interview with designer justine clenquet
growing up I always dreamt of being a designer. being my own boss and selling my designs in the best stores of the world. as you get older and learn more about what kind of economy we live in, that dream tends to get a little more unrealistic year by year.
so by now even students studying fashion design at the most renowned universities are most likely dreaming of working for a big fashion house rather than creating their own brand, just because it doesn't seem doable.
I found justine clenquet over instagram this winter, and was immediately drawn to her simplistic jewellery. she is young designer from france creating beautiful things. a few months pass, and while I was in NYC this march, I suddenly saw her designs on the shop floor of opening ceremony, which is a pretty big deal for a designer. a few weeks later, back in berlin, I saw her designs in one of the best concept stores in the city; voostore. justine is expanding internationally right now and she was kind enough to give me a little bit more insight on building her brand.
B: I feel like most design students that are going to universities right now don’t even dare to dream about having their own brand. did you always think it would work out?
J: I always wanted to work in fashion creation. I didn’t want to create my own brand though, I thought I would probably work for a brand and not for myself. but I started to create some pieces during my studies and I sold them to my friends, family and some stores in paris. when I was a student I never thought I would ever be able to build a brand of my own! I’m really lucky to work for myself because right now it’s so hard to get a job in fashion design.
B: how much did studying design prepare you for the real world of fashion? would you do it all over again?
J: I studied fashion design in paris for 3 years and graduated from a applied arts school. during that time I learnt a lot about the fashion design industry (how to make clothes, how to sell them …) and at the end I specialised in fashion accessories. I had a few internships with young jewellery designers and thats’s where I realised it was what I wanted to do too.
B: what are the most important things you learned while interning? how important are internships?
J: I learnt lot of things during my internships, actually I learnt more than I did at university. how to build a business, how to make jewels, and how to sell them. those internship experiences were the most important ones to help me create my brand.
B: your designs are now being sold at some of the most renowned concept stores in the world. can you talk me through the process of deciding where you want your jewellery to be sold? did you also turn down offers?
J: I think it’s really important to know where you want to sell your designs. because that will be part of your brand’s image. I try to only sell my products in exceptional concept stores; that meant I had to refuse offers at the beginning, which was hard because you need to sell your designs. I don’t want lots of stockists, I just want them to match well with my brand’s state of mind.
B: was the plan always to go international?
J: being a french designer starting in france, I never thought it would be easier for me to sell overseas like in the states or japan. I’m based in france but it’s really hard to sell here, I don’t have lot of stockists here. it’s the same on my website; 80% if what I sell online is for international customers. In france almost all resellers want the same things; they don’t want to sell independent brands or special, more unique designs. I know the market very well and therefore know how to choose my resellers; expanding in the UK, germany, japan etc.
B: can you tell me about any specific moment where you had to pinch yourself? for me that would for sure be seeing my products being sold at opening ceremony.
J: I think you are never really fully there, it’s a long process! last year when I received an email from the OC buying office I was obviously beyond happy. selling at OC is huge. but before that I also had so many appointments with big resellers that didn’t work out. a surreal moment recently was when Lady Gaga wore my jewellery.
B: from an insider, can you reveal what you think are the biggest jewellery trends for 2016? I would also love to see your favourite piece from your current collection!
J: The biggest jewellery trend this year is still the 90’s revival of the choker. I’ve been designing chokers for over two years now so that’s great for the brand. at the moment my favourite pieces are the Nico necklace and the Sasha single earring!