Hong Kong’s Fairtrade Jeweller
Nathalie Melville – CSM BA (Hons) Jewellery Design, 2004
Jewellery designer and founder of ethical brand Melville Fine Jewellery, Nathalie is Hong Kong’s only Fairtrade precious metals license holder after establishing the company in 2010 on the principals of unconventional design and sustainable sourcing. Previous to this, Nathalie gained vast experience working at major international brands such as Tiffany, Follie Follie and Shanghai Tang.
When not creating one-off magical pieces of sparkly joy for her private clients, Nathalie, as Creative Director of Hatton Studios, teaches the art of fine jewellery making and design, from silversmithery and goldsmithery to product concept, design and development. Hatton Studios also provides much needed bench and workshop space for local designers.
As Hatton Studios looks to move out to a larger space and Melville prepares to launch its ready to wear range, the UAL Alumni Relations team caught a word with a very busy Nathalie.
What was the most valuable thing CSM/UAL taught you?
Don’t be afraid of your dreams. The determination my time at CSM gave me has been core to my development, that and being surrounded by the most creative and talented people – it’s a motivator and a half!
What is your favourite memory from your time at UAL?
So many – from the mayhem and all nighters preparing for the degree show to too many nights at the local pub discussing the latest crit results!
If pushed for my stand out memory I would say it was actually my interview. I had had unconditional offers from all my other course applications and came into the interview feeling nervous but slightly full of myself! I was pulled apart and challenged for the duration of that interview that I almost came out crying. However, it made me realize that that is what I needed. Being at CSM was not going to be easy, I would be challenged and stretched to my limit and beyond, but would be a better designer – and person – because of it. On that basis I accepted the offer and every amazing memory after that came from that moment of knowing I needed to be pushed to be the best I could be.
What was the most important thing you did after graduation?
Went on holiday – I was exhausted!
In professional terms, gaining experience – and perspective – in established companies. From bigger brands to master craftsmen workshops, the knowledge aside, it was important to feel like a small fish in a giant pond. It gave me a real sense of drive as I saw, first hand, the hard work needed to make a business successful.
What made you ditch the big brands and start your own?
I always wanted to start on my own. I learnt a huge amount through my time with the bigger brands, so much invaluable experience, but my own creative vision was the end goal from day one.
What do you love most about your job?
It doesn’t feel like a job! Obviously there are some days that are more work like than others, but on the whole it is a joy coming into work. The creative freedom, working with my hands in such a traditional way and meeting such a variety of people – both in the trade and as clients.
What piece of work are you most fond of? (is there a picture?)…ours is the “Lynn”
Ooh, all of them! Tough question.
I am with you on the Lynn – I love that piece. However, my current favourite, (and trust me it changes often), is the Kit sapphire ring, with a yellow gold and ruby wedding band that interlocks. I love colour and the client was an artist herself so the brief was really creative.
I also have a couple of pieces from my upcoming collection I know I will have to have – but they’re under wraps for the moment… Needless to say they’ll be colourful!
How come you now live in Hong Kong?
My husband and I moved over in 2010 following both of us closing our previous businesses after the financial crash. We restructured our individual businesses and used the experience to build stronger foundations.
What’s been your proudest moment?
Not giving up when the first company I started was crushed by the financial crisis. I had just taken the step into the international trade shows when the luxury market bottomed out and I had to fold. It was heartbreaking at the time, but it made more resilient. Not allowing the situation to overwhelm me was my proudest moment – in hindsight. It didn’t feel like it at the time.
I feel I now have a clearer focus, a stronger vision and greater appreciation for my work.
What’s next for you?
Melville Fine Jewellery is launching it’s first, full, ready to wear collection. Bespoke work will always be a core part of the brand, but it is important we have pieces that define our style available outside of the commission only arena.
Hatton Studios is expanding into significantly larger premises. We currently have a space that is shared between the independent designer-makers who rent benches under the co-working banner, and the academy. The new space will be under one roof, but with defined areas, allowing us to take on more students, as well as offer more space and a more sophisticated work environment for the co-working community.
Hong Kong is a difficult place to get set up in if you are a bench based jeweller. Finding small scale resources and affordable space was impossible when I first arrived so, having done it for myself I wanted to create a platform that offered it to others. We have both professionally trained jewellers, as well as those who have come through the Hatton Studio training. Our goal is to establish ourselves as THE home for contemporary jewellers.
What are you passionate about?
Creativity, traditional craftsmanship and sustainability. Creativity as it is the corner stone in life, not just in work. Without it we would stagnate – as human beings.
Traditional craftsmanship permeates the jewellery industry. Being based in Asia manufacturing is everywhere. People assume this rules out the traditional elements, when actually it means the opposite. (A jewellery factory, no matter what the scale it operates on still needs traditionally skilled jewellers – alongside the mechanized elements of the making process). As a bench based goldsmith I love working with metal directly, as it has a life of it’s own and can take you in directions you may not see when solely working on paper.
Sustainability is essential, yet sadly sidelined all to often. I am lucky enough to be able to pursue my passions. Those involved in my supply chain that that do not have the same choice rely on myself, and those in my position, to speak up for them.
What inspires you?
Anything and everything! Life is inspiring, from the sights and sounds of everyday life, to more richly exotic and exceptional experiences.
Each piece I create is for a different person, so I cannot repeat inspiration. The joy of working with private clients is that it is always different. Maybe it is that variety and difference that inspires me!