New York City-based designer Cristina Gabriele of Heart & Noble exposes the intricate and graceful capacities of the utilitarian process through her concise, modernist jewelry line. Employing methods and materials native to industrial design, her innovations combine a mathematical precision with a delicate, sensitive aesthetic. Heart & Noble invigorates and compels, offering a variety of sleek, sophisticated designs for both men and women who appreciate a distinct, contemporary sensibility. This week we chat with our girl about Heart & Noble and the 2017 horizon.
How does your day start and how does it finish?
Ideally, my day starts with a 30 minute run around the neighborhood, a quick shower, 10 minutes of meditation and then music. Music really sets me up for the day. I enjoy an imaginary coffee until I have a real one (now decaf), and read the New York Times daily briefing. My days wind down less systematically, I’m either working late, spending time with friends and family or (more recently) catching a boxing class at Overthrow on Bleeker, it’s a great way to tire myself out.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Any time a client shares a story or experience with me about my designs supporting them in some way: those are undoubtedly the victories. Last year was very special too, I garnered my first really major fashion editorial with L’Officiel China in the same year I made my first magazine cover with Cosmopolitan shopping. Seeing Natalie Mendoza sporting my CROMA collection live at The Olivier Awards in London while performing with David Byrne was also a pretty significant moment; I’m a massive Talking Heads fan so that felt pretty profound. Also, being invited to Gracie Mansion by Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray during NYFW as a recognition of my work was an immense honor and very significant landmark.
What is on the horizon for 2017?
Currently, I’m preparing for my NY NOW debut in the handmade section of the gift trade show, the exhibition takes place at The Javits Center from February 4th – 7th, please feel free to drop by if find yourself in town! Otherwise, I will be focusing on my new collection which is looking to be released in September in time for NYFW. Additionally, I will be focusing on expanding my business with contemporary boutiques and museums across the world and country while exploring a handful of collaborative opportunities.
Recently I started a new collaboration, KINDRED Studios with my close friend Clint Downing of Downing Frames: http://downingframes.com. KINDRED is a creative agency and studio based out of the LIC; we most enjoy working within the arts, fashion and music communities but are also expanding into events and exhibitions. Our skills are offered as services within the space too, Clint as a photographer, and myself as an art director and stylist. Visit us at @kindredstudionyc, www.kindredstudiosnyc.com or email us at email@example.com
We sure will check it out, so what has been the hardest challenge you have had to overcome?
Running your own business, no matter what kind of business it is is a daily challenge, even more so when you are wearing both the creative and business “hats.” In jewelry and fashion, its common for young designers to get prodded about their commerciality, which for many artists is terrifying as they feel their work is being diluted. A major challenge is understanding how you as a business owner want to participate in the industry at large, and how to make your design sensibility reflect that in order to create something useful and truly viable. Some designers want to make art for a handful of people while others are interested in seeing their work distributed around the world. Both are great, it’s just important to discern which category you are interested in. Distilling work is always a challenge; the ultimate goal is to create a powerful, useful tool that can create change and make an impact while maintaining its integrity, quality, and concept.
Where would you like to see Heart and Noble within the next 5 years?
Our mission is to empower individuals through provocative designs while building confidence, encouraging play, providing support, creating connection and promoting inclusivity, while using jewelry as a tool. In five years I would like to see Heart & Noble making a real social impact with these founding pillars. Six months ago I started ACME, my women’s group that seeks to support and elevate women (both inside and outside the group) to make the changes they desire in their own lives while working together towards the changes we would like to see in the world. In time I would like to integrate ACME and Heart & Noble while exploring the potential integration of an educational segment. I would also love to see us thriving in our international distribution too.
What made you start a Contemporary jewelry brand?
I always loved jewelry and the idea of what jewelry could be, but often had trouble finding pieces that I enjoyed, pieces that really felt like me or supported my lifestyle. I was interested in exploring the impact that I felt jewelry could have on an individual and potentially what kind of impact it could create socially. I was interested in creating meaningful and relevant designs that were really supporting and pushing the individual wearing them. In the same way, we approach colour, a certain silhouette, or a print, jewelry has the ability to invigorate while allowing us to explore facets of ourselves both internally and externally, it can support and transform the way we operate and navigate the world around us which is incredibly exciting and powerful. I felt there wasn’t jewelry readily available that achieved that, so I created Heart & Noble with the mission of manifesting our core mantras: style as survival, elegance as a refusal, transforming everyday existence into a living work of art.
Which is your favourite piece of jewelry you have designed and what does it symbolise?
My favourite piece is the first ever design I created for Heart & Noble, my Cable Tie Bangle in 9CT Yellow Gold. It’s my favourite as it marks the launch of my business, it continues to challenge the way I see and discern value, it allows me to find beauty in utility and challenges the way I create and interact with objects and the responsibility I have in making them. It symbolises innovation, a sort of scrappy resourcefulness, it’s a reminder to really look and see. It also marks the wonderful relationship I have with my goldsmiths who first thought the design would never work, but were thrilled with the way it manifested. It has also become one of our most successful designs, one of our classics which is a reminder to keep it simple.
How difficult is it do you think to establish yourself within the Contemporary jewelry market?
Its certainly difficult, its an increasingly competitive and saturated market, but the good news is, its diversifying and growing! With the rise of social media and the impact that it’s making on buying and seasonality (because of its immediacy), the industry is going through a lot of changes which is making it particularly hard for emerging and independent designers. In many cases, there are enormous barriers to entry (financial and otherwise), but we are also facing a unique moment in which we all have the capacity to be self-publishers and present our designs to the world. Jewelry giants are looking to collaborate and support young designers and talents which is encouraging, but yes, the worlds of Fashion, Jewellery and Art are difficult to penetrate.
How important do you think brand PR is for a start-up?
I have always taken a DIY approach to PR as I believe you can build and nurture the right connections (for the most part) by yourself. Its easy for young brands to feel pressure about having an agency represent them, but in the early years at least, that kind of representation can be premature and often financially constraining. I prefer press to be organic, if you have created something meaningful and impactful, the press will find you! I’m not a proponent of press for the sake of press. Well written, and more importantly, the well-positioned press can be impactful, however it’s increasingly difficult to successfully gauge what the potential impact of any given article of press might actually have. Overarchingly, press has the ability to support your name and reputation while developing a sense of credibility and accessibility. Remarkable opportunities have risen out of press for Heart & Noble for which I am very grateful.
What are your top 5 tips for starting a business?
1From the beginning have a clear vision of what you want to achieve: what’s the best case scenario, what do you want to do/make happen? Of course, its ok for this to change, (it probably will) but a strong sense of direction helps.
2.Be flexible, be quick and iterate: thinking and acting like a designer will allow you to throw away whats not working and focus on what is more quickly and without beating yourself up; fail hard and fast.
3.At least on a quarterly basis ask yourself “Am I enjoying this,” “Am I on track to achieving what I want to be achieving?” Its so easy to never take a moment to realise and fully appreciate the strides you are making in your business, take a moment to really dig into those achievements and experience them. I’ve taken to quarterly activity reports to keep track and remind myself that I am doing what I want to be doing!
4.Surround yourself with bright, honest and supportive people who are smarter and more creative than you. If you can’t hire a team, build a community of individuals around you, attend business groups, take classes, find a mentor; you can’t do it all yourself.
5.Create and check in with your business model often! Many people operate under the assumption that once the business plan is written, it is complete. Your business model, like your business, is alive and constantly changing! As you refine your processes, learn more about what your client’s likes/dislikes are etc…you should be adding to and modifying your business model to reflect these changes and ideas. A designated wall with a flow chart dedicated to your business with ever-shifting post-it notes, sections etc…is a great way to play with options in real time, make new discoveries and better your business again and again.