Earlier this year, The Debrief was lucky enough to be on a judging panel for a jewellery competiton between Central St Martins’ second-year jewellery design students and Freedom at Topshop. The standard was incredibly high, but we were all in unanimous agreement that Evie Armstrong-Clark’s powerful designs deserved to win the competition.
Gentle and assured Evie may be, but her jewellery is bold, fierce and unique. Drawing on London architecture – it’s easy to see the influence of The Shard – Evie has reproduced several of her necklaces with the help of Freedom of Topshop in a project called Evie Armstrong-Clarke at Central St Martins x Freedom at Topshop.
The dynamic six-piece collection of necklaces, rings, bracelets and earrings (in three colourways) go on sale for between £14.50 and £35 in Topshop, from 12 September and online, with a campaign modelled by the model and feminist photographer Arvida Byström.
We caught up with Evie to see what’s life been like, as a bona fide high-street jewellery designer, since we last saw her.
The Debrief: Congrats again, Evie! Has it sunk in yet that you’re actually designing things on the high street?
Evie Armstrong-Clarke: It’s still really surreal. I can’t apply it to myself fully! Until I see it in the shops next week it won’t click. Winning has made me a lot more self-confident. I really enjoyed the project but I didn’t expect at all to win. You have to have confidence in yourself as a designer and I realised that I didn’t really have that when starting out.
DB: That’s great that winning the competition has given you confidence as a designer. Has it been super intense?
EAC: The first couple of weeks was really full on. I was in the Freedom offices getting involved in the designing and then tweaking it after the ‘drop test’. A drop test is literally just that – it tests a piece’s durability. They just drop the jewellery to see if it breaks! The actual designs only took a few weeks to be made up, but what’s taken a few months – and I’ve really enjoyed observing it all and getting involved over the summer – is the commercial side. Literally watching how things go through to mass production and how you market a piece of jewellery.
DB: So you learnt how to commercialise your creativity, basically.
EAC: Absolutely. There are a lot more restrictions than you’re used to working with. As art students – I started out as a sculptor at Central St Martins – your head can be a bit in the clouds! We are used to being experimental, rather than thinking about how wearable something is and how to make it ‘commercial’. It’s a good lesson. You need to make a profit in the real world. In order to make it commercial, I had to put a lot of trust in Freedom. We had to find the right materials, the right price, how best to style it on the model. I kept the bits of my design that were most integral, intact. The whole thing was such an enjoyable process.
DB: And what did you end up with?
EAC: Freedom at Topshop is making two necklaces based on my two designs – a showpiece necklace and then a slightly more wearable, low-key necklace for every day. They come in three colourways, opaque and glass, blue like the London skyline and an orange one, too, because the trend forecasters predicted that that colour was going to be big this season.
DB: Trend-forecasting – blows your mind, right!? They can literally work out what we’ll want to be wearing in the future.
EAC: It does. I was like, but how do you KNOW!? I wasn’t sure if it would go with my theme, but as soon as they styled it on a model it looked really great.
DB: Do you wear much of your own jewellery?
EAC: I don’t wear any jewellery myself. I don’t even have my ears pierced! But it’s mainly out of practicality, as I am in the workshop all the time and it would get caught on things.
DB: How should wear your Shard-inspired necklace, or any of your statement jewellery?
EAC: I would keep my outfit really plain, or introduce block colours. The necklace will stand out really well against something graphic.
DB: So is this the beginning of a long and fruitful residency as a Freedom at Topshop designer?
EAC: I have no idea if we will work together again, I definitely wouldn’t say no. It’s made me realise that I really want to be an accessible designer. There are lots of materials that are affordable. If they are done in a creative and thoughtful way they can really be something special.
DB: Are you working on any new designs at the moment?
EAC: I am designing androgynous jewellery. As an attitude it would be amazing if I could create something that is accessible to both men and women and doesn’t have any predjudices in terms of price and gender or anything like that. I’ve just made these unisex concrete sygnet rings that I’m selling for £20 at Shoreditch market.
DB: And before you leave us to go produce some more award winning jewellery, what advice would you give aspiring jewellery designers?
EAC: You can’t be focused on an end result. You really have to enjoy the journey. Don’t be result driven, get lost in the process and you’ll produce something much more authentic. Whatever you get attracted to, you should go with it. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Everytime something goes badly wrong, it’s the best thing that can happen for your designs. Don’t be ‘careful’ with it at all.
Necklace £35, earrings £20, rings £14.50 and bracelets £20 all Freedom at Topshop, coming to stores on 12 September.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.