Launched in 2007 – her eponymous brand Melanie Georgacopoulos mixes precious and metals with pearls demonizing the old-school styling of pearl rows around the neck. Nominated by the Hublot Design Prize committee, she was amongst the 8 finalists running for the prize she did not expect the prize anyways… Interview
WHY PEARLS ?
The pearl is a fascinating material. It’s one of the few organic gemstones that exist completely made out of an oyster. It’s one of the very few gemstones that you can use as it comes out of the oyster without any enhancement : no polishing, no faceting, no sanding like you would do with other gemstones such as diamonds. I also find that people connect to pearls easily…they often have an opinion about it. Pearls are a type of material familiar to different levels of society: it can be people with high or low income wearing pearls from very simple studs to large necklaces. People have an opinion about pearls, which is why it’s intriguing. They often think it’s outdated or a bit boring. … especially when I first started my brand in 2007. I thought about it as an interesting challenge : why not create a niche brand that takes risks and experiments that appeal to women who want to try something different and also who entices younger girls who won’t necessarily wear pearls but are looking for a design of today and not 50 years ago where you had to wear a twin set with the little studs.
HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO BREAK THE OLD-FASHIONNED IMAGE OF THE PEARL?
I think I am still exploring this. It’s an on-going exploration that I must go through as I evolve as a designer. Take more risks and trying to reach a wider variety of people with simpler designs. I find that some people are attracted to what I have done with pearls in the way I have cut them, set them, and facet them. My approach is really about working with pearls from the inside onwards to the outside rather than the other way around for simpler designs more wearable. The point is, I am not going to go out there and buy pearl jewelry – I am going to go buy a piece of jewelry that I really like wearing that happens to have pearls on it. That’s the motivation. A lot of people see me as a pearl jewelry brand but I just see myself as a brand which explores the potential of pearls in jewelry in addition to other products that have pearls i.e. mother of pearl.
HOW DO YOU EDUCATE PEOPLE ABOUT PEARLS ?
There is only so much you can do ! You can’t educate everyone and there is no point. Some people buy because they are intrigued by an object ; others buy as an investment or simply because they consider a heirloom to pass on to future generations. Personally I feel that what I do is very true to my designs and it’s very honest. Also- I feel that people relate to that honesty so I am not trying to force people to wear pearls – I am not trying to forcedly educate people about the pearls : how it is made, where is it from… I think the curious people will ask me questions – and there are a lot of information on my website about the projects I am doing and why I am doing them. Hopefully I am attracting people who appreciate not necessarily the pearl itself but the design of the piece… People who connect to something that I have designed and simply want to wear it.
WHAT’S YOUR PRICE POINT ?
We start with a lot of different bases. We are in line with what is perceived as a bracelet… adding the pearl or having a diamond is not that different. People always expect jewelry set with pearls or diamonds to be expensive, so we try to be positioned with whatever else is in other stores. At the end of the day you can have the most amazing design, pearls or diamonds but what only counts on the moment the person decides to buy is the perceived value of what they have in front of them.
HOW DO YOU COMBINE YOUR PERSONAL WORK (EPONYMOUS BRAND) TO YOUR INVOLVMENT WITH TASAKI (JAPANESE PEARL JEWELRY BRAND ESTABLISHED SINCE 1962)?
Initially, Tasaki bought a lot of ideas that I had created for my own brand. The reason why I decided to do that is because their craftsmanship is exquisite. They can make things that I could never have made. Although last year, I decided to draw a line between the two brand when I stopped wholesaling. I wanted to focus on the expansion of Tasaki with a more commercial line that has the potential to reach the US market the way they reached the European market as they did in opening a small shop at the Ritz in Paris and being at the Bon Marché. For myself, I will carry on with what I do best which is creative projects, one-of collaborations and exhibitions where I fully explore the potential of pearls within jewelry and not only as a means to push the boundaries to what is contemporary designs.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST DIFFICULTY IN MANAGING THE TWO?
I am not focused on spreading my name out! I am only interested in good jewelry designs. I find that the collaborations with Tasaki is perfect: they manufacture, I design. They spread the word and it works very well.
WOULD YOU CONSIDER OTHER COLLABORATIONS WITH JEWELRY BRANDS?
Absolutely! There is a certain exclusivity regarding pearls when considering other collaborations – but there are no exclusivity contract tiding me to Tasaki. Once you focus in building a brand, you should put all of your efforts in it!
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM PIECE OF JEWELRY?
Olalala ! J I tend to only wear my jewelry… I don’t know … It may sound cliché, but I think it’s the piece I have not made yet!
WHO WILL YOU BE IN 10 YEARS?
Who knows ! Last year I did not know I was going to be moving to a new city. I am now in Hamburg, but my business is still based in London- so I travel a lot. I guess, in ten years I still want to be relevant. I have a deep love for jewelry which I think is going to carry on… What drives me is curiosity. I do not want to repeat myself, I want to try new things and challenge myself. I am hoping that I will carry on just wanting to explore the universe of jewelry and not rest on my laurels and admire what I have already accomplished.
HOW DID YOU FALL INTO JEWELRY IN THE FIRST PLACE?
I started when I was 15 making just stuff. I then studied sculpture and my love from jewelry comes from the fact that it relates to the body and that people have a big connection to jewelry as they pass it on one generation to another. There is always a story about it. And my love for jewelry keeps growing … I love discovering new techniques…
HOW DO YOU FEEL BEING PART OF THE DESIGN HUBLOT PRIZE?
It speaks to the Hublot’s philosophy and openness in their design process. It must have been very hard for the judging panel to decide who should win. We are all very different from one another. I was very happy to represent jewelry in this competition because I think in design jewelry is overlooked because of their monetary balance of items whereas in design it is in some ways more functional that in our lives where jewelry is considered to be luxury. Product design is more utilitarian. I hope I was here for the merit of good design !
HOW DO YOU DEFINE DESIGN?
Design is innovation, longevity, and has to represent its time. For example, when you look at an ArtDéco piece, you know it’s an Artdéco piece. It speaks for itself because this is what was happening at the time. I think it’s also connected with cultures … For example, now we are talking about sustainability and use of preciousness and what is happening in our oceans. It’s directly linked with pearls: if there is a problem with the water there will incidentally be problems with pearls. For me good design is not only about what it looks like on the outside. A good design helps advance technology and in some ways raises awareness about the environment.
Looking into the sustainability of pearls to preserve their natural environment. The more preserved the environment is, the better the pearls will be. The more we spread the word, the more we educate people about demanding a better pearl quality the more we can preserve the environment that creates them. It works hand in hand!
FAVORITE TYPE OF PEARL?
Last year I fell in love with golden pearls such beautiful radiant. Yellow is not the easiest to wear but I found that a good challenge to highlight this color. I have cycles though…
BIGGEST DIFFICULTY IN WORKING WITH PEARLS?
If you scratch it, you can’t polish it! If you accidently drill it in the wrong place, you cant take that back! It’s a precious material where you have to be careful and treat it with respect.