She spearheaded the pearl's renaissance, defined a new contemporary fine jewellery category with her avant-garde approach, and now Sophie Bille Brahe has introduced the traditionally feminine materials coral, turquoise and pink diamonds to her directional oeuvre.
Three years ago the Royal College of Art graduate founded her eponymous label in Copenhagen and expressly found cult status within destination retailers the world over including Dover Street Market and Colette. 'I feel now as though it is almost like starting again,' Brahe says over lunch at London's DSM. 'I have to rethink now because I don't have the luxury of being new. I have to be professional in another way. It actually feels like a beginning again right now.'
Brahe is clearly in the mood for contemplation. Her fast success has afforded her the space to reassess her wins and to redefine where she wants to take her brand going forward. 'I'm really ambitious,' she continues. 'Not in the sense that I push people down the stairs: I'm ambitious at doing my best. So many people have been supporting me so I feel like I have to perform.'
Her latest collection 'Ciel de Tanabata' topples that bar, distilling her familiar sculptural lines, spiral shapes and unexpected way of interacting with the body, with a new experimentation with semi-precious materials and a pastel palette.
'I was asked if I wanted to work with the finest Argyle pink diamonds,' she explains of her softer touch. 'Using pink in my universe… I had to use it in a way that made sense to me. I was travelling a lot in Japan and they have the annual Star Festival where they celebrate two lovers [Orihime and Hikoboshi] that somehow made the god of the heavens [Orihime's father] super angry. To punish them he put them on each side of the Milky Way,' she says. 'They could only see the stars and look at each other, and once a year they could cross it and be together.' The Milky Way quickly became a focus for her collection. 'Two diamonds as the stars, almost like a yin yang symbol,' she continues. 'From there I found some Japanese pink coral that I fell in love with. The coral for me was something that I had an association with. Like the pearls that I started with - they needed a new life.'
But beauty aside, sustainability remained a prime confirm for Brahe: 'I have documents from the Danish government, because it is really important to make sure that these materials are OK to use. Otherwise it would be horrible.'
Brahe began her path into the jewellery fold as early as 14 when she trained with a goldsmith while she was still at school in Denmark. 'If you have a craft, you know you have something to rely on if your talent doesn't work,' she smiles. 'So when I finished high school I wanted to find an apprenticeship, but it is really hard so I also applied for schools in London. I got an apprenticeship at the same time that I got into school. I chose the boring apprenticeship way, which was four and half years, and nothing creative, but for me, it was really important to learn the craft. So when I finished I did my masters in London.'
Brahe now works on her collections from a space in Copenhagen that acts as her workshop, studio and office. 'It's in the very old centre of Copenhagen,' she explains, 'It is actually in a building where people come everyday to have a look because it is so old.' This collection's spiral shapes are an example of her skill in the workshop: 'It is like intuition, working with wire, thinking of an end and a beginning and a beginning and an end; like the snail shape. For me, being a goldsmith is both fun and difficult to do.'
So how does she feel about the way her designs (and the Croissant earrings especially) have been appropriated around the world? 'I see it as a complement,' she says, 'I only find it difficult in Denmark, when people that are close to me that do crazy rip-offs.' (This season her Croissants have been re-imagined in sweet-like pink baubles, so what this space.)
'At one point I was doing chain and completely stopped because there was chain everywhere,' she continues. 'I know an old Danish artist who has mentored me from when I was young. She always said, "Sophie you always have to remember. It is 5 percent talent and the rest is work." I really believe in this. If you work and work and work, and if something doesn't work, keep on doing it and maybe something else might pop up.'