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Q&A with Heart & Noble's Cristina Gabriele

Tuesday 3 December 2013

2013 has certainly been a breakthrough year for Heart & Noble's founder and designer Cristina Gabriele. Launched in the summer of 2012, she joined Wolf and Badger, a revolutionary concept store that provides a retail platform for emerging independent designers in store and online. In addition to this exciting development Cristina has moved to New York to develop the brand to the US market; a rather hectic yet exciting times ahead. Her unique Cable Tie collection is inspired by her love for industrial designs and everyday objects, turning them into a stunning array of wearable yet luxurious uni-sex jewellery collection. I caught up with Cristina as she took some time out from her busy schedule to discuss the ethos of her brand and the art of setting up a jewellery business.

1.) How did you come up with the name Heart & Noble? What is the concept and inspiration behind it?
The name evolved one creative evening in Dalston, largely thanks to a conversation I had with my dear friend Gerry Duffy. I felt the epithet Heart & Noble embodied everything I would want to represent as a brand; warmth and virtue, passion and honour. It reveals the soul and ethos of the label while alluding to our methodology and conduct. We strive to live by our motto: We will have heart, we will be noble.

2.) Tell me a little bit about yourself. What were you doing before setting up your own jewellery company?
I’m quite a creative, expressive person but I also very much enjoy the practicality of business. While its enormously satisfying to design and produce something of value and beauty, its equally fulfilling to sell it, perhaps even more so. Artists & designers are looking to communicate, to make an impact, and when others recognise and identify with the values you are creating, its enormously inspiring and validating. Before Heart & Noble I had the good fortune of running the production department for a very talented British jeweller. The experience was enormously valuable, and I am hugely grateful for having had the opportunity.

3.) Wolf and Badger is your first stockist. What is the process of finding the right retailer to represent your brand?
We’ve been very fortunate, Wolf & Badger are truly incredible and provide a really brilliant platform for emerging designers.
Finding the right retailer can be quite a process, but if you have a unique product, a viable business plan and a strong sense of your brand’s identity, you will fit the right fit. Look for exciting prospects, and be open to collaboration, you learn so much through experimentation.

4.) You are in the process of setting up Heart & Noble in NYC, what are the steps you have to take to ensure the move is successful?
Immersion! A new city requires new head space. I can’t assume that what has worked in London will work in New York! While I don’t intend on losing any of our brand identity, I feel the success of Heart & Noble will rely heavily on how we position ourselves in the US market. 

5.) What are the most and the least enjoyable aspects of setting up your own business?
At the start up phase its likely that you will be involved in orchestrating or managing every aspect of your venture; from designing your business model to creating the final product. While its enormously satisfying to ideate and create something from the bottom up, its a huge undertaking. The best and worst parts of running your own label: you are responsible for everything.

6.) The jewellery industry is highly competitive and continually pushing for new ideas. What makes Heart & Noble stand out from others? What makes your company unique?
Heart & Noble has a unique objective: to design conceptual, commercial jewellery of superb quality. I’m very interested in the notion of sustaining history while injecting modernism into my creations. Heart & Noble stands out as a sophisticated, innovative brand that combines elegance with a cutting edge aesthetic while never compromising on craftsmanship.

7.) Provide a little insight in your creative and technical process. 
Creativity is an exploration that requires practise and patience. Its about submersion and then giving yourself space to digest. Brian Eno articulates the creative process quite succinctly: “It quite frequently happens that you’re just treading water for quite a long time. Nothing really dramatic seems to be happening, and then suddenly everything seems to lock together in a different way. It’s like a crystallisation point where you can’t detect any single element having changed.” Technically, a designer experiments and iterates, you have to prepare for a lot of trial and error; it’s a matter of constantly crunching and refining until you know you’ve struck gold. 

8.) What is your favourite piece from your collection?
I’m really enjoying my menswear at the moment, there is something extraordinarily satisfying about putting on a pair of cuff links. 
But I do savour the evenings that call for something a bit more substantial, Cable Tie Unit 1, my largest gold necklace feels pretty extraordinary, I relish wearing it.

 9.) What are the biggest obstacles to overcome?
I don’t think there’s necessarily a “biggest” obstacle, or at least I haven’t experienced it yet. As an entrepreneur, being faced with obstacles is constant. I think you just get better and better at firefighting. As long as you are able to stop, assess and pivot, you can survive and blossom.

10.) What one essential piece of advise would you give to aspiring independent jewellery designers?
ONE? Impossible. Be analytical, explore constantly, seek advice, get out of your own head. Passion will fuel you and pioneer your designs, but it can also cloud your judgement. Believe in, and exercise “the reality check.” Be honest with yourself; remain fearless.

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