Carolina Barbieri is a jewellery designer with a celebrity following. She has designed pieces for big name stars and her creations can be found at Australian stockists including Torsa and Fleur Wood.
Carolina took some time to chat with Beauty and Lace about her journey and her answers will make you want to seek out her jewellery:
What was it like growing up in both England and Italy?
I loved it! All of my schooling was done in England, and I had wonderful family and friends, but summer and holidays in Italy were just so magical. I got to spend time with my Italian family, especially my grandparents who were very dear to me. Because of this, a huge part of me feels truly Italian and this is reflective in my designing. My sister and I used to travel back and forward from a very early age and I cherished being so lucky to have the best of two worlds.
My grandfather was a real character, always making things fun for us and joking around. We’d go roller skating together, fish together, dig for clams which we’d later cook with spaghetti. My grandmother was a real lady – I’m not sure she loved the camping so much but she was the sweetest woman and would do anything for us. Their English was non-existent and we were lucky enough to learn Italian perfectly. Even now, when I visit Florence my grandmother will tell me it is like I never left and that my accent is very Florentine!
What made you decide to start designing?
I spent a lot of time rummaging through my grand parents jewellery boxes, and always loved pretty stones. I had just started living in New York in 1995 and everyone around me was doing something creative. It made me feel inspired and hungry to do something, so I set off to see what the art schools had to offer. I’d always loved designing, but I’d never thought of doing it as a career at that point.
Has it been a difficult journey?
Yes and no. It was been very difficult starting by myself, but I was lucky to have so many beautiful friends in the business who kept inspiring me. Starting out in NYC is both exciting and terrifying. There is so much excitement and fun there, but if you stop for a second you will be left behind, so it encourages you to keep going. My designs seemed to grab the attention of all the right people at the time, so in that regard I found it relatively easy, but I found it harder to ‘stay in the game’, so to speak. I was a one man show and did everything myself – all of the production, PR, accounting and business. In New York of all places you really need to stay ahead. Something from only a few month’s back can already seem ‘so last season’.
You have a long list of famous fans including Nicole Midman and Kate Moss. Who was the first celebrity to wear Carolina Barbieri?
Both Liv Tyler and Kate Moss were early supporters of mine. But would have to say Sarah Murdoch has always been favourite muse. Liv called me one day and told me to hurry up and bring some jewellery to her as she was on set for the cover shoot of a new magazine and wanted to wear my pieces. The next thing I knew they wrote an article about me, which was when things really kicked off for me.
And who would you most like to see wearing your jewellery?
I have always had the romantic idea of seeing Sofia Loren of wearing a pair of my earrings in her prime. I can picture her in an old black and white movie looking incredibly beautiful, and of course wearing my drop earrings! (Of course they’re the only things in colour).
What would you say your signature style is when it comes to your collection?
Romantic, ethereal, and feminine.
What is the process of designing a new piece of jewellery?
It is very rare to design something and then for it to materialise perfectly as was in your minds eye. So there is always a process of sampling and fine tuning that can be very tedious. First you need to design the piece – this can include sourcing stones. I have a few lovely stone brokers in New York and I’ll often speak with them about what they can get for me or which cut I could use with which stone. They will see if they can produce more and I go from there. I then source the gold and from there I set off to make the piece.
How long does it take you to make a typical design?
It depends on the piece, some can I can get right right instantly, but others bounce around in my head for years before I am happy.
Do you prefer to wear one piece or ten?
Oh definitely 10…or more. I like to layer things up. I have both necklaces and earrings where I have designed for more than one to be worn together. For example, when I wear a pair of my drop earrings I’ll often wear my thread through earrings with stones or stars in my second hold. Multiple chains hanging from the ear look so pretty.
What’s next for Carolina Barbieri?
Presently dealing with a family constantly on the move, a 2 year old boy and a 3 month old girl, so that’s pretty much me for now! I am so consumed by them, physically and emotionally that I have little time for much else at the moment, and I’m enjoying every minute immensely. I just love being a mother. The only thing is it leaves very little time for myself at the moment. I do look forward to getting back into work and creating some new designs. Hopefully you’ll see some more of me soon!
What does being a woman mean to you?
Confidence. Grace. Ever nurturing love.