Notable Hands

Designers creating one-of-a-kind handmade products

Merging jewelry and clothing – one fashion designer – Isabella Coraça

Isabella Coraça’s design

Copper hasn’t always been a designer’s prime choice when it comes to making jewels.

It does oxidize easily, and changes its own look, as well as other metals it alloys with. But once in a while, especially in fashion, it is the underdog that becomes the superstar.

What does the idea of jewelry mean to us? Diamonds, sapphires and emeralds set in gold and silver are not the only ones worthy of the connotation. We might want to open our eyes to 21st century statement jewelry – designers continue to create statement pieces for the body, but a lot of things have changed. Let’s start with scale and materials. Who said we cannot dress ourselves in jewelry, rather than just mere garments?

Isabella Coraça is someone who might have found jewelry by chance, and yet she discovered so much more in an art that many people would take as limited to the great jewelry companies. As a full time curator-assistant at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and part time fashion and jewelry designer, Isabella ties her love for fashion history and designing in the shape of one-of-a-kind neckpieces, or better said, collars. Plus, she might have made copper one trendy shade to covet.

Here’s a little chat we had about her day to day in London, and her latest piece – an orchid necklace made specially for a bride to be.

Hello my dear! What are you working on right now?

Hello my darling! Right now I’m trying to figure Christmas presents out. I always try to create some sort of jewelry for my close ones, so it’s personal and unique. Besides, they are my best clients!

How long ago did you start designing jewelry? Would you consider it a hobby now a day?

Well, I started designing jewelry in college. At the fashion school I attended in Brazil, we had to go through most aspects of fashion, from women’s wear to textile design to marketing… Jewelry design really clicked for me, so I decided to graduate with a jewelry collection. It was great fun, best way to sum up the four intense years of college. My collection ended up being really well received, which also helped! For a while I considered becoming a professional jeweler, but life took a slightly different path. Soon after I graduated, I got the opportunity to move to London, study fashion history and get into the curatorial world. Then again, I am not quite sure if I would call jewelry a hobby, I can still see myself doing something with it. It’s just not the priority right now.

What is your idea of contemporary jewelry? And how would you describe your style?

To be honest, I don’t think I have produced enough to be able to develop my style. Style, just like most things, takes time and effort to evolve. I do, however, have some features that are quite occurring in my frame of work. For instance, I tend to put a lot of focus on texture and materiality, either by mixing contrasting materials and/or by manipulating them. I also prefer to design larger pieces, almost as if they were the continuation of a garment. I supposed this is in part because of my formation, which is primarily of clothing design. When creating a piece of jewelry, the body plays as an important role as it would for the conception of a dress. Maybe this is where my style is evolving to, the merge between fashion and jewelry.

Do you wear the pieces that you design?

To be fairly honest, I don’t really wear my creations. I am captivated by jewelry and accessories in general, and I believe they can do miracles to an outfit. Still, you can count in your hands the amount of times I’ve changed my earrings! On a daily basis, I just prefer not to draw too much attention to myself, and as I mentioned, my creations are usually quite large, if not extravagant. Besides, at my work is preferable not to wear anything that might damage the objects I handle.

 

What inspires you on a regular basis?

History, always and forever! Everything that I ever designed, in fashion school or professionally, I always had at least one historical reference. So now that I work in museums, you can imagine how influential history is to me. Basically, it’s all I think of! Last year, around Christmas time, I was working with a lot of 17th century laces, so guess what was the inspiration for the Christmas presents?!

17th century-lace inspired necklace

“Style, just like most things, takes time and effort to evolve”

What was the inspiration for your orchids-necklace?

The orchid-necklace was a special case. Usually I start my designs with a mood that progressively evolves into imagery references and inspirations. For this necklace, however, I started with a question that asked for certain features. In a way, I took a rather architectural approach. I needed to create a piece of jewelry to complement a full lace wedding dress. It had to be something large enough to create a focus of interest over the simple front, but not too intricate to fight with the beautiful Guipure lace. It had to be asymmetrical so to contrast with the straight neckline, and it could not disturb the detail of the back.

Original sketch

Tell me a little bit about the process of creating it? It looks very intricate and detailed. I love IT! (What materials, techniques did you use)

Working on those aspects, I ended up with a shadowy outline, which I sketched over and over on a picture of the bride wearing the dress. I still needed a proper shape to fill on of the edges of the necklace. At the same time, I kept thinking of the orange blossoms that brides used to wear during the Victorian period, and the thought of using some sort of flower was very appealing, conceptually and visually. Finally I came up with orchids, mainly because they were around the house! Also, they had a simplify shape that would be easier to recreate.

Orchid-necklace

What do you feel seeing your jewelry being worn by someone close to you, as Ju?

I think the best part of having your creation worn by somebody close to you is the complicity it creates. During the whole design process, I had my friend in mind. She was as much part of the necklace as its shape or color. And by the time she worn it, it felt like she was wearing a piece of me. Besides, there’s the mutual trust, from me to create something beautiful, and from her to accept my ideas and judgment.  And of course, there’s the pride and relieve when everything works perfect and successfully!

Where can we find your jewelry, fashion designs? 

Right now, I think the only place to find my designs would be in my private archive (a.k.a. my parents’ house!). In 2011 I had my graduation collection exhibited at a gallery in Stockholm, but since then, nowhere else. I definitely plan on having a venue for my jewelry, but that is something for the future.

Images courtesy of Isabella Coraça
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Notable Hands by Laura Acosta is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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