Corina Larpin of Stefere Jewelry on how beauty drives her – and Hong Kong inspires her
Larpin left communist Romania when she was 18, and learned jewellery design from the ground up. Her creations have been worn by Elton John, Lady Gaga and Victoria Beckham. Hong Kong is her second home
“Ever since I was young, people would comment on how I needed to change my appearance. This might seem strange, but I grew up in Romania, which was a communist country that wasn’t open to outside fashion influences. It was also a place that valued people who dressed alike.
Naturally, I wasn’t happy about this. I remember tearing pages out of a German magazine and taking them to a seamstress, along with materials and references on how I wanted her to create my clothes. This was my escape.
This drove my mum crazy. She’d say, ‘Why can’t you dress like everyone? Why do you need to complicate things?’ Even if I bought something off the rack, I had to alter or modify it in some way, just to have a different style.
When I was 18, I moved out of Romania and travelled the world. This was an important time in improving my personal style. When you leave a country, you’re free to get inspiration and see beautiful things – everything that I always dreamt about as a child.
Given my hunger and thirst for beauty, I think it was a natural progression for me to become a jewellery designer at Stefere Jewelry. Stefere was started 10 years before by my now former business partner Stephanie Rehault. We worked to build a really great brand, combining all our energy, design and ideas. It was a really great mix, with her classic style and my exuberant, crazy personality. We’re still best friends, although she has since left the company to work in interior design.
Learning the technical side of jewellery for the first few years was so hard. I cannot count how many hours of sleep I sacrificed. I had to ask about everything jewellery-related from ground zero. I was really like a child who wanted to absorb everything. And I made mistakes! Thankfully, I had a really good team around me and they taught me everything. I made a lot of mistakes, but I learned from them. And even to this day, I still do. I think it’s not fun if you are too perfect.
This past year has been an incredible time for Stefere Jewelry in the US market. We recently did a big push with Saks all over the US, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami. I imagine it’s the dream of every designer to get there. For me, it means that I’ve made it. For a big company like Saks to like my designs, especially given that I’m not a big designer, it’s a dream come true.
I really think life is about connection. If you love a place, the place will love you back. I don’t know why, but I have a really strong connection to the US. It’s the American Dream, maybe. I was also really lucky. I worked hard, for sure, but I was also really lucky to meet the right people at the right moment.
During our time, a few celebrity clients have bought into our brand, like Victoria Beckham and Lady Gaga. That said, our very first one was Elton John, who wore our champagne bottle necklace, and that was very flattering for us. But for me, all of my clients are celebrities. They buy and believe in my products, so I have to treat them like a celebrity.
Although my son and my husband are both based in Geneva, we decided to set up an office here seven years ago. Initially, we just envisioned having the office here be a small base, but this city has become so important. And I get more energy and creativity here in Hong Kong than in Geneva. We still have the Geneva base because of my son, Alexander – we believe the lifestyle there is more suitable for a child
My family and I now make a game out of where we will travel to next. We have a list of our next destinations. The next place I’d like to go is Cuba, because I dream of seeing the architecture, and experience in real life what I’ve only observed through magazines.
My goal in life is to keep enjoying what I’m doing – that’s the most important thing. I don’t want to become a huge company. OK, I would like to, but as long as I can keep my freedom, have time to live life and also spend time with my family. Because if I lose time for myself, that’s how I lose my creativity and I don’t want that.”
As told to Daniel Kong