Each of Zuzana's Rings Has a Personal Story. Some of Them Range At 60 Thousand And Some AreEven Worn by Hailey Bieber (Interview)
"When the order from Hailey came in, I almost fell out of my chair," reveals the Slovak jeweler Zuzana Spustova, currently nominated for the National Design Award.
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"Jewelry is more durable compared to fashion, which is much faster and most people don't have such strong and emotional relationship with clothing as they do jewelry. That people often buy for life. It is associated with various family and love stories, important events, but also tragedies, " reveals Zuzana.
Zuzana Spustová is a Slovak jeweler who lives and designs in Norway, manufactures in Italy and has customers practically all over the world. She is currently nominated for the National Design Award 2021 with her successful collection in collaboration with the world-famous Arket brand.
It sold out almost immediately after release. "I did not expect such success. And I don't think Arket expected it either, " she reveals in an interview. Zuzana and I also talked about how top model Hailey Bieber bought 11,000 euros worth of rings from her, about the rebranding of her brand, collaborating with world-famous names and what jewelry means to her.
- What coincidence in Paris had brought her to become a jeweler.
- How did the well-known fashion brand Arket approach her for a collaboration.
- What was her reaction when Hailey Bieber ordered a set of rings from her.
- What was the post-order communication with Hailey like and how it affected her.
- What is the most expensive jewelry she sells to private clients.
- What jewelry means to her.
- Why she rebranded after six years
You are currently nominated for the National Design Award 2021 with your jewelry collection. How did you react when you found out?
I was very happy. It was never my goal, since I don't have a design background, but it's a great acknowledgement. Although I live in Norway, I am proud to be Slovak and I was very pleasantly surprised by the nomination for the National Design Award.
You are nominated with a collection for the world-famous Arket brand, which belongs to the H&M group. How did this collaboration come about?In 2017, I launched the Mon Premier Diamant jewelry collection in collaboration with the luxury French children's clothing brand Bonpoint, which has been sold in several countries around the world.
At the time, the creative director of the Finnish fashion brand Marimekko congratulated me on the collection. She bought rings from me and told me that we could come up with something together. We stayed in touch and later she became the director of ready-to-wear at Arket. I visited her in Sweden and that's where the first negotiations on cooperation with Arket started.
Arket allegedly did not experience such an interest for a while. They knew I had my audience, and I was aware of it as well. But we had no idea what its scope was.
So she approached you?
Exactly. We kept in touch through Instagram about our creative projects and then it kind of just happened very organically.
The collection reportedly sold out within one evening. Did you expect such success?The most popular pieces were gone in one evening. The whole collection was sold out in the following days. And no, I didn't expect such success. I don't think Arket expected that either.
Did they tell you that?
Yes, that was their feedback, basically. Because I'm not such a well-known designer on a global scale. Apparently they haven't experienced such an interest for a long time. They knew I had my audience, and I was aware of it as well. But we had no idea what its scope was. Because after all, my jewelry is not available to everyone.
However, this was the first larger collection for a more massive audience with affordable prices, and women who like my work responded to it. The interest was so huge that Arket had to stock up on the collection once more after it was sold out.
Your inspiration for the collection was crumpled paper. Is there any deeper meaning? In Swedish, Arket means paper, and the symbolism of this is a new beginning, which clean paper is all about. Since it is a relatively new brand and they have no archive, I decided to bounce off their name itself. And for me personally, it was also a new beginning, because I've never done anything like this before.
During the creative process, I did my research on paper for a while, through origami or other types of paper art. I went in all kinds of different directions. Then one day I was sitting at a table writing something on a piece of paper. I didn't like it, so I crumpled it and threw it in the trash. At that moment, I realized what an organic shape the crumpled paper has, unlike origami, which is rather figurative. I ran to the kitchen, pulled out the aluminum foil and started working with it. I knew I was on the right track.
I usually work with 18-carat gold and diamonds and in that case, I am very limited by the material. The collection for Arket was created from cheaper materials, which gave me the opportunity to be more creative.
I was intrigued with the affordable pricing of the collection. Yet, the design is still sophisticated and products are of high quality. What inspired you to opt for such lower price tags than is usual for you?Arket is a brand with a wide audience, so they worked with cheaper materials than what's standard for me. As a result, prices were, of course, lower. Honestly, I was drawn towards it. I usually work with 18-carat gold and diamonds and in that case, I am very limited by the material.
But making brass pieces for Arket, I was able to make bigger jewelry and be more creative. So this change fit me well. Designers worldwide usually do this the same way, and it's great to relax at some point and try something new.
What is the most expensive piece of jewelry you sold? And what did it consist of?My jewelry ranges in price from 350 euros to the most expensive piece for 12.000, which is currently for sale. But I also make unique custom jewelry for private clients. These are my most expensive orders, but I do not communicate this on social networks either, because it is always a unique piece of jewelry with a special approach specially for the client. The prices there are higher already.
So how much did the most expensive piece cost a private client?
Once I had an order for 60,000 euros.
Did it come from a celebrity?
No, a private client.
The emotional realm of jewelry means a lot to me. I love to hear stories from customers that relate to their jewelry.
I understand. You once said that whoever buys a Trinity ring from Tiffany or Love from Cartier will always get something extra. What is that "extra" with your jewelry? Like the above mentioned fashion houses, we also try to pay great attention not only to the product itself, but also to its presentation, packaging and details. We produce packaging in Slovakia and it is mostly done with sort of a bookbindig method, hand-made, with a wax seal. Each piece is unique and packaged individually. This "extra" is also a personal approach to the customer and exclusivity in a way that each piece of jewelry is produced only after the customer orders it.
What does jewelry mean to you?
It impresses me that the jewelry and especially the so-called fine jewelry is often tied to a personal story, emotion or event. That emotional realm means a lot to me. When I have a new client, I learn about what jewelry she wears, what it means to her, on what occasion she acquired it. They usually get emotional and tell me something personal. I really like to listen to those stories that relate to jewelry.
It's probably even more durable compared to fashion and clothing.
Exactly, it is much faster and most people do not have such strong and emotional a relationship to clothing as to the jewelry. People often buy jewelry for life. And it is often associated with various family stories, love stories, events, but also tragedies.
You have also collaborated with the well-known Russian model Natalia Vodianova with your own brand Neva Oslo. At that time, you approached her as a beginning brand. How did you get her involved?I started making baby jewelry and my husband teased me that even though it's nice to sell baby jewelry for hundreds of euros, but some kids don't even have their own bed. I told him I didn't want to do charity. But that just threw me off. I have always admired Natalia Vodianova very much, not only as a model, but also as a mother and because of her charitable activities. Therefore, I wanted to support her Naked Heart Foundation, and decided to donate some of the money from each bracelet sold to her.
In 2014, I found out that she runs a marathon in Paris, and if you want to run it with her, you have to raise some money. So I went to France to see her, we met, and then I showed her my brand and told her about my intention to contribute from each piece sold. She appreciated my effort and liked my idea. That's how it all started and since then I go to her events regularly.
After working with Arket, I became so confident that I was able to create under my own name. I've never considered it before.
Speaking of Paris, you got the idea to start a brand right there years ago, coincidentally. How did this happen?After the birth of my second son, I had pre- and postpartum depression, which manifested itself in the fact that I couldn't sleep and it was quite serious. I think it was related to the burnout in corporate life at the time. When Johann was about six months old, we went on a trip to Paris, and by complete coincidence I talked to the mother of a little girl in a shop with a gold children's bracelet.
I said to myself that I would like to buy something like that for my son. I visited all sorts of shops and jewelry brands in Paris and I couldn't find anything satisfactory. That was the beginning of the idea to establish my own jewelry brand for children. Later I approached the graphic designer Mikina Dimunová and she liked my idea, so she helped me with the design manual of the brand. That impulse in Paris was like a silent call for me to go for it.
In the summer, you went through a rebranding and after 6 years, your brand's name was changed to your last name - Spustova. How did this occur?When I started with the brand, I named it Neva because it was the name I wanted to give my daughter. Since I had boys and due to my health problems I was not recommended to have another child, it was clear to me that I would not have a daughter. But then, thanks to Neva, I got out of my health problems and in 2019 I got pregnant with my current daughter. We gave her the Japanese name Sakura, because she was conceived in Japan.
The name Neva somehow stopped making sense to me. And the fact that Arket wanted to make the collection under my own name was another thing on top of that. A new brand identity was necessary. After working with Arket, I became so confident that I was able to create under my own name. I've never considered it before.
The first response from Hailey Bieber's order was completely unadulterated joy. I almost fell out of my chair. I woke up my husband and children with my midnight screaming.
You live and design in Norway, your production is in Italy, and your headquarters is in Slovakia. Why?
I started the company in Slovakia, because at that time we did not know whether we would stay in Oslo. And most of the clientele was located in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, so it was easier that way. But since Norway is not in the European Union, the company has already been relocated, as it was quite challenging to deal with and manage remotely. And during the pandemic, when it was impossible to travel, it was all the more difficult.
On your Instagram, you recently published a photo of the world-famous top model Hailey Bieber, who had your jewelry on her hands. What was your first reaction?
At the time, I was working on rebranding in a summer house in Norway by the sea. It was about midnight, the husband and children were already asleep. It was then that I noticed that a new order signed with Hailey Bieber had arrived in the web shop. I knew it was her. I had this confirmed because on Instagram, Hailey follows a Norwegian influencer living in London. I work with her and she wears my jewelry. It was Hailey who asked her where she got the jewelry from and what brand it was. Subsequently, the order arrived.
The first reaction was unadulterated joy. At that moment, I jumped out of my chair and started screaming and dancing. I immediately woke up my husband, which the children also woke up to, because I was screaming and they were frightened by what was happening (laughter). We went to sleep and in the morning we played Justin Bieber's Peaches and enjoyed it together.
What did she buy from you?
Finger rings from my Audace collection. Four pieces to be exact. Many customers like to buy whole sets from me and buy more rings for one finger instead of one ring. Hailey also took a picture with my jewelry on one finger.
How much did she order for?
Approximately 11,000 euros.
Did you try to get in touch and thank her?
Her email address was included in the order, so I've thanked her, of course. She wrote that she really liked my work and that she was already looking forward for her rings to come. After the delivery, she wrote that the rings are beautiful and that she also likes the new pieces that I post on Instagram. It was very nice. I was very surprised that a celebrity of this format has such a polite approach and also supports smaller brands like mine. After all, she is a person who has access to the largest and most prestigious fashion brands, so I am all the more pleased that she chose me.
My brand has launched into new circles, especially among Scandinavian influencers and actors. The market there is opening up to me more and more.
In the post, you wrote that Hailey made your day, but also improved your overall journey as a jeweler. What does this mean for you as a designer?
You know, it's not easy to start your own jewelry brand and work on it every day alongside your family and children. There's a lot of hard work, sacrifice and travel behind my success. I often had doubts as to whether it was all worth it. But moments like the one with Hailey or other successes, working with familiar names and brands confirm to me that I'm doing well and that it all makes sense.
What other famous celebrities shopped for your products?
I have been on the market for quite some time now and I'm very lucky that I'm also quite well known in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Maybe not for the general public, rather in those fashion circles and among celebrities. My jewelry is worn by many well-known Czechs and Slovaks. And thanks to the cooperation with Arket, my brand has launched into new circles, especially among Scandinavian influencers and actors. The market there is opening up to me more and more.
What are your plans for the future and what else would you like to achieve in your craft?
The brand is currently being rebranded, and we are finalizing a new web shop, which I'm very much looking forward to. In 2022, we would also like to open a studio and showroom in Oslo, designed by a Swedish architect. Clients will be able to see my jewelry in live and physically try it out before buying.
And I was also waiting for a moment when I would be at least a little better known to be able to talk publicly about things that are very important to me, such as mental health issues, depression, anxiety or burnout, with which I have personal experience with. In the future, in addition to creative directing of the brand, I'd like to address these issues and help remove the taboo around topics related to mental health.
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