Moderniser challenges old guard
Mattia Cielo's jewellery pieces are unlike the conventional ones your mother wears. His have futuristic shapes and colours, such as the Armadillo ring that can fold up or a gold coiled cuff that looks like a snake wrapped around one's arm. The pieces are for a modern, sophisticated woman who is always on the go and appreciates the arts.
On a recent visit to Hong Kong, Cielo presented his latest pieces that are carried by Masterpiece by King Fook at a suite in the Mandarin Oriental. In his mid-30s, the Italian designer is keen to make a statement about jewellery today and tomorrow.
'The world has so many jewellery companies, so why not one more? They are mostly run by financial people, so they are creating mass luxury, but mass is not luxury,' he explains in his Italian-accented English.
His observation of today's designer brands becoming an oxymoron only drives high-end consumers to find even more exclusive pieces, which is where Cielo comes in.
'I want to create something special for a few clients. From a design point of view, it's not just about the price. First, it's about design and, second, it's the material. I merge architecture with jewellery design. It's a different style from traditional studios. We're young and energetic,' he says.
Cielo wants to make jewellery for this century. 'We are a global generation and I want to make jewellery that represents our generation. Movement and innovation is in our jewellery. The jewellery we see now is mostly stiff - we are making modern designs that are soft, warm and alive,' he says.
'The old-school designs are from the 18th century. Even modern d?cor is 100 years old. Those jewellery houses with a long heritage cannot dare too much. We're not about age, we want society to be alive, to see the future.'
Cielo founded the company in 2006 after working for several years in his father Sergio's jewellery firm Cielo Venezia 1270. He and his friend, artist-designer Massimiliano Bonoli, joined forces to revolutionise jewellery through Mattia Cielo.
Bonoli is described on the company's website as a 'true architect of jewellery', applying industrial design to jewellery and modifying production processes to overcome their limits.
As a result, the creative pair have turned their backs on the past and instead conceived jewellery pieces for today and the future. Cielo's namesake brand is being recognised internationally for his forward thinking combined with the latest technology in jewellery making.
Bonoli was named Italian Jewellery Designer of the Year at the UK Jewellery Awards in July for his Ghiaccio (ice), Iguana and Pavone (peacock) collections.
'In the application of industrial design to jewellery, I aim to modify the production processes to go beyond the limits set by traditional techniques,' Bonoli says.
'In the Ghiaccio collection, we have used titanium to combine eccentric shapes with the comfort of lightness, while Pavone and Iguana have the softness to melt into the body and wrap around it like a glove.' Bonoli also received the Couture Design Award at the Couture International in Las Vegas in June, also for the Ghiaccio collection.
'I want to give the material its value,' Cielo says. 'Titanium is very light. You use the material for what it can give you. A jeweller is like an architect - we respect the material and physics [physical limitations]. You can make wearable shapes out of titanium but you cannot seal them together.' This explains the gold coiled snake-like arm cuff.
The Dew collection, which also uses titanium, features rings, bracelets and necklaces in pink and white gold coils dotted with diamonds. They were presented at BaselWorld 2011 and, since then, about 75 per cent of Cielo's customers have placed orders for this collection.
Cielo sees today's style moving away from geographical styles, such as France with the Rococo style and Germany with Bauhaus. 'This generation is globalised. Young and old don't care what others say. They say what they want to say.'
He illustrates the effects of globalisation from his own experiences. 'I get inspiration everywhere and that inspiration becomes the essence of the line. When I was a kid, I read Japanese manga and watched American movies but was raised in Italy.'
This philosophy is channelled in his designs. 'Modern design is straight and more simplified. For example, this [Armadillo] ring opens up into a semi-circle but can fold up. It's like an armadillo and some call it the Sydney Opera House. We try to find timeless shapes or designs.'
The brand releases one or two collections per year, each collection featuring 20 pieces with prices starting at about HK$30,000 for a ring. He also takes existing styles and tailors them to clients' requests in terms of colouring and finishing.
In September, Mattia Cielo opened his flagship store on the famed Via Montenapoleone in Milan. With many accolades this year and with footholds in New York, Germany, Dubai and Hong Kong, Mattia Cielo is well on its way to becoming a global driving force.