BA (Hons) Fashion Jewellery x Swarovski Innovator Award 2022
How can designers affect meaningful change? This is one of the key questions posed by the 2022 Swarovski Innovator Award, challenging BA (Hons) Fashion Jewellery students to interrogate their values and consider their position as responsible designers.
The brief, written by Nabil El Nayal, encouraged students to seek out the unexpected; using methods and materials that feel novel and exciting, while celebrating the craftsmanship of Swarovski crystals. Alongside this, students were tasked to focus on subjects surrounding the climate change emergency, social responsibility, inclusivity and diversity, political issues, and race and equality.
Rawnie Whittow-Williams – LCF Alumna and Swarovski Sustainability Manager
Jessica Saunders – Interim Associate Dean and Programme Director for Fashion
Dr Nabil El Nayal – Course Leader, MA Fashion Design Technology: Womenswear
Chu-Hui Lin – Inconvertible Promise
Brogan McDonagh – Relic Reminiscence
Jiawen Wang – The Nature of Jewellery
Julia Yang – Body as a Canvas for Nature
Junru Erin Xie – Balloon Companion
Yawen Luo – 2.5 dimension
We spoke with this year’s winner, Chu-Hui Lin, to find out about her experience in the competition, the inspiration behind Inconvertible Promise, and her values as a designer.
Interview with Winner – Chu-Hui Lin
Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your design practice?
I'm Chu-Hui Lin, you can also call me Mary. I'm from Taiwan. I did fine art before studying jewellery and design.
Congratulations on winning this year’s award. Could you describe your final outcome, and tell us about the themes and design choices you made?
Yeah sure, so the Swarovski design is like an extension of my graduate collection, which is about grieving. It was inspired by an interview with my best friend. She described to me how it felt to lose her mum and loved ones, and this also fit the Five Stages of Grief model. In my Final Major Project, I used the five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – visualising these different feelings with paper and metal, and explored how I could make someone feel the emotions through jewellery and wearables.
The Swarovski project extended from the stage of anger, describing what it’s like when you feel something is unfair and you don't know where these emotions are going or who you can talk to. The inspiration was from notes on the fridge, a simple promise like “let's go to buy milk next week”, a To Do List, a shopping list and then maybe a little goal for the year – “go to my graduation together”, “go to Disney”, “go to grandpa's house” etc. Then I crumble one of the notes to let it feel like the anger, and the words at the back say the promise cannot become true anymore.
The reason I chose paper was also because it’s from my grandma's religion, which is a mixture of Chinese Buddhism, Taoism, and several local traditions. The belief is that when your loved one or family passes away, you will have some sort of paper and you burn it. This means that you can communicate to the other world to express you're missing the family and the loved one. That's why the Swarovski piece uses paper to express the collection and hold the Swarovski crystals.
Thank you for sharing that. You mentioned that it was an extension of your Final Major Project. How did you find the development process for this particular award?
My original design was a chunky bangle with a hinge that could open and close. For that one I wrote a letter to say that I'm missing my auntie and then tore it up into strips, crumbling it to express my anger.
I used this idea of crumbled paper as inspiration for the Swarovski piece because I felt that it was the strongest among the collection. So, I changed the form to something more understandable like sticky notes on the fridge, and then crumbled it and used the crumbles to create some edges to make the stones set.
Swarovski crystal are really interesting – though they're all black they look super different. Each shape and reflection has a different emotion.
What does this award mean to you? Why is it an important achievement?
I will be honest – maybe three or four years ago before I joined in this course, I always wanted this award because I heard about it from previous students and I felt like this was an interesting and really challenging competition.
Then when I was actually doing it, it was the most challenging experience ever, because I faced a lot of problems that I never really faced before – like how to combine ideas with stones, how to set it, how to express the piece in a more commercial way to fit different audiences.
It not only challenged my making skills, but I also had to try to condense what I learned in the past three years into one piece and presentation. So, I think it is really meaningful for me because it feels like a small piece but it contains the three years – what I've learned before, during and after the pandemic. I feel like this award really encouraged me, because from the pandemic I was really like lost and I didn't really know if I was doing the right thing or if my piece was good enough, but from what the jury taught me I feel encouraged to continue to be a jewellery designer.
What would you say are some of your values as a jewellery designer? What is important to you within your work?
I researched into slow fashion, sustainable materials, and how to let a piece be emotionally connected to the audience so that it makes the item no longer just a piece of jewellery – instead it becomes really valuable, to be kept forever and cherished. That's why I think my pieces are often connected with people, emotions or memories.
You mentioned about the challenges you had to face and overcome through this experience. In what other ways has the competition impacted your creative journey as a designer?
I think the Swarovski competition briefing, guest talk and the advice from my tutor, made me think more about design and how to present a whole collection well. How to fit my designs into the requirements and combine them together, use professional tech, and present my work to people who are not necessarily jewellery designers, but they can look at my piece and see where my ideas came from, the process and professionalism in the details.
That’s great. Okay, last question – what advice do you have for the next round of students who are going to enter the competition?
I will say be confident in yourself, because that's what I was lacking. I wasn’t really sure if the jury would like my work – every year the styles and techniques are different. I have to say I really wasn’t confident about what I made. I think all my classmates and the finalists did a really good job.
For next year’s students I will say you have to enjoy what you're doing and believe in what you've done. Make the best of the course and the competition – maybe you can build connections with the people and have future collaborations or opportunities.
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