'I met the owner of this building seven years ago through a friend. At that time it wasn't restored so when we created this collection I already had the perfect venue in mind,' explains Susanne Kölbli. I'm standing with the Creative Director of the jewellery brand Thomas Sabo in a beautiful and ornate Chinese Pagoda that is randomly located, of all places, in the middle of Paris. Beneath its dark carved wooden beams and 17th and 18th century Chinese wood panelling lies Thomas Sabo's latest collection. Aptly inspired by traditional Asian references, it features plenty of amulets and symbols from Far Eastern mythology including the Chinese Dragon.
As the creative head of the brand since 1992, when it comes to making jewellery with not only a high attention to detail and quality but that all important Insta appeal, Kölbli has it nailed. Here she talks inspiration, semi-precious stones and why she always wanted a job that felt more like a hobby...
When I was sixteen and still at school I started to style window displays in fashion shops at weekends. I've always loved fashion and design. I decided to study graphic design at university. I spent my spare time working at a design agency and made lots of connections with fashion photographers so started doing styling for them too. I don't know why I just didn't study fashion design. I think I wanted it to be my hobby so it wouldn't feel like a job.
A friend of a friend who was selling jewellery at the Christmas markets asked me to help him out with creating a an actual shop. I started doing the buying and that's how I first met Thomas Sabo. He asked me to curate a shop for him too and then I ended up designing jewellery to sell too. We've now known each other for 28 years.
Designing is a constant process. We now have six designers on the team and do around 10 collections a year. We work together in the same space so we’re together the whole day. So we are always discussing ideas, what we like, what we don’t like. It’s a very organic process.
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Each piece of Thomas Sabo jewellery is handmade. It’s produced by craftspeople in Asia and the parts come from Italy and Germany. We use a lot of semi-precious stones and each piece is hand cut. Crystals and energy from stones has become a big trend but we have been doing it for years with our karma and chakra beads.
House of Fraser
Thomas Sabo Little Secretstree Of Love Bracelet
Available at House of Fraser | £49
Fashion is always going in cycles and this is reflected in the jewellery world too. Coloured jewellery is now making a comeback. I've really enjoyed that challenge of bringing more coloured pieces into our collections without it looking kitsch. That's a hard balance when it comes to jewellery.
I always try and find the beauty in whatever culture I'm inspired by. Everyone has always used the materials and stones from their area to make precious things. Everyone in the world wants that to pass it onto the next generation. For me creating jewellery is about translating this aspect of beauty into our world.