Eddie Borgo’s relationship with stylists is a significant one. Before transitioning into jewellery, the young designer worked as a styling assistant, and shortly before launching his own collection, he was creating custom editorial pieces for industry’s top stylists. It wasn’t a surprise that the line was an instant editorial hit. The new Spring 2013 collection is inspired by one of Borgo’s styling heroes, Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele, whose armloads of accessories helped define the supermodel era and brought costume jewellery back in the high fashion mix. Big, bold, and gold, Eddie Borgo takes us back to a time when, for many of us, fashion was first discovered. I met up with the star designer himself during his visit to Holt Renfrew in Vancouver.
Tell me about your Spring/Summer 2013 collection.
I started to look at all these different editorials from the ’80s and ’90s and how significant jewellery was at that time. It was significant in fashion as a status symbol. It was more than just jewellery. Carlyne Cerf kind of paved the way for that type of association with [costume] jewellery and the luxury market. We looked all of Carlyne’s different editorials and started identifying all of the different silhouettes that she used at that time, whether it would be the large cuffs, really big earrings, or the cylindrical shapes. We decided to do this whole collection in gold.
Do you remember this era growing up?
Yes, absolutely. I remember all of the editorials. I remember thinking and associating these photographs with luxury. This signified fashion to me. I think it does for a lot of people.
Who was your favourite supermodel?
That’s a good question. I think Linda Evangelista. She was such a chameleon.
Growing up and looking at these images, were you always interested in jewellery?
Not specifically in jewellery. I remember my mother collecting jewellery and it was always around me in my life. And in some weird way I’ve always tied jewellery back to fashion. I think that jewellery is so specific because it’s so personal and it really gives you an idea of someone’s taste. Throughout history, you can identify a moment in history by looking at someone’s jewellery. You can look at somebody like Sid Vicious wearing a padlock around his neck and that means something really specific to a lot of people. It symbolizes a movement in time; it symbolized a cultural movement that’s undeniable.
You started with the cone shape. What is it about the shape that attracted you?
It’s become an identifying piece of the collection. It was interesting how early on [that shape] could symbolize so many different things to different demographics and different people. Some people would look at that bracelet and it’s very clean, geometric, and classic. We have an association with cones and pyramids, back to punk culture. It kind of bridges the line between high and low. The brand really translates to many different demographics.
Speaking of demographics, are you looking to dabble in fine jewellery?
We are starting to. The whole collection is produced in the United States. We manufacture the jewellery in fine jewellery workshops. Every single piece that we produce is unique to our collection. It’s all handmade and done in the same way fine jewellery is done. Inevitably the next step for us would be to do fine jewellery.
It might be a sensitive question, but your work has been knocked off by a few fast fashion brands. How do you feel about that?
They say copying is the highest form of flattery in fashion, and I understand that. I also feel that we are a young business and from the outside, brands tend to seem bigger than they actually are. We are a very small unit: there are less than fifteen of us and we are in less than 2,000 square feet. It bites into my creative budget for next season, because if my core competency isn’t selling, I don’t have the budget to create new collections.
Your brand is only four years old, but what advice would you give to young designers starting out?Don’t have many expectations. All you need to know starting out is that you’ve got to work really, really hard. Stay humble, no matter what happens, no matter how great someone tells you that you are, or what stores you are selling to. It’s the most important thing. I’ve seen designers create these bubbles around their egos and they become different people. It’s really scary to watch. And the minute that happens, their brand starts to decline. I feel like you’ve got to really concentrate on what your goals are, go after them, don’t take yourself too seriously, and work really hard.<
Stick to your guns. We developed this instantly recognizable aesthetic—so the press says—and we stuck to it. We didn’t say, “that person is doing that, so we should try that too.” We just kept communicating the same message to our customer, and that way she can walk into a store, point to a case and say “oh, look what Eddie Borgo is doing now,” without even seeing the name.