A true designer at her core, Australian jewelry mogul Sarina Suriano is changing the game, one jewel at a time. Her innovative pieces are lusted after by a worldwide audience and celebrated by celebrities, top bloggers and stylists alike. The designer spoke to Welum about her journey, creative process and brand new collection.
After completing her degree in Industrial Design at the University of Technology Sydney, Suriano gained international experience working in Milan, designing products for Alessi, Fisher-Price, Barbie, Mattel, Olivetti, Swatch and Telecom Italia. After four years, her creative spark yearned for a change. So Suriano decided to follow the long-lost advice of her high school art teacher and began working for cult jeweler Erickson Beamon. Based in London, she began focusing on merging her technical skill set with her love of fashion and design. In 2001, Suriano returned to Australia and launched her eponymous jewelry label. Within three years, she was approached to present a collection at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia, becoming the first ever Australian jewelry designer to stage an individual show.
Today, her pieces are very much reflective of the era of modernity in which we live. A pioneer of new ways to wear jewelry, Suriano single-handedly started the ear-cuff trend. She continues to push the boundaries of innovative design with her palm cuffs (an elegant alternative to wrist wear) and chic body armour for the contemporary woman. Inspired by art, culture, architecture, fashion, texture, nature and materials, Suriano designs jewelry for the woman “who isn’t afraid to stand out in a crowd” and who knows the value of well-made, unique works of craftsmanship.
Her creative process is, like her designs, quite technical. With fresh ideas penned onto whatever she can find in those moments of ingenuity, Suriano then pins these snippets together on a board until she is ready to sit down and sketch a full collection. She says, “My mind is like a photographic catalogue of colour, shapes, styles, lengths, materials – it’s sometimes months of thinking and observing my little world, whilst I am working on other projects”. Once a collection is fully sketched, scale paper models are made out of card stock and the design is then transferred into a digital state using computer software. “These working engineering drawings are very detailed with lots of solid lines, dotted lines, centerlines, arrows and numbers everywhere. I’m very passionate about fully itemized manufacturing drawings,” Suriano states.
In the digital age, Suriano now utilizes 3D rapid prototyping to produce models of each design in Australia. The designs are then finalized and sent to manufacturers for production of the final samples. Suriano informed me that offshore manufacturing is a hot topic among the Australian fashion community, with some claiming that designers who do so are “cop-outs”. However, Suriano has proven that even business-savvy designers can struggle to cost-effectively manufacture their products in Australia for a number of reasons.
“For many years - at least ten, we produced all Sarina Suriano collections in-house. We made the sample, the salesman samples, and the production. It was a hard slog as you can imagine, and things started changing rapidly. Smaller skilled expert finishers were retiring or closing down due to financial strain or not enough interest in pursuing a career in that given industry. Skilled mould-makers in all materials are virtually non-existent, as are high quality electroplaters and specialty jewelry-makers”.
Regarding her decision to begin offshore manufacturing, Suriano addresses the difficulties of creating a successful label in Australia in the current market. “With the rising costs of labour in Australia, (we are one of the highest paid peoples in the world) and the growth of internet shopping, Australian designers and their products [are] for the first time accessible by the entire world, which mean[s] our prices [need] to be on par with international designers or our products would be priced out of the market”.
“It was no longer financially competitive for me to produce in Australia, but most importantly, on a quality and safety issue, when you export overseas, there are several standards we need to ensure are met, and this was not possible in Australia. So six and a half years ago, I made the difficult decision to shift production offshore… It has not been “easy” or a “cop out”, in fact it’s very, very difficult as we can’t just drive to our supplier, view the samples, comment and be back in the studio at the end of the day. However, up to 80% of the work is carried out here in Australia. All of the design is completed in-house from inspiration, mood board creation, sketching to concept to fully dimensioned working drawings and 3D samples”.
In light of these challenging aspects of carrying out a business from a continent that is often disconnected with the rest of the world, Suriano has still managed to carve out an unequivocal presence in the international market. Her latest collection exudes timeless femininity. Sphera, the Latin word for the spherical shape of planets, is a tribute “to the eternal beauty, mystery and power of the moon, the sun, the stars and the galaxies”.
“With its focus on striking sculptural metal spheres, the Sphera collection is crafted from solid brass, plated in 18K Gold and genuine rhodium with subtle pavè crystal detailing - spectacular core pieces that are bold, modern and effortlessly elegant. Deep black onyx, calling to mind the power of an eclipse, is contrasted with glimmering gold; creamy white agate, shimmering with the glow of misty moonlight, is paired with lustrous rhodium; and the delicate pavè detailing glitters like the stars in an inky night sky. Glossy pearls cascade from the ears, cluster around the fingers and are entwined around the wrist and neck, showcasing the pure simplicity of pearls and their beautiful lustre. Layered with the collection’s foundation pieces, they add gravitas but equally have a timeless elegance that makes them stunning standalone pieces”.
“Set against luxe metals, each style makes a dramatic statement, demanding to be noticed whilst retaining the quintessential femininity & understated elegance that remains the Sarina Suriano signature”. It’s safe to say that this collection is her best yet, but Suriano has no intention of taking a break. “I am working on the new collection as we speak. The thing about Sarina Suriano is that each season we offer newness - new designs, new shapes, new colours, just new. I’ve always worked like that…But I am learning to also keep in classic styles that my customers love and also come back to. I love experimenting with materials, and combining them together to create an interesting luxe piece, so stay tuned for colour and my favorite material plastic fantastic!”
Shop the Sphera collection now at: http://sarinasuriano.com/collections/sphera-core