Q&A: Gina Melosi

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The designer reflects on growing her brand, concepts & stockists.

Gina Melosi relocated to London from her native Texas to study an MA in jewellery design at London Metropolitan University. Since arriving on British soil has not looked back, developing her collections using techniques that involve broken glass and stones such as ethical sapphire gemstones. She was a Kickstarter at IJL in 2011, and has won Kabiri, Boticca and Johnny Rocket as stockists. Gina was named a NexGem in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012, in association with The Company of Master Jewellers and IJL.

Professional Jeweller: 2012 has been a real turning point for you and your jewellery brand – tell us about the highlights of this year
Gina Melosi: I am thrilled to have been chosen as part of this year’s Hot 100. I [was mentioned] last year on Nathalie Kabiri’s page as a new designer she has championed, but it’s really exciting to feature myself just one year on. Likewise, securing Kabiri as a main stockist has been a great jump-start to my jewellery career. I am really proud that my debut collection has been received with such great acclaim and interest. I really didn’t expect it; I just had a physical need to externalise and further develop some concepts I began to explore during my MA. So I suppose my overall professional highlight of the year so far has been successfully launching my brand, which is just over a year old, and finally embarking upon my artistic career: being able to design and create and develop a customer base who come to me for bespoke pieces because they are inspired by my broken glass jewels. Personally, concentrating on starting my jewellery label and developing it really helped me through a difficult period in my life. I was able to reflect through creation and use design as a valuable tool for expression. I see how important it is for me: turning something negative into something positive. I think this is reflected in my designs. I want to create beauty out of destruction and fragility.

PJ: You relocated from Texas to London to study and then launch your career. Have you faced any challenges or hurdles during this time?
GM: Having the confidence to “just do it”. I am always my biggest critic. I tend to over-think everything, so I have to remind myself that sometimes action is best. As well, financially jewellery is a difficult business to run, especially because all my work is handmade and time-consuming to produce. Maintaining funding and investment have been key obstacles. My aim is that over time the brand will become increasingly more sustainable. All of the positive feedback and constructive criticism has really pushed me forward, but it can be difficult to constantly and consistently maintain the impetus to push forward bigger and better than previously accomplished. It takes a lot of self-motivation, flexibility yet future vision, and hard work. In moments when things don’t go as well as had hoped, you really can’t linger too long. So balance is key, but at times tricky to get just right.

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PJ: Your work appears to hold a lot of messages – it is sharp yet beautiful and uses menacing materials in the making process but turns them into wearable objects. What inspires you as a designer?
GM: Beauty in the abandoned, overlooked, and broken. Magical moments and occurrences which can’t easily be described in words. Undercurrents. Going places unknown. Physical expressions of philosophical concepts. Art, music, food, and the people who love me for who I am. My first two collections are inspired by broken glass. This initially started as an exploration into body modification practices. How do we use our skin, the physical boundary which separates inside from out, as a viable form of expression? My third collection, Cracked, launched at this year’s Treasure [during Jewellery Week], utilises the cracks of broken glass to make impressions into modelling clay, which are then formed and cast into metal. The overall look is actually somewhat more classic, but conceptually it explores the negative spaces in between.

PJ: You were part of the Pieces of 8 pop-up shop hosted last year, joining forces with the likes of Laura Gravestock, Alice Menter and Momocreatura to run a shop next to Carnaby Street. What was it like?
GM: I was so proud of what we created from scratch. Many of the customers thought it was an actual boutique, so I think aesthetically we pulled it off successfully. Each of the talented designers has such a distinct style, and I really think this worked in our favour to provide something for almost everybody. The opening reception was really busy and buzzy, and we all honed in on Christmas sales.

PJ: What did exhibiting at IJL last year bring to your business?
GM: Being selected to exhibit and receiving a bursary as one of the BJA’s KickStart designers was great exposure for me within the industry. We, as a group, benefited from a good deal of press leading up to the event, and I featured in many trend reports during and after the show, including WGSN. I felt it was a good step after launching my label and my first collection, Shattered Fragments, publicly just a couple months before at Treasure during Jewellery Week 2011. It was encouraging to see people approaching me who had seen my stand at Treasure, and commented on how my display and work had stood out to them. I launched my second collection Broken Promises at IJL, so those who visited my Treasure display were able to see how the first body of work had developed into the second series. Just a few months before, no one knew who I was at all, but after showing at IJL, I felt that I had started to develop a name for myself in the industry and for the style of work I create.

PJ: How has the Gina Melosi brand grown over the past year?
GM: I started out a year-and-a-half ago as a virtually unknown designer-maker graduate, and now have stockists in four countries in Europe, a collection of industry and fashion press, exhibited during Paris Fashion Week, UK trade fairs, and press days, launched 3 collections and one competition winning mini collection, collected a few awards, learned CAD, and created some exciting commissions. I am happy with how the business has started out and really look forward to seeing it grow and develop over the next years.

PJ: How would you describe your working style?
GM: When it comes to design, I would say it is somewhat unconventional. I often work intuitively, similar to the way I approached my artistic practice. I often keep odd hours, but flexibility suits me better than a strict regime. I am detail-oriented, which is maybe one of the reasons why embarking on this career felt right. However, I can become overwhelmed trying to do everything, so I sometimes feel stretched too thin. Hopefully expanding the business over the next year will provide me with some extra eyes and hands; this is vital for the business to grow.

PJ: When you’re not making jewellery, how do you spend your time?
GM: I work hard – I also have several freelance jobs, so juggling can be difficult – but my off-time is just as important to me as my work. I need to be able to step away sometimes to regroup and evaluate with a fresh approach. What happens in the rest of my life gives me inspiration for my jewellery practice. I suppose I am an experience junkie. I’m never really at a loss for something to do, and I enjoy many things. I’m an avid cyclist. This really helps to keep me sane, even when I have time for nothing else. I like the sense of freedom. I’m also a travel addict. It doesn’t really matter where. If I’ve never been there before, even better. I like to see things with my own eyes and make my own decisions. I also love to feel lost in a place. I get really bored seeing the same things every day, so I need to regularly shock my system out of normalcy. This keeps me inspired and excited about living, and a good reminder that I need to step outside of myself to see the world differently.

PJ: What are your plans for your business for the next year?
GM: I am working toward the next collection, which I’ve been developing for some time. The concept is different to the first three bodies of work. This will also launch as a tandem project to a book my father and I have conceived together. It comes from a more personal place related to my heritage, yet is combined with environmental and social issues. As well, I am always adapting previous work and adding new pieces to earlier collections, or new colourways, finishes, and so on. Likewise I’ll be evaluating what has occurred over the past year and adapting this to future prospects. Sourcing new and more stockists is also key in order for my business to be commercially viable and to grow. Refining my online presence and branding is also important in this coming year. And I aim to expand my customer base publicly and on a bespoke basis. I really want to push the press side forward as well. Hopefully more commissions and collaborations with other designers and artists.
 

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