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Brand To Know: A Compelling Case of Pared Down Jewellery

By Guan Tan

Inspired by the simplicities of nature, the Moonshell and Shooting Star collections in 16k gold.
 
Pham Quang Tung. Styled by Felicia Yap
Inspired by the simplicities of nature, the Moonshell and Shooting Star collections in 16k gold.

“I’ve always been the little girl seated at the sewing machine, making curtains and things around the house,” designer Julie Kim reminisces. A fashion turned jewellery designer, Julie spent 15 years as a fashion director, overseeing clothing design. She turns 38 this year, but it seems as though her entire life has led her to this very moment, for she has only just begun.

Julie grew up in Seoul, worked in Madrid for the most part, and now resides in Helsinki with her 8-month old baby and husband. After discovering the eloquence of jewellery, she left her job as a fashion designer, and joined the American house of Carolina Herrera as the head of design, jewellery department. In her tenure, she saw sales figures increase by eight times. “I had no sufferings designing jewellery,” Julie spoke of her affinity with the craft.

“But after I left, I was burnt out and at my limit,” and Julie went on a sabbatical alone to find herself again. Working for a brand, it was necessary that she surrendered herself to another’s vision. Julie travelled across South-East Asia and Europe before she finally returned to her own.

It was in the most crowded places that Julie saw herself the clearest, “I’ve lived and worked in almost 15 cities…All the cultures and places I’ve been to, made me realise knowing myself was the most important.” As she stripped her identity down to its bare minimum, Julie was unknowingly creating a language in jewellery for herself – pared back to a single-most pure, and compelling idea.

“It’s the beauty of a woman,” she drops. While the fashion landscape has been about colourful, flamboyant, statement jewellery pieces, Julie begs to differ, “I think what you have in yourself is the most beautiful. You don’t have to shout, ‘Look! I’m here!’”

Photograph by Pham Quang Tung. Styled by Felicia YapArtful curves on a Crescent ring; a thin rhodium-plated bracelet punctuated with a pearl and pavé-setted star from the Shooting Star collection.
Artful curves on a Crescent ring; a thin rhodium-plated bracelet punctuated with a pearl and pavé-setted star from the Shooting Star collection.

Julie’s almost two year-old jewellery label is appropriately named Arium (Korean for beauty) Collection. Her design process riffs on the individuality of women. Each piece captures the quietude of the Finnish lifestyle, is delicate to sight, and is the product of arduous phases of research and development.

“I do care a lot about allergies. I cannot wear non-gold and non-silver jewellery, so I only use nickel and lead-free brass. Then I have to find out the appropriate thickness of gold and rhodium plating,” for when a necklace is heavy, it might cause neck and headaches. Julie continues, “For two weeks, I wear [the prototypes] to test the weight, quality, then find a best possible fit of materials.”

After which, Julie passes on the baton to her elder sister, Lauren who resides in Singapore. Lauren runs the second stage of prototype tests specifically in Singapore, for its intense humidity poses a huge problem to jewellery. 

“In Carolina Herrera I oversaw an overhaul of all materials of products. We changed all the materials, and found that nowhere had a problem but in Singapore. We used to say, ‘If you can make jewellery survive in Singapore, it can survive anywhere!’”

Photograph by Pham Quang Tung. Styled by Felicia YapA thin, tubular rose gold strip gently crowns the face.
A thin, tubular rose gold strip gently crowns the face.

Arium Collection manufactures 95% of their jewellery in South Korea, and the remaining 5% in Greece and China. They have since received distribution requests from the US, Australia, Indonesia, and Thailand. But true to herself, Julie's turned them down to zero in on perfecting her business model.

Julie told us that she does not seek to make showpieces that belongs to the display window, but rather make pieces that are only completed when worn.

“I think my wearers can understand my intentions. The people whom we wanted to have, they came.”
 

Arium Collection is available at Takashimaya, and here.