Global jewellery designer Kirsten Goss combines her Scandinavian roots, London fashion influence and raw African energy.
There is no such thing as a distinctive South African jewellery style according to jewellery designer Kirsten Goss. While we’re good at being bold, there’s no specific style we can really point to. So how do you develop a unique sense of style that makes waves around the world? The SA Fashion Handbook spoke to Goss about her endless fascination with all that glitters.
I love the craft aspect of jewellery, creating an everlasting snapshot of design in a moment. It’s all in the detail and this “punctuation point” of an accessory, that completes a fashion outfit, fascinates me. It’s an unassuming bit of apparel, that actually takes up such little space, that can say so much. It fascinates me how a piece of jewellery can change the face of a look just by adding that small element of intrigue – which is what jewellery is all about. It’s certainly managed to keep my interest, through running my company for 10 years and with 5 years of jewellery design at Stellenbosch University before that.
I actually started out studying economics and then became interested in the fine arts department, spending a lot of time there, fascinated by what I saw. Jewellery design is such an ancient craft, but when intertwined with trend and fashion it became an irresistible attraction.
What’s inspiring you at the moment?
Hard-edged, punk jewellery with exceptional luxe finish.
What makes jewellery such an important accessory ?
Again, it’s the twist on an outfit. A punctuation mark that can make more of a statement in its smallness, than a garment in its largeness. You can put any clothing on and it will only say so much. Put the jewellery on and it says everything. Jewellery is not restricted to a particular style of clothing either, but rather a certain mindset. Transient brands, the cheap, cheerful and fun mass-produced items for seasonal trends, are great for fulfilling an affordable need among consumers. Considered brands, on the other hand, would be more along the lines of bespoke collaborations between designers. For example, we’ve collaborated with Hoss Intropia, a chic, cultish label in London originally from Spain who are massive in the UK. Everything about their brand resonates with us, the quality of the materials, the quirks, the cheeky edge, the classic-with-a-twist and luxury elements. Ultimately it’s about a mindset, and I seek people and brands that reflect an independence and reverence in their work, something that makes you want to consider. I won’t link up with mass market, copy brands but rather the smaller “art” brands. Joining up with like-minded thinkers is key.
Do the current fashion trends influence your designs much?
Yes absolutely, but I’m not a slave to fashion. The designs still come from within. I certainly want to develop my brand into a wider range for the future, but believe this will be done best by sticking to what I know best. I’ve already collaborated with Chloe Townsend of Missibaba, who produces small quantities of customised handbags and I’ve already started producing some cutlery.
Shoes have always fascinated me, so I’m keeping that option open too. I’m a details person, so any part of fashion which is not overtly “out there” holds an interest for me. For me personally, all my jewellery is imbued with three things: the fashion qualities I picked up while living in the UK, my Scandinavian ancestral roots and the raw African energy of living here.
Where is the next big trend coming from?
We launched the geografik and tough-luxe last year and the trend is only now hitting our south African shelves. We are focusing on a big ‘tribal-chic’ trend right now for London. As well as ‘animalia’ which will go out in early 2013. ‘Future plus’ is also going be a big feature off the back of ‘tough-luxe’ this year – kind of spacey take on the ‘geo-grafik’ theme. Think high, polished, curved, simple surfaces and lines.
People are desperately looking for individuality at the moment and consumers ideas on how precious stones used to be set in the past, and how materials where traditionally used, has changed to accommodate more experimentation. I think that’s why our jewellery has had such a strong effect on the market. We’re not conventional, but also not too terrifying. People have learnt that a simple dress, that’s not too expensive, paired with a good, expensive accessory that will last years, can be a killer look. Especially in times of austerity, putting your investment into jewellery makes more sense than seasonal apparel that will only see one season. The durability of jewellery is having a big impact on the fashion scene.
You won the “Most beautiful object in South Africa” award a few years ago at the Design Indaba?
Yes, this was truly humbling and unexpected. We won this award for the Lilypad ring, a 18kt gold vermeil, set with a facetted green amethyst (previous page). I had been working around designs based on the Jacaranda seed pod for a while and made a few versions of a ring based on this. The design then developed into something that demanded a stone and the Lilypad was created. There is something appealing about the luxury of the green amethyst set off against the organic shape of the leaf.
It was quite a thing to be lumped together with all those amazingly talented designers. Anyway, we accepted it with relish as it’s fantastic when craft like ours gets a nod from industry and the public. It’s all part of validating the brand.
How do you market your brand?
It’s a lot of work! We never advertise, it’s all word of mouth. We stick to a very simple principle, in that we don’t cut corners with our customers and try and collaborate with clothing designers who love our work and help us show it. We’ll take marketing opportunities which we think are right for us and try not to collaborate too much. We have focussed on opening gallery-style boutiques where people can discover the essence of the brand, rather than being available everywhere. I don’t do wholesale for the main reason that I don’t want to dilute the brand and make it confusing for the customer. I’d like the customer to rather visit us, to understand the brand as a whole. Rather than my jewellery being thrown in as part of a retail display, along with some jeans, a top and a handbag, I’d like my brand to be viewed en masse in one of our stores where the “considered” aspect of what we’re doing is more evident. The press also love the newsworthiness of a unique store.
I’ve held exhibitions in London, New York and Hong Kong and we’ve slowly built up our databases which we use for marketing purposes. We also have a very astute in-house team in London who specialise in social media and keep on top of email trends and other digital marketing strategies.