How brooches are undergoing a revival as trendsetting adornments.
Brooches are rarely considered groundbreaking in their execution, with cats, bows and flowers becoming tired design themes. Not anymore, say a group of budding jewellery talents looking to pin their modern-day brooches onto stylish bodies.
"They are a wonderful body and clothing adornment and can update the most tired-looking jacket," declares jewellery designer Jessica de Lotz, on the subject of brooches.
While they might be regarded as the ideal gift for women of a certain age, brooches have been given an image overhaul thanks to a new era of designer jewellers, who have taken brooches, pins and collar tips and transformed them into contemporary must-haves.
The resulting designs are eclectic; colourful, iridescent, precious or just downright cool. Forget about flowers, cats and ribbons, today brooches are a way of showing off your personality and making a statement.
Jessica de Lotz is known for her unusual jewellery collections (think wax seal pendants and rings made with dolls’ eyes), and her brooches continue in this vein with designs such as miniature handcuffs that can be pinned across a shirt collar or to a jacket lapel.
"I have always collected vintage brooches myself, I just cannot resist them," she explains. "I do, however, think they are underrated and misunderstood. By creating my Feather Key brooch with the cheeky handcuff wax seal, for example, I hoped to challenge the misconceptions of brooches being old fashioned or too formal."
She is not the only one. Designer Pip Jolley lives and breathes the 1950s, and has transformed the humble hair roller by casting it in silver to form a brooch for her Rollerette collection. The result is a tongue-in-cheek design that suits both fur coat and casual T-shirt.
BROOCHES FOR THE BOYS
The vogue for brooches has also shifted into the realms of male accessorising. Gone are the days of wearing your favourite rock band’s badge on your denim jacket, now it is about channelling a gentlemanly vibe, with lapel pins that add interest or edge to formal jackets.
Emerging talent and Professional Jeweller Hot 100 NexGem Kasun Ekanayake of Kasun London has embraced brooches for his God Loves Fangs collection. Like Jolley, his inspiration is another era, but his designs are created for a modern audience.
"I’m a big fan of men’s style from the 1920s to 1960s, and with TV series like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire being so popular, I saw an opportunity to bring back some of that style in the form of men’s accessories," he explains. "As a designer I’ve always had an interest in brooches and the fun you can have creating them. We decided to develop the brooch concept for guys who like to show a little of their character in a subtle yet effective way."
Kasun London’s resulting Fang Tip pin and collar tips feature geometric skulls set with faceted black onyx eyes. According to Ekanayake, these little accessories make a big difference, dressing up a shirt collar or accentuating detail on a jacket.
De Lotz concurs, having also branched into brooches and jacket pins for men as the next step in her men’s jewellery offer. "I have seen a rise in sales of my cufflinks and therefore assume that men are now prepared to spend a little more on themselves," she notes. "Providing men with another one of their three safe essentials – the other two being my personalised cufflinks and my re-interpreted signet-style wax seal rings – seemed like a natural progression."
These modern brooches also wave goodbye to traditional materials such as pewter and stones such as marcasites for added decoration. Instead, they utilise an array of materials, from leather and perspex to stainless steel.
Recent graduate Monique Daniels, who is also this month’s Professional Jeweller Bench Fresh designer, combines powder-coated and brushed steel with geometric shapes to create brooches that appear to bloom. Her work draws upon the mathematical qualities of polyhedrons, using these intricate shapes for a collection that includes rings and hoop earrings.
At Tatty Devine, a brand regularly featured on our jewellery trend pages for its boundary-pushing designs, the humble tape measure has been transformed into a rosette that, like Daniels’ brooch, appears almost floral-like in its realisation. The brand has also used mirrored perspex and digitally-printed acrylic for brooches in its AW13 collection, with styles that mimic the shape and shimmer of gemstones.
Fellow Professional Jeweller Hot 100 NexGem Rowenna Harrison, aka Rosita Bonita, has created a brand centred around layered, printed leather. Her work includes statement neckpieces, earrings, collar tips and brooches, with a growing set of designs such as giant yellow hummingbirds, red roses and black and gold hearts. Her latest collection Toledo features a double fan brooch inspired by fans from Japan and Spain, while the mermaid-inspired Siren range glitters with embossed metallic and holographic leather in hues of coral and turquoise, with design including shell-shaped collar tips. "I see jewellery as being an important part of an outfit, often the most important, so it makes perfect sense to create pieces to directly adorn clothing," Harrison explains.
Pins and brooches have always been suited to gifting, and these contemporary incarnations certainly maintain this selling point, with many of the designs featured on these pages retailing for less than £100.
Brooches are also becoming, as the designers have noted, more of an everyday accessory – a way of brightening up an outfit, adding some edge, a touch of humour or a talking point which, perhaps most importantly of all, can attract new customers seeking something a little different.
To discover the designs leading this trend in pictures, click here.
This feature was taken from the December issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue in full online, click here.