New York–Hollie Bonneville Barden has had the kind of wunderkind success story that you don’t typically encounter in the jewelry industry.
Upon graduating from Central Saint Martins in London, the British designer fell into a freelance gig for De Beers LV that eventually led to her becoming the company’s youngest-ever creative director.
This year, Bonneville Barden quite literally expanded her horizons, when she accepted the position of creative director at John Hardy, a move which has re-located her to New York and Bali. Not bad for a young designer who just celebrated her 30th birthday.
We sat down with the rising jewelry star to see what she has in store for the iconic brand.
National Jeweler: Your first collection for John Hardy won’t be until fall 2017. What do you anticipate the year leading up to the first collection will be like and how will you go about immersing yourself in the DNA of the brand?
Hollie Bonneville Barden: I joined in April so I’m really working on fall ‘17 now, though I feel like it’s going to come around very quickly. I took a trip to Bali and it was all about immersing myself in the brand. As soon as I joined, one of the key objectives was to start getting under the skin of John Hardy and to immerse myself in the archives, meet the incredible people behind the brand. There are so many people who contribute to the jewelry-making and have been with the brand for so long, so that’s been an amazing experience to get their perspective and really dive into the different collections so I understand the essence of those collections as I start to work into them for fall.
NJ: Is there a particular collection you gravitate toward the most, or that inspires you the most?
HBB: I’m working across all of the collections. I’m really inspired by each of the aesthetics. If I had to pick, Bamboo has this kind of bold strength to it. It’s so iconic to John Hardy and also just the fact that when you buy a piece of bamboo jewelry, you know that you are giving back. With each piece that’s bought, bamboo is re-planted. So there’s that sustainable luxury aspect.
“It’s really about respecting and not about reinventing.”
Then there’s all of the chain work. I’m wearing the Modern Chain right now. It’s so fluid, you kind of have to wear it to appreciate it. It’s just that feeling of a second skin almost. It has a bold, amazing femininity to it. It has that kind of grace and elegance with strength and I think that’s so iconic to John Hardy, so that’s kind of an aesthetic I’m carrying forward as I continue.
NJ: Were you very familiar with the brand before you joined their team?
HBB: I was introduced to John Hardy a few years ago and it was an amazing learning experience for me because the more I understood about the brand, the more I fell in love with it. The whole connection to Bali is so unique, and the balance between New York and Bali. I think that there’s no other brand like it. It really sort of symbolizes that authenticity to traditional craftsmanship, but at the same time it’s a forward-thinking, contemporary brand. And I think that it’s that kind of balance that I fell in love with.
NJ: How has your transition been moving to New York?
HBB: It’s been a whirlwind. It’s been amazing, just kind of very much immersing myself in the brand but at the same time moving to New York and all of the things that go along with that. It’s really exciting to be here with all of the energy, all of the creativity.
“John Hardy is so much about discovery.”
NJ: How much time will you spend in Bali and how much in New York?
HBB: I work with the design team, who are all based in Bali, so it’s intrinsic for me to be both here at the head office, but then very well connected to Asia, so it’s going to be kind of 50/50. I will be very much connected to the Bali team and it’s just about finding that balance. I feel very blessed to have that access to the soul of the brand really; it’s where everything began and it’s really the home of the brand still to this day.
NJ: Having worked with another large jewelry brand and now working at John Hardy, how do you balance maintaining the aesthetic and heritage of a house with bringing in your own creativity?
HBB: I think that whenever you work with a brand as iconic as John Hardy, for me it’s about retaining that beauty and the soul and the essence of what the brand’s identity is, while bringing a fresh perspective. I’ll bring my personality and my touch and my interpretation of the brand but I think it’s really about respecting and not about reinventing. It’s about revisiting and diving deeper into the archives to fully extract this wonderful kind of creativity that’s been going on since 1975. There’s a lot there.
NJ: A lot has been made of your age. Do you feel that you connect with millennials or have a capability of bringing in a younger customer?
HBB: John Hardy has an amazing following of fans and we want to continue to inspire them around the brand and bring newness to what they know, but at the same time encourage new people to discover it. John Hardy is so much about discovery. I think it’s really about honoring the John Hardy look and appealing to the customer that’s already there, while also recruiting a new younger client.
“I love the stones that have a kind of fascination of light and an allure to them… something which captures that raw energy of earth.”
NJ: What ideas do you have for the brand?
HBB: It’s so exciting right now, I’m really researching in every direction, so I’m just taking that all under my skin but I hope that I can bring out a lot of that sort of exotic side of the brand: the color, the stones. I think there’s a great opportunity for material innovation for the brand, juxtaposing gold and unusual materials.
NJ: What are your favorite stones and materials?
HBB: I’m doing a lot of research on stones right now. It’s eye opening for me because I came from more of a diamond-oriented background and now I’m going more into gems and all of the materials in Bali, the petrified woods that you get, things like that that are just away from the gems altogether. I love the stones that have a kind of fascination of light and an allure to them. I’m looking at a lot of moonstones and star sapphires, things that have an ignited feel, opals, things that have that kind of fire and light in them, something which captures that raw energy of earth.
“Jewelry harnesses this amazing quality of not only being sculptural and artistic and beautiful but also sentimental.”
NJ: What brought you to jewelry design originally?
HBB: I always loved art. I knew I was going to go to art school and I didn’t know it would be jewelry design that I would develop myself in, but certainly from a very young age I was inspired by my grandmother and all the jewelry that she used to share with me. I realized that jewelry harnesses this amazing quality of not only being sculptural and artistic and beautiful but also sentimental. It’s a storyteller and I think that it’s that balance that inspired me toward jewelry design.
When I was studying originally at art school, I was introduced to this amazing tutor who kind of inspired me toward going into the workshop and just getting my hands dirty and that dynamic of the workshop environment was something completely new to me.
NJ: What are you most looking forward to at John Hardy?
HBB: I’m most looking forward to just having this rich brand at my fingertips. It’s something so new to me, having all of this archive to continually re-explore, the connection to Bali and understanding the sort of authenticity of the brand there. I’m looking forward to bringing my perspective on all of that and reinspiring people around the brand.