Authenticity figures greatly in Fernando Jorge's artistry. The London-based fine jewellery designer is not only passionate about the gemstones and minerals he uses from his native Brazil, but he instills an organic sensuality in his designs that is unmistakably reflective of his roots. Since launching his own brand five years ago, Jorge's striking, sculptural collections are carried in some of the world's most prestigious stores from Paris to Shanghai, and the Central Saint Martins-educated designer was nominated for a prestigious British Fashion Award as emerging accessory designer last year. In Canada, he's sold exclusively at Archives in Yorkville. It was at that lavish little boutique that I recently caught up with the 35-year-old Jorge, and there we talked about his passion for jewellery, what his grandmother taught him about style, and how accessories can speak about people more than their clothes do.
When did your love affair with jewellery begin?
I think it's an unfolding of my love affair with drawing. My expression was always drawing, from a very early age. I tried regular jobs and I studied engineering. But very quickly, it was an immediate response. I knew I wouldn't be happy doing that even if I could do it well. So I was having a conversation with someone in a frustrated moment – one of those moments that change your life – and it was someone who studied with me and knew me. And they said, "You have to do something creative. You are always drawing. Why don't you check out design?" So I began studying product design, and was immediately relieved and happy with this direction.
Yet it wasn't necessarily to do with the fashion world at first, right?
No, it was more to do with things that were craft based, where I could use technology and innovate in different ways. But then I got an interview with a mysterious company that didn't reveal what they were about. Eventually they said, "We love your drawings and want to try working with you but this is a jewellery company. Would you be interested?" I thought that was actually amazing…it was so exotic. That was 15 years ago – I was 20 at the time. And I started doing technical drawings and working in a small jewellery workshop. And that's when the love affair began. I was drawing and seeing my drawings becoming three-dimensional objects with the most beautiful materials in nature.
But didn't you inherently have this feeling for fashion and style from when you were a little kid?
There was a sense of small details that made a difference in everything I did. But it wasn't in the way I would dress. I was always the one who would give the final word in interior decoration, for example. But my grandmother was the one I learned from – that all the details make the difference. She wouldn't be ready without the lipstick and a pair of earrings.
What did she teach you about style?
Well, the importance of details, and what jewellery does. You can have the outfit, and it can be complete, but if you add a piece of jewellery, it changes the dynamic. I design with this in mind. Whether it's big pieces, or small pieces, it's just about what you want to show. I think the relationship with people and jewellery is a fluid thing. You change your taste, you change your energy. It's not seasonal but it's an organic process.
Organic and authentic.
Yeah. You change your radar and prefer something bigger, or you're into brighter colours and then into muted colours. That's how I saw my grandmother playing with what she would wear; it was about what the mood of the day was. Then she'd pick the accessories according to that. It was the same kind of ambience for the house, and I could have been a furniture designer. But when I started with jewellery, I fell in love with the scale of it and the materials.
And what about your experience at Central Saint Martins?
I started working in jewellery without any traditional training. And it was a few years of doing that in Brazil and I was feeling well experienced, even getting invitations to teach. But then it started to feel like I needed to grow – to approach things from another angle. I questioned why was I making jewellery. Why was I using those materials? So London was perfect. I applied to Central Saint Martins and two months later I moved to London. All the knowledge I got up until that point was like a rough stone. London was the polishing.
A beautiful way to look at it. You refined what you were doing.
British education does that. It makes your eye and your thought process so sharp. You learn how to make things better and better and better, and go more to the point and deeper rather than just spreading your ideas. Brazilians are exuberant. They get inspired by everything they see, and that creates a beautiful but very superficial body of work. In terms of fashion and jewellery, you see a lot of beautiful things but then you can't really pin down what some of these designers are about. Central Saint Martins made me question everything. They made me try other materials, and learn other skills. But in the end, what you are about and what you're really passionate about comes back, and it comes back stronger. So I ended with a fine jewellery line and it was about Brazil, but not in an obvious way. It wasn't an explosion of colours. It was subtle.
But very sensual.
Sensual, yes. The idea behind the aesthetic of my collections is to strip the jewellery down of references of historical details and bring out the qualities of the materials in a playful, sensual, feminine way.
What do you see as the role of accessories and jewellery today? Do you think maybe it's something that needs to be concentrated on a little bit more?
I've seen a huge transformation, especially in fine jewellery. When I started working with it 15 years ago, it was exotic but kind of dated. It was something that you would associate more with older women, and it wasn't something so relevant. Then there was a shift in values. When I moved to London there was the economic crisis and a bit of a shift in the way people started spending their money. It made for more luxurious, more crafted things. It became more about quality, and people wanted longevity in their purchases. So fine jewellery suddenly found this gasoline that it was waiting for and it really became included in the vocabulary of modern luxury. Now you see jewellery designers transforming the discipline and walking side-by-side with fashion designers. It's great for me to see that. It's a big change from the way it was 15 years ago, when there wasn't a young energy in transforming the way it is worn, purchased and sold. And fine jewellery really speaks about you and your values a little bit more than clothes do.
We're living in such an age of excess, with so much imagery coming at us. How dizzying is it for women who really do want to start a collection or just indulge in jewellery a little bit? What would you suggest to someone who wants to focus in on those special things?
You've described well what's happening nowadays. There's so much noise – it's just like a meditation exercise. Try to quiet down the noise, the influence of what you saw yesterday, and find an essence. Look for a connection. You feel it, and then you try to understand it or you don't, but it stays with you. Once there is that connection and you notice it, you can understand what you like, what you're about, what kind of work attracts you. There is so much noise, but you really buzz when there is something that resonates with you.
This interview has been condensed and edited.