Jewellery designer Sophie Birgitt is the kind of woman who takes matters, quite literally, into her own hands.
“I always knew I wanted to go into jewellery,” she says. “Having been obsessed by jewellery since a child – I was fascinated with pieces from my grandmother’s collection – I wanted to make what I couldn’t find, so I did.”
By way of Belgium, Paris, Rome and Ho Chi Minh City, Birgitt has called Hong Kong home for the last five years. Here, unable to find the unique, one-of-a-kind pieces she loved to collect from independent designers and quirky boutiques in Paris, she signed herself up for private jewellery making classes with Natalie Melville at Hong Kong’s Hatton Studios.
“It was important for me to have formal training to understand the traditional craftsmanship,” says Birgitt, who now proudly bears the title of goldsmith. “To understand what is viable in jewellery design, you need to understand metal.”
Unafraid to get her hands dirty, Birgitt is heavily involved in every step of the jewellery making process. From sketching her designs to creating custom molds for her unique angular pieces, selecting materials and constructing the prototypes herself – “what can I say, I’m a perfectionist,” she tells me with a laugh.
“I make every prototype with my own hands. It is essential to how you translate a concept and visual language into a piece. The challenges come predominantly from transforming a concept into something that is ergonomic and then transmitting this into a collection with a vision, a message.”
Birgitt even models her own collection, and while there’s no doubting her looks, there really is no one more suited to represent the brand. The jewellery itself is an extension of Birgitt’s personality – delicate but sharp, bold but elegant, subdued but stunning.
“There are no flowing round forms in my ‘Angles’ collection and I think this describes partly who I am,” Birgitt explains. “I love for things to be stripped back to their pure essentials. I like straight lines in life and as a person. I am very direct, yet I hold great importance to elegance. I try to capture this balance in my designs.”
Challenging conventional ideas of what jewellery should – and could – be, Birgitt’s first collection, ‘Angles’, which debuted in April 2015, established Birgitt’s signature avant-garde style.
“I like the idea of playing with how you wear jewels, transforming traditional ideas into new concepts and give woman the chance to explore advanced designs that grab attention in a striking yet timeless and subtle way. The geometry gives a touch of power and danger to every piece. Having them delicately covered with pavé diamonds highlights a discrete, feminine sparkle. I don’t like jewellery that is over the top where the woman disappears behind the design. To rock minimal design you need confidence. My jewellery is meant to accentuate the bold character of the woman who wears it, not to cover her.”
‘Angles’ boasts a collection of rings and earrings that play with square, cubic and triangular shapes, which Birgitt says is largely inspired by Hong Kong’s architecture and skyline.
“Hong Kong has an impressive concrete cityscape. When I started designing the Angles collection I started to see patterns everywhere. It was a thirst, an addiction,” she says. “I am utterly obsessed with the equilibrium of geometry and the angular shapes. I am infatuated with the architectural marvels in this city and the not-always-so-obvious beauty that gives this city its ‘Angles’.”
Sustainability also plays an important role for Sophie Birgitt. The white gold, rose gold, gun metal black gold and yellow gold that make up the collection are Fairtrade which, according to the brand’s website, ‘allows ethics to meet aesthetics, ensuring the emotional value of each piece of jewellery is supported by a transparent and ethical supply chain’.
Sophie Birgitt is registered with the Fairtrade Goldsmith’s Scheme, which ensures that economically disadvantaged and exploited miners are treated with fairness and integrity, while abolishing child labour and ensuring safe working conditions as well as the responsible use of chemicals during the extraction process.
The pieces are then either fully or semi covered with delicate pavé diamonds, which are used selectively to highlight each shape and angle, giving the jewellery a completely different effect.
Birgitt is currently working on her second collection, expanding her line to include chokers and bracelets while keeping to her minimalist, angular aesthetic.
“Geometry is a very generous concept and part of my brand DNA so my second collection will be along those lines,” says Birgitt. “I don’t follow fashion's seasonal calendar so I will uncover my new designs when I feel they are ready to be exposed.”
A confident, talented woman that dares to be different, Birgitt adds that she designed her jewellery for women to buy as a treat for themselves, rather than a gift from their partners.
“My kind of woman is a strong, independent, free spirit but incredibly sensual and feminine. She is not afraid to be herself and is extremely authentic. The jewels are quite delicate yet confident in their design and that’s how I like to define the woman who wears Sophie Birgitt,”