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Life of a Contessa: Boutique Interview

Monday 30 March 2015

Contessa Dreams / Rockin' That Gem

The fashionable jewellery of a wannabe countess...

Prior to my anticipated move to Perth a few months ago I've spent countless valuable hours researching independent jewellery designers and boutiques in Australia and it has become an ongoing project of mine til this day. Whilst there are jewellery brands that are recognisable internationally, what I'm really seeking are the hidden gems, safely tucked away and yet somewhat intentionally elusive, but it is in sight as passion drives me towards my goal. One of my favourite Australian boutiques I've discovered was Contessa Dreams, an online boutique that advocates the immense talent of up and coming jewellery designers stateside. Launched in 2011 by Melbourne based Natasha Alessi, the boutique was borne from her desire to accessorise the world with amazing, unique and one of a kind jewels. Whimsical, stylish and of course, enticingly dreamy, Contessa Dreams takes you through a journey of jewels-filled discovery like no other. Here Natasha expresses her love for home grown jewellery, running a successful boutique and she reveals her current favourite crop of designers...

1. Tell us a little bit about your background. When did you first become interested in setting up Contessa Dreams? 

I always had a keen interest in jewellery and accessories from when I was very young, I wore my first sterling silver pinky ring at the age of 4 which I still have! The concept of an Australian Designer accessory store came to me to years ago while visiting a market (which I love to do) but I initially thought of setting up a retail shop rather than online. Once I had children the concept of the shop was put on the back burner but my husband suggested an online store and blogging about jewellery as I love to write and communicate with people. 

2. Have you always been in the jewellery/fashion industry? What did you do before starting an online jewellery boutique? 

 I worked in Marketing for a couple of larger corporations, specifically in the Customer Retention and Direct Marketing streams, which is why I am so focussed on Customer Service. It’s something I am very passionate about.

3. What is a typical day for you at Contessa Dreams?  

Like most business owners there is no one typical day, but usually the day involves processing orders, styling jewellery for social media posts, helping customers with special orders and styling, liaising with designers, stylists and bloggers, future planning, and meeting up with other business owners regarding collaborations & opportunities. 

 4. Social media is such an important platform nowadays for all businesses. How do you use social media to promote your company? Which platforms do you use the most?

  Two years ago I would have answered Facebook as the number one platform, but there has been a definite move to Instagram which I love, and I’m also on Pinterest and Twitter. But right now, Instagram is the biggest platform for my business. 

5. Contessa houses only Australian independent jewellery designers. What are you looking for in terms of design and concept? 

 I find many interesting accessories at markets, on social media or just on friends & people I meet, my eye is always drawn to what jewellery people are wearing so I am always asking and researching on things that catch my eye.  I have fairly eclectic taste in accessories from fine layering to bohochic to luxe and bling, so I am always looking for designs that are a little different to anything I have seen but still exceptionally well made.  I have focussed a lot on quality in the last year and this has served my customers well.  And I love a good strong brand that builds a story so customers can keep collecting season after season. 

  6. How does your boutique differs from others that houses independent jewellery designers?

  I would have to speak from the feedback my customers have given me on this and say the customer service Contessa Dreams offers is extremely personalised. I do everything from helping customers find the perfect gift, to receiving orders via website, email, phone, text, social media, to gift packaging & gift tags, to styling customers accessories, to sending personalised photos to customers who are requesting something specific, to special orders for VIP’s. I really don’t like to send anyone away from my business unless they are truly happy with their purchase whether it’s for themselves or for a gift, and I like to make it easy as possible for them hence the reason why I accept orders and converse with my customers via so many platforms. 

7. Which Australian jewellery designers are you most excited by and why? 

 Right now I would have to say Susanah Fairley of Fairley Jewellery for the most incredible matte and hammered silver and gold pieces that create an exotic rich fine layered look, and Sarina Suriano for the excitement factor of those magical ear cuffs and arm cuffs she designs.  I am proud to say that Fairley is one of my signature designers at Contessa Dreams and Sarina Suriano is coming on board asap so stay tuned! 

8. Who is your favourite jewellery designer outside of Australia? 

 That’s a tough one but Erickson Beamon and Dannijo have been favourites of mine for a long time, I really love the colour and wow factor of both these designers, and also their versatility. And I’m loving those neckpieces by Dylanlex, how amazing are they? 

 9. What is your personal style in terms of fashion and jewellery? 

 My day time wear is very much street style, so like Bruno Mars says “Chucks on with Saint Laurent” or something to that effect. Lots of fine layered pieces in the day time that compliment my basic style, as I am not only running a business but I am ferrying two boys around to their various activities. I have always liked to let the accessories (jewellery, bag, shoes) do the talking rather than the actual clothes, so many of my clothes are basic staple pieces, while my jewellery has a wardrobe & life of it’s own. At night or for special occasions, I like to up the bling factor and really make the accessories do all the work! 

10. What is your favourite piece of jewellery at the moment? 

 What do you wear/on your wish list?  From my website it would be the Fairley Alexa Serpent necklace and bracelet in both silver and gold as I can’t choose and I am massively into mixing my metals, as well as the Nicole Fendel Alissa Beaded Rose gold earrings that are an absolute statement earring.  Also I would really love to invest in a Dylanlex neckpiece one day…. 

10. What are you future plans for Contessa Dreams?  

To continue bringing the best Australian Designers jewellery and accessory collections to my customers with the best possible service.  I believe if that I keep doing this and keep showing customers (via IG & FB) how to style different jewellery looks, the sky is the limit.  

11. Describe Contessa Dreams in 5 words. 

 Evolving, Stylish, Friendly, Interesting & Passionate. 

Rock It! Aimee Sutanto Double Cube Earrings

Tuesday 24 March 2015

The versatility of cubes knows no bound. Jeweller Aimee Sutanto's fascination by the concept of space enclosed in its edges and borders allows her to creatively deconstruct the cubes into small individual parts and then reconstruct and modified them into new shapes and forms whilst maintaining its recognisable cubic aesthetic. By working directly on the cubes instead of designing on paper it creates an element of welcoming surprise at its completion. 

One of my favourite pieces from her Cubes collection are these double cube stud earrings, which appears to suspended in air instead of resting against the ear lobes. The merging of cubes creating an entirely new shape at varying perspectives.

Rock It! Knitted Window Deconstructed Eco Clock Watch Bangle

Monday 16 March 2015

I've always been fascinated by the undeniable beauty of intricate 
internal mechanism of a watch; the painstakingly fine craftsmanship, its intricate detailing, the beautiful aesthetics of the watch movement that acts as a heartbeat. This fabulously re-imagined steampunk bangle is created using deconstructed watch mechanisms. I was intently mesmerised as I peer closely into all the tiny cogs, screws, wheels and watch handles at its abundance. Don't worry about the tiny edges, the watch components resides safely inside the bangle made of transparent resin. A fun and quirky way of wearing a pieces.

Inspiration/Art: Victoria Kelsey Because the Night lookbook

Wednesday 11 March 2015

 Victoria Kelsey's Because the Night lookbook collection is inspired by overgrown secret gardens, abandoned buildings and insects that resides in these environments, an interest in details that are often overlooked by society's obsession with rapidly formed modern architecture that are sleek yet oddly lifeless buildings and without endearing character, whereas the beauty lies within nature emerging amidst all the orderly chaos.

GEOM Symmetric Beauty: DV Jewellery Interview

Sunday 8 March 2015

The lure of geometric and minimalist wearable objects of sleek quality is simply too hard to resist upon discovering the compelling DV Jewellery. Netherlands based founder and designer Danielle Vroeman launched her brand in 2010 and creates all her signature style by hand for a deeply personal touch, proving that beauty comes from limited resources and stripping bare all the unnecessary essentials that most would define as jewellery. Inspired by geometrical figures, modern architectures and futuristic imageries Danielle formed timeless adornments of utmost simplicity that became known as GEOM, her breakthrough silver collection inspired by platonic solids, a favoured object in geometry.

Here I sought to find out more about the person behind the brilliant label, her inspirations, the concept behind her GEOM collection and future goals for her jewellery label.

1. What inspired you to become a jewellery designer? At what moment did you decide this was your career path?

When I visited the Art Academy I studied at, before attending it, I immediately was interested in learning the skills of goldsmithing. To learn a craft and create my own pieces what something I was eager to learn.

2. Your jewellery is inspired by geometry, what is your personal story regarding this theme?

When I was working on my graduation project, I discovered the beauty of Islamic Art, and the use of geometrical pattern in particular. This made me wanting to know more about geometry and mathematical figures, and so I discovered the Platonic Solids, which where the inspiration for my first collection “GEOM”.

3. What is the inspiration behind your first collection GEOM?

The GEOM collection is inspired by the platonic solids discovered by Plato. There are only five platonic solids and the cubic is the best known. The solids are favorite objects in geometry because of their symmetric beauty. The silver jewellery are created using elements of these solids.

4. Describe the creative and technical stages of making your jewellery pieces. What is the hardest and most enjoyable part of the process?

The creative proces is searching for inspiration, and making a lot of drawings and tests in material. The technical stages is that I usually start with just a plate of silver or other metal, and than shape it into the form I’m looking for. The most enjoyable part for me is the first pieces where I have to search for the best way to create and make the piece. Which can also be the hardest part, if you don’t find the right solution.

5. What is your favourite jewellery piece/s at the moment from your collection. What do you wear all the time?

I always wear (simple) rings and earrings. But my favorite piece would still be the GEOM two ball ring. It’s a real statement ring, and time-less at the same time.

6. If you're not making jewellery what do you do in your spare time to unwind?

I love to travel, and a city trip in the weekends is really good to unwind and find new inspiration. But also to go out in nature for a good walk really helps, and can be good to clear the mind. And I love to go, running, watch good movies and go out for a drink (and
bite) with friends.

7. Social media is still relatively a new tool to promote brand awareness in the jewellery industry. How do you utilise this platform to your advantage? What is your favourite platform?

At the moment I do love Instagram much for spreading my designs and inspiration out there, but I also love pinterest do search for inspiration, not only for jewellery. Facebook is still also quite important, but I’m not enjoying this platform that much any more. Social media is quite important to show your designs to the world, and for people to find my work.

8. Describe the person wearing your collection.

Acreative mind, who wants to wear something that is not for sale in any store, and is conscious of what she/he is wearing, and likes the handmade aspect of jewelry.

9. Is there a jewellery designer or influential public figure you look up to the most? Do they provide inspirations in your designs?

I guess there are several designers I look up to, because they have a great style of design, are masters in goldsmithing or knows how to present themselves on social media etc. in a fun way. Things I can learn from and I admire.

10. If there is a brand or a person you could collaborate a new collection with who would it be and why?

I would love to collaborate with a cool menswear brand, of a fashion brand one day, that would be a dream. Or collaborate with creatives from other branches such as graphic design and create a accessory line or something like that. That would be great if this will happen one day, we’ll see what the future will bring.

11. 5 words to describe your jewellery.


12. What is the next step for you?

To expand my brand, learn more and how to be better about gold-smiting, and find more international stores that fit my brand, that help me to get to a bigger audience.

Rock It! Charlotte Valkeniers Geometric Square Ring

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Described as "Scandinavian with an English viewpoint", this geometric black square ring from The Conduct of the Understanding collection is modern simplicity at its finest, however the concept and symbolism is absorbingly fascinating, delving into the complexity of the human psyche and its role in conformist society. The ring symbolises an individual whose own opinionated thought process and original ideas is a preventative from fitting into any niche groups or a role in mass society. This intriguing concept is simplified by using linear and geometric shapes such as squares and circles, two shapes that will never fit together, or belong.  

Maybe this is an indicative expression of anti-mass produced and monetised commercial jewellery brands, or maybe it's telling me I am one of those individuals that doesn't fit into any niche groups in society, all because my focused interest lies in independent jewellery designs instead of something that can be easily spotted in the high street?

If that's the case then I am a square ring.


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