The Danish RCA graduates that are winning the UK industry’s attention.
Sofus Graae and Birgit Marie Smith launched their jewellery label in the spring of last year, but their surrealist designs soon drew the attention of key industry trend mavens, who leapt on their debut collection. They were named NexGems in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012, in association with The Company of Master Jewellers and IJL.
Professional Jeweller: Tell us about your debut year – what have been your highlights?
Birgit Marie Smith: Every encounter with a customer who takes pleasure in our designs and brand is a tremendous experience. And considering we are still a young company, it has been a huge boost to see Smith/Grey to be included in the Hot 100.
PJ: Have you hit any challenges along the way, launching a brand from scratch?
Sofus Graae: There will always be challenges but we are in this for the long run which allows us to put any obstacles into perspective and learn from them along the way.
PJ: What inspires you as designers?
BMS: Everything! It would be easier to answer a question about what doesn’t inspire us. Inspiration can hit your from anywhere and anytime. It’s a very random process but generally we focus on a theme that keeps coming back and that stays on top of all the others. Something that still exists in our mind even after weeks or months. Generally we like to reflect about personalities, stories, facts and memories and usually put our own narrative spin to these things.
PJ: How did you two meet?
BMS: We met years ago when we both worked in a creative agency in Copenhagen. Sofus worked in graphic and motion design and Birgit in product design. We soon found a common ground as we are both curious, workaholics and a bit nerdy. And we were into the same kind of music – very important. Ultimately we decided to form Smith/Grey after I graduated from the Royal College of Art last year, where the I Can’t Seem to Get Rid of the Horses collection was developed.
PJ: What is it about jewellery design that attracts you to it?
SG: Jewellery is an extraordinary medium to work in and it never seems to let our imagination down. There are endless ways of designing and narrating around precious wearable objects and we love the freedom it gives us to create imaginatively.
PJ: How would you describe your approach to work? Who does what and how do you work as a team?
BMS: We have very fluid boundaries between our tasks and generally we both have a lot to say about everything. However when it comes to the creative development of our collections we do tend to focus: I usually start designing women’s collections while Sofus focuses on the design of our men’s pieces. But we still work very closely along every step of the process. Due to our diverse creative backgrounds we usually complement each other when it comes to the technical questions, whether making of jewellery, photography, graphics and even website coding. We try and do as much as possible ourselves to make sure our vision stays true to the final product.
PJ: How do you manage your work-life balance?
SG: We have to admit we are pretty bad at taking time off. But that is mainly because we love what we do and often forget about taking time off properly. We really enjoy bringing our ideas to life so it often doesn’t feel like working at all.
PJ: What are your plans for your business for the next year?
SG: We will be launching two new collections for both women and men in the next months and we are re-launching our website and online store which we have been working on very hard. We are also planning on spreading the word about Smith/Grey out into the world. Keep watching out for us.