Three rising jewellery creators, from three corners of the globe, bring a distinctive flair to their studios.
Feng.J nurtures extraordinary blooms from the haute joaillerie capital; Nghi Nguyen’s darkly urban eye speaks to fearless women in New York and beyond; and Bea Bongiasca applies a youthful Italian creativity to Asian pop culture.
Feng.J is a young master who is reviving European craftsmanship via a grand tour of the Orient. China-born, the 32-year-old jeweller has been commuting between Paris and Shanghai since she founded her brand in France in 2016. She had chosen Paris for its jewellery heritage and uses a chief craftsman of long standing, steps from Place Vendôme.
Though the foundations of Feng.J’s jewels are evidently European, her Chinese aesthetics are always at play, seen in her love of carved jade along with her homeland’s art and culture. There is even a court painter in her family line and she believes “rubies, sapphires and emeralds are all paints on a palette”. Feng.J enjoys using gemstone hues and chroma tones to emphasise the dimensions of her dramatic titanium structures as well as light and shade. She adds: “My pieces look like contemporary dimensional collages.”
Asked which women enjoy her work, she quickly responds: “Elegant yet daring”.
Another unique concept is the asymmetrical pair of Le Cygny earrings. The choice of pastel blue/lavender Ethiopian opal is used to summon a serene scene she observed on her regular walks along the River Seine in her adopted city, where the admirer of Impressionism saw a glinting wave and some swans idling on the water. It forms part of a parure that includes a brooch with a swan motif.
Bea Bongiasca is also a jewellery designer who has benefited from a fine art perspective accrued in London, in her case Central Saint Martins, where she undertook a BA in jewellery design.
“My approach is very conceptual because, to me, the ideas are what make a piece unique as well as reflect your identity and interests as a designer,” explains the 27-year-old Milan-based Bongiasca.
She admires Briton Solange Azagury-Partridge, while back in her home territory she looks to Giampiero Bodino’s body of work. And it is in a small factory on the Adriatic coast of Italy that her pieces are completed, by an avant-garde craftsman she has chosen for his contemporary techniques and with whom she is currently exploring enamel applications.
Yet, her work is also permeated with nods to East Asia – the keen traveller, especially travel that involves eating, has been visiting China, Japan and South Korea since she was a teenager and her studio is full of souvenirs. Her mother also has an office in Shanghai. Her Floricultural collection looks to hanakotoba, the Japanese language of flowers, while her inaugural line had a staple food theme.
“I see my jewellery as a mélange between the East and West,” Bongiasca says. “My first collection in 2014, No Rice, No Life, explored what is considered a treasure in different cultures: rice is one of the most important resources in Eastern culture and a symbol of life; silver grains of rice were then placed alongside pearls, which in Western countries have historically been synonymous with status.”
You’re So Vine!, Bongiasca’s latest collection, was unveiled during the VicenzaOro January fair. It features coloured enamel vines wrapped around cocktail rings and earrings. You can view her jewellery at 10 Corso Como in Shanghai, Beijing and Seoul, as well as Dong Liang (Shanghai). Visit her e-shop too, where you will also find her latest stockists in Europe and America.
In 2015, Bongiasca won the first “Young Business Award – Believing in the Future” for the Jewellery category announced by Fondazione Altagamma, a body for high-end Italian creative companies, recognised globally as ambassadors of Italian style. The annual event promotes upcoming Italian creative talents. She has
also shown at Art Basel – Miami Beach.
NN by Nghi is a call to arms for the leaders of the next wave of feminism, with its futuristic, other-worldly jewellery destined for bold women. Its founder, Nghi Nguyen, also creates for men, with music industry identities fans of his hardy designs. He has just shipped out pieces for Lenny Kravitz’s new tour and urban jazz harmonicist Frédéric Yonnet is constantly seen in a favourite ring by Nguyen.
The 43-year-old, Brooklyn-based Vietnamese-Australian started his jewellery brand five years ago after working in costume design in the film and music video business, including stints in Tokyo. He also designed for Alexis Bittar before striking out on his own.
He attests to the new approach to wearing jewellery among his female clientele. “It’s exciting to see more and more women ready to lead and take charge, and want jewels and accessories that empower them,” Nguyen says. He enjoys making his pieces himself but as his work becomes more complicated he does work with selected craftsman to realise certain projects. His unusual materials, like the ruthenium used in his Wings of Desire mask, are responsible for the sci-fi edge to his ideas. “Reading about science and technology really inspires me to be innovative,” Nguyen says. “I collect materials and objects during my travels, and I like unexpected materials that spark ideas.”
One recent discovery was a raw type of agarwood called ky nam in Vietnamese. It is a rare, organically shaped dark wood that has a soft, animalistic fragrance when worn against the skin, and that is also believed to be healing, so in a sense, a real “wonder wood”.
Strong women who inspire Nguyen’s work include Tina Chow, Grace Jones, Tilda Swinton and Zoe Kravitz. He has made accessories for Peaches, who later gave Iggy Pop his leather cuffs to wear in her video. He says New York’s local music scene is where he sees fashion, music and art at play, and at interview looked forward to the Red Bull Music Festival in May.
Apart from on his site, NN by Nghi is also at LA’s Church Boutique.