making, everything design wise happens very organically, I let the piece evolve as I’m working on it, similar to that of sculptor. Everything I produce from my studio is hand made by myself from start to finish, which is becoming an important distinction in the jewellery market, there is a lot of ‘handmade’ appearing on the scene which is rather ‘assembled’ involving outsourcing the production, usually from overseas markets and mines.
· What are some of your most memorable moments with your business and work to date?
I did a showroom in Paris Fashion week in 2017 after graduation from Uni which was pretty incredible, I stayed in the Marais and met other designers along with some fashion icons I have admired for many years. I do have to say that opening my store in Winn lane has far exceeded that though! I love Brisbane so much and its truly a joy to be a designer with a retail space that’s adding to the landscape of Brisbane city.
· What have you learnt about the industry that’s surprised you since you launched your label?
I would have to say the community connection to other designers which started in Paris, within both jewellery and fashion. Everybody is so friendly and supportive of each other, we send appreciation when we enjoy each other’s work and sympathy when there are struggles. And as fellow designers we are all on the same page and understand the challenges. It’s really heart-warming to feel a part of a community that I have looked at from the outside for a long time and I guess I didn’t expect that part of having a label.
· What are some of the challenges you’re up against as an emerging designer?
Exposure. Exposure. Exposure! There is so much branding being thrown at us all constantly, it’s getting very loud out there! Competing with big brands who have access to a multi-million-dollar marketing budgets is tough. It’s really about getting people to take you seriously, to see the value of an item beyond buying from a big-name brand, I think people get a bit brand crazy and purchase something from a fashion house which isn’t made well at all, but they want to be seen wearing that because it’s a sign of luxury and wealth. I think there is a shift happening, it’s just a matter of educating people to ‘make a decision’ and to engage with that.
· Where do you hope your business takes you and what do you see on the horizon for you this year?
I never know what’s going to happen, I didn’t ever think I would have a store and now here I am with a store! So, I’m focusing on building my brand awareness this year, continuing to explore my process and see what creations manifest themselves. I’m a new brand and I don’t see anything slowing down this year, it has been crazy busy already, so at the end of the day I’m just focusing on delighting one person at a time.