We caught up with Irish jewellery designer Chupi to get the lowdown on how she started her mega successful brand and what her day looks like
How did you start designing jewellery?
I was the kid covered with glitter & glue, the one making some new crazy things out of papier mâché, I never thought I’d end up making beautiful sparkly jewellery as my career. Aged 17 I sold my very first piece, vintage Levi’s turned into a gorgeous bag, lined with bright pink satin and adorned with a rose. When I was 21 I was scouted by Topshop from my first year in college, the youngest designer to ever to work with the brand. I went from scruffy student to serious designer overnight and I loved it. After six years in fast fashion I wanted to create something that would last, to celebrate Ireland’s design heritage and my love for wild beauty. I’ve always been fascinated by jewellery, how good jewellery, serious jewellery marks a moment, an event, a time in your life. I fell in love with sparkly things; every piece I make has a story, it’s where the magic is.
Did you always want to design jewellery?
When my grandmother died, she left me a beautiful necklace and I asked myself the same question, what would I leave? I’ve always been fascinated by jewellery, good jewellery, serious jewellery marks a moment, an event, a time in your life. Today so much of what we buy is disposable, want a new dress? Grab it, wear it, bin it. I was 27 designing for Topshop when I discovered I wanted to create heritage.
The first piece I ever made was my signature swan feather, I tried to carve the details using traditional silversmithing and it was then I realised I wasn’t a jeweller, I’m a designer. I’m irresistibly drawn to wild things, to flawed natural beauty. I now use a technique developed by the Ancient Egyptians to make an exact version of a swan feather, or a twig, or an acorn. Every piece I make has a story, that’s what makes people connect with my jewellery and what I create. It’s where the magic is.
What did you study in college?
I studied Fashion Design in Sallynoggin, in Dublin. It was a wonderful course as the classes were so tiny we really got the best out of our tutors. Another amazing thing about college is it’s so self directed you really get as much out of it as you put in.
What was your first big break?
In a funny way I don’t believe in big breaks. I’m a big believer in hard work paying off. It can take years to find what your niche is but when you do you will rock it. Being happy in what you do everyday. The saying is true, when you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I’m irresistibly drawn to wild and natural things and my aesthetic is hugely influenced by the imperfect natural beauty of feathers, twigs and leaves complemented by the sparkliest of gemstones. Our signature piece is the ‘I Can Fly’ Swan Feather Ring cast in solid sterling silver and plated in 18k gold from a delicate swan feather found along the banks of Dublin’s Royal Canal and this represents so much of what we do. We create a delicate jewellery collection made for your inner magpie that tells a story and marks a special moment.
What are the challenges of owning your own business?
There are so many challenges to owning your own business but I feel so lucky to be able to run my own company. As I said before when you love what you do you never work a day so I feel very privileged to be in the position to do what I love everyday. That said the one challenge I constantly face is not taking enough time off, it can be hard to shut off your computer at night but it is super important to take enough time off and look after yourself.
Was there any steep learning curves along the way?
The steepest learning curve I have faced is on my first day in Topshop when we completely sold out of my dresses and had nothing left to sell. Needless to say this was a mistake that I never repeated and I am now super careful about stock levels, nerdy as that is!
Looking back, would you have done anything differently?
Looking back I’ve made lots of mistakes along the way but I think that these were really necessary as I learnt from all of these. So no, there is nothing I would do differently!
What’s your favourite bit about your job?
Being surrounded by all the gorgeous sparkly things of course! I love working with gold and the sparkliest of gems. I’ve recently finished my new line of engagement and wedding bands and it’s been so amazing to see my designs in solid gold set off with the most precious of stones, a dream come true.
Do you have plans to ever design more clothes again?
Absolutely none, jewellery has my heart! It makes me so happy creating pieces that mean something to someone. We recently made one of our Twice as Strong Together rings in solid gold for a lovely man who was using it to propose. It makes me so happy to think one of our pieces marked such a special moment in someone’s life.
What’s been your proudest moment so far?
One of my proudest moments was this summer when we were showing in New York. We were driving into the city from the airport and seeing the Manhattan skyline really brought into perspective what a great year it has been, and how far we have come.
What ambitions do you still have left to achieve?
Oh my, There are so many things that I still want to achieve. I’m currently trying to find the time to write a second cookbook. The great thing about this is even though I’m struggling to find the time to write it, I’m finding loads of time to taste test all the amazing food.
Where do you see the business moving within the next few years?
Everything we produce is designed and made in Ireland within an hour of our studio in Dublin and this is very important to us. Yesterday we shipped pieces to London, Tokyo and Peru so we’re hoping the future sees us continuing to grow all over the world. We already send over 40% of what we make all over the world so the future is really exciting.
Check out the beautiful collections here