The spark is back in the Portuguese jewellery industry. Irreverent upcoming designers are breathing new life into traditions, defying conventions and attracting international attention. With exports growing at a rate of 500% since 2008, the forecast is that, in the next five years, the sector will generate a turnover of about 150 million euros.
AORP – Associação de Ourivesaria e Relojoaria de Portugal calls it a ‘golden moment’, anticipating a bright future for the sector. Porto Fashion Makers took to Portojóia to get an insight on the work of the designers that are shaping the market and on the changes that have taken place over the past few years.
‘There is a group of young people who are committed to shaking things up in the sector. There is a vast diversity of materials, textures and results at play…'
'We still produce jewellery, but materials are other than gold and diamonds’, says Cecília Ribeiro, a jewellery designer showcasing at Portuguese Jewellery Newborn.
© Inês Telles Jewellery e Cecília Ribeiro
She explains that ‘ Portuguese society is still hung up on the value of gold, diamonds and the filigree technique’, suggesting that ‘we need to think out of the box and come to terms with the fact that design has changed and is now a form of artistic expression’. Looking around the room, teeming with new talent in the jewellery industry, the designer smiles and proudly states:
'We are on the right track. There’s new blood, spirits are high and we are driven. Feedback has been positive!’
Cecília’s brand shares the room with 15 other young designers. Just ‘out of the shell’, they stand out because their work is innovative and contemporary, and they all share the goal of promoting their brands. Contrarily to what happens with renowned brands, the spirit of cooperation is not undermined by commercial competition.
© Ana Pina
Just a few metres from Cecília’s stand, we talk to Ana Pina, who tells us that ‘unlike what happens in traditional jewellery, everybody’s work is quite unique’ and therefore, their approach is ‘a lot less commercial’. When questioned about what role new designers play in jewellery, her answer represents the collective view: ‘There’s an interest in limited, unique pieces, and we aim at filling this gap. There are already a lot of consumers who value design more than the material used to produce the pieces. They do not ‘think’ these pieces as an investment, but as something they identify with.‘
‘We are our brands’, Ana Pina adds.
‘Because we design and produce them, our pieces speak volumes about our personalities’, and as she says this, she points at the pieces from her homonymous brand. ‘I design for women like myself: young, feminine and urban, with a minimalist, abstract fashion sense.’
© Sopro e Nuuk
‘Consumers are now taking more interest in the concept behind the pieces’, says Isabel de Castro, who represents the Bellisgirl brand. ‘The jewellery industry is experiencing a boom, unique pieces produced using diversified techniques are creating interest. Consumers value not only the design, but also what the pieces and the brand represent.’ Bellisgirl produces limited editions and supports a vegan, sustainable concept, with the mission to inspire others to follow suit.
Romeu Bettencourt, the recipient of Portojóia’s New Talent Award, agrees with Ana Pina and Isabel de Castro. ‘Pieces shouldn’t be all about their material value, there must be more to them. Design and the designer’s identity are vital to jewellery. ‘He goes on to add: ’I always try something new, different, something I would like to see on a woman’. And if at first he doesn’t succeed, he tries and tries again.
This new approach to jewellery design ‘stems from our learning process’ Romeu Bettencourt says.
© Bellisgirl e Ana João
‘Our generation accesses a wide ‘world of things’, inspiration lurks everywhere, and our experiences are nothing like what previous generations experimented. I think this is enough to allow us to ‘think’ pieces differently.’
Ana João’s work is ‘eye-catching, it stands out for the use of colour.’ Every piece she creates stems from her imaginary, and therefore she experiences a strong emotional attachment to each of them. ‘These pieces are 200% of me’ and this approach is only possible because ‘I don’t feel the pressure of designing pieces that are ‘market’’, she adds.
Having just arrived from the Bijorhca Fair in Paris, the jewellery designer shares international feedback on the Portuguese Industry:
‘Some time ago Portugal was seen as a productive market, not a creative one. Today, quality and design have earned us recognition and our work is thought to be as good as or even better than that in other countries.’
Together with pieces from Bruno da Rocha, Ana João’s jewellery is the ‘face’ of the 2017 edition of the fair, further proof of the visibility our sector has in the external market.
© Lia Gonçalves
Portuguese Jewellery Newborn is an initiative by AORP which should serve as a starting point for new jewellery designers wishing to promote their brands, nationally and internationally. At the moment, the platform showcases more than 20 projects, among which are Bruno da Rocha, Lia Gonçalves, Nuuk, Joana Ribeiro, MMUTT by Joana Mieiro and Inês Telles Jewellery.
Along with it, AORP will also be launching the Portuguese Jewellery – Shaped with Love. brand. Milla Jovovich is the face of the first big international campaign promoting Portuguese jewellery, presented today, 18 h00 – 20h00, at Museu da Eletricidade in Lisbon.