We love talking to designers about what inspires their amazing collections and the latest in our Creative Hub interview series sees our Editor Tasha chat with ethical silver and fine jewellery designer Arabel Lebrusan.
Acclaimed champion for ethical jewellery, Arabel Lebrusan offers a range of the finest precious, bespoke and silver jewellery, all with positivity at its heart. Utilising the beauty of nature and the delicacy of filigree work, pieces have a simple yet striking look, integrating the sparkliest diamonds with the finest golden strands.
Not only is Arabel a fabulous jewellery designer. She is also an incredible female entrepreneur and always loves to muse about the industry and the importance of sustainability in jewellery. This passion has led to becoming a pioneer for the ethical jewellery movement, where she shares her insights at industry talks such as this one for TED Talks.
Arabel, please give us an insight into your creative/industry background
For over 15 years I’ve been dedicated to jewellery; I started as a fashion jewellery designer, travelling around the far east and learning the ins and outs of the trade – the good, the bad and the ugly. A Masters in Central St Martins followed, with a deep research into ethics, then as the creative director of Leblas Jewellery and for the last 5 years as the designer/conductor of my very own brand – Arabel Lebrusan. I’ve been very privileged to have people speak very generously about my work and I’ve done my best to always deliver the most beautiful pieces, not just on the surface but also in the integrity of the process.
What was the main influence for starting your jewellery line?
I still recall fondly my trips to Hong Kong in my late 20s and the incredible stones that were literally, everywhere. Carved, engraved, miniature sculptures, stones cut to enhance their natural flaws – it was pure pleasure. However, it was during those trips that I became aware of the dark side of the jewellery trade and everything that was wrong with the precious metal and gemstone industry: the cheap prices, the child labour, the abuse of natural materials and the appalling mining conditions.
What has been the most challenging aspect when bringing your company into the industry?
For jewellery brands who want to make sustainable and ethical objects, the reality is that ethics majorly restrict options and the materials that can be used. Whilst it is now possible (it wasn’t like this 10 years ago), the palette is much more limited. The limitations in ethical components and sustainably sourced gemstones make an ethical piece of jewellery more costly – not just because the materials are more expensive, but also because of how and where it is produced.
Even if making ethical jewellery doesn’t make sense in terms of margins, growth and expansion for a small brand like me, it makes total sense in my mind. I just couldn’t do anything else but this.
Are there any challenges the sustainable industry faces which new brands should be aware of?
It’s an old-fashioned industry. A lot of the people involved are old generation and want things to stay the way they were 30 years ago. So, there is definitely a way to go to move into the future.
The old boys/large diamond companies controlling the market are very adamant not to disclose provenance of materials. The jewellery industry should open-up and learn from other industries that are adapting to a customer looking for sustainable but luxury products.
Do you think the fashion industry campaigning enough for sustainable boutique labels and recognising emerging talent?
I would say that many businesses are recognising that there needs to be an immense change of direction. Particularly with clothing, there seems to be a surge in interest in vintage and ethical brands here. However, the jewellery industry has a long way to go. A lot of the challenge is relaying the message to the consumer, as many buyers do not understand the impact unethical mining and trading have on the environment and human rights. Many people just don’t realise – it’s up to us to make sure people know what they are enabling when they open their wallets. We must be as transparent as possible.
What are the key trends that’ll we’ll see in the next few years?
I think we will continue to see more statement earrings, particularly gold and pearl. I do not see the oversized hoop going anywhere soon, either. Layering rings and necklaces too. I think people are prepared to be more experimental with their jewellery, but I hope this means they will look to smaller emerging brands for this inspiration. And of course, they must be ethical!
What advice can you give to aspiring designers and creatives looking to enter the creative sector?
You need to be unique in a market overflown with creativity. What is your uniqueness? Your gorgeousness? Why are people going to look for you and not the other 100 designers out there? At the same time listen to what people really need and merge the two together.
Be unique but humble enough to serve your clients.
What is your hope for the future of your brand?
To change the world, one piece of jewellery at a time…
Don’t forget to check out the range of beautiful pieces available at arabellebrusan.com.