Why the catwalks have helped to add an androgynous edge to jewellery.
As part of our April issue we took a closer look at how gender shapes jewellery design and the rise of androgynous jewellery styles. London-based jeweller Rachel Boston is careful never to mention gender labels when it comes to marketing her jewellery and as a result many of her designs have become hits with male shoppers.
Professional Jeweller: Do androgynous or unisex influences shape your work, and if so in what way?
Rachel Boston: My work is largely inspired by nature, it’s a universal theme so it appeals to either gender. People could argue that beetles and scorpions are probably more masculine figures but I’ve refined them in a way that appeals to women also. I’ve always preferred a more ambiguous style so I wanted my jewellery to reflect that and combine the best of typically masculine and feminine jewellery characteristics. The pieces are delicate enough to appeal to women but not so much so that this would scare off men.
PJ: Do you specify who, whether men or women, should buy your collections?
RB: I don’t see the point in labelling a piece as solely for men or women because by doing that I would alienate half the audience immediately. I think people can come to their own conclusion about what works for them. Although women are generally much less fussy about wearing men’s jewellery I think a lot of men would have a problem buying something they saw as specifically women’s jewellery.
When I’m designing some pieces are very obviously for women in my head but then I’ve been proven wrong when men have bought it too. For instance my medium stag ring I initially only made in women’s sizes because I didn’t think men would wear it but it’s been one of my most popular pieces for men so I’ve had to make new sizes in a lot of my rings.
PJ: How relevant are cultural or catwalk trends, such as the leaning towards androgyny we’ve seen in fashion, shape jewellery demand or styles?
RB: Hugely important because as they filter down in to the high street and everyday wear I think it’s helping make men a lot bolder with their jewellery choices. I’ve always struggled a bit with finding nice jewellery for men, a lot of it is quite cliché but I think as jewellery for men is becoming more commonplace people are creating more innovative designs and the two markets can crossover as people become more open minded.
PJ: Which pieces in your collection have unisex or androgynous appeal?
RB: When I first launched the collection I thought it was only the pendant necklaces that were really unisex but as a result of not labelling by gender it’s been great because men have bought rings and bracelets that I wouldn’t have expected. It’s given me a much broader view of what unisex jewellery can actually be and I’ve been able to use that information whilst designing my new collection at the moment to not limit my ideas because of preconceptions of what is gender specific jewellery.
PJ: What makes a piece of jewellery gender non-specific?
RB: I think with my jewellery it’s worked because I pick quite masculine motifs but they appeal to women through the sleek design. What’s worked well for me is also chain length. Most of my necklaces are on a much longer chain so they can be worn by either sex. People can request different lengths but things like that help to make a piece more androgynous.
PJ: How do you market jewellery to males and females at the same time?
RB: Hannah Martin has been very clever with her ‘jewellery for men that girlfriends will steal’ tagline because she’s appealing to both markets and making it a great selling point. For my own jewellery I’ve actually tried to stay away from mentioning gender quite specifically to keep it open. On my online shop I haven’t included models wearing the jewellery so that people wouldn’t decide that something is specifically for either men or women. In my lookbook I have a boy and girl wearing the pieces just so people can see the jewellery can work on both.
PJ: What type of shopper buys unisex jewellery?
RB: People who are open-minded, who care more about the design and concepts than anything else.