Sparkling, Erté-inspired fantasies come to life in the coveted designs of Italian Australian Jewellery designer, Sarina Suriano. Her cutting edge jewellery has sartorially inclined hearts-a-flutter worldwide, gracing the pages of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Grazia and the ears of celebs, bloggers and models on and off the catwalk. We first came across Sarina’s work while working in fashion, where her groundbreaking 2004 Fashion Week is still used as a reference point today and adorns many a stylist’s moodboard. 

We talk career, the hunger for sparkle and creating a beautiful life with this stalwart Italian Australian designer (and trust us, she knows beautiful)!

Your background is in industrial design – what drew you to make the leap and start designing your own jewellery label?

I was always interested in art & design from a very young age.  I made clothes, shoes, bags and of course jewellery and accessories for mother, my friends and myself.  However upon completing school, I was tossing up between studying Architecture or Industrial Design, and in the end I chose Industrial Design.  My art teacher was horrified and I remember her to this day saying to me, “Sarina, please, you must choose something more feminine and creative.  I see you more suited to fashion”.

Pieces from the 2014 collection, Floris. Styling by Marianne Malafosse.

I was always interested in the technical aspect of design – how products work from the inside, how they are assembled & manufactured, so Industrial Design was a perfect choice for me and I was excited about designing consumer products.

After graduating with a degree in Industrial Design, from The University of Technology, Sydney, I moved to Milan where I designed products for Alessi, Fischer Price, Barbie, Mattel, Olivetti, Swatch and Telecom Italia.  After 4 years, a little deflated with the look of Italian factories, their conservative males, and thanks to my Art teacher, I listened to my heart.  I was craving a little more sparkle, and so I moved to London in 1999. There I merged my technical skills with my love of fashion and, before long, I began working with cult jewellers Erickson Beamon. I have never looked back.

Many people say to me, wow, Industrial Design is very different to jewelry.  It is and it isn’t…  I am still designing products; I just design more desirable & beautiful products instead of washing machines, stereos and electronics.

If you had to describe your signature style in 3 words they would be…

Stunning, unique & extravagant…inspirational I hope… (laughs) sorry that’s four words!

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Do you think growing up in Sydney has had an influence on your aesthetic?

I live in Sydney Australia, and I am first generation Italian Australian. My parents are Italian, most of my relatives still live in Italy and my heritage is a big part of who I am. I have lived and worked in Italy and I speak, read and write in Italian.  However I also am very Australian.  I love that Australia is really a mixing pot of so many cultures living together in a modern and new country.

I love the tradition and drama of my Italian side and it is this side that influences my attention to detail, craftsmanship, design and the perfectionist in me… My Italian father would always say “What, you got 97% in your exam… what happened to the other 3 marks?” (laughs) And of course my Australian side will always push in and say, “Yes Sarina!  I know tradition is great, but throw away the rules and lets inject some modern too”!  So with this in mind, my Italian Australian heritage pushes me to design beautiful pieces of jewellery, in a modern way.  My Australian side will always try to reinvent the way I want women to wear jewelry, and for me, that is a great challenge.

My Italian father would always say “What, you got 97% in your exam… what happened to the other 3 marks?”

Obviously you’ve had some impressive career highs, with your work featured in flagship magazines, worn by some of the most recognisable celebrity faces and  having collaborated with some of the biggest names in the biz (Swarovski, Paspaley Pearls and L’Oreal to name a few). Tell us about your biggest “pinch yourself” moment to date?

That would have to be showing my All Jazzed Up Couture jewellery collection at MBFWA in 2004.  It took me such a long time to convince the panel that a jewellery show was something that the Fashion Industry would love to see.  They just didn’t understand why I would want to showcase an earring on the runway.  They didn’t know that what I was intending to show was a whole lot more than just an earring…Rather a group of gorgeous Josephine Baker-esque girls clad in nothing but body jewellery on the bare skin  -as jewellery is meant to be worn.  After the show, the buzz backstage was incredible.  To be known as– the first jewellery designer in history to be offered an individual show was a “pinch myself” moment as were the reviews –“her designs were hailed as unique, extravagant, inspirational and, in the words of one writer: “goosebump-inducing fashion moments.”   The next day I locked myself in my studio, exhausted!

From the vault: the iconic 2004 Australian Fashion week collection, All Jazzed Up

From the vault: the iconic 2004 Australian Fashion week collection, All Jazzed Up

Tell us a bit about what you’re working on right now.

I am working on a small jewellery capsule for a show at Fashion Week  – Cooper Street.  The collection is called CS Edit X Sarina Suriano.  I am also working on some jewels for the Logies for the gorgeous Anna Bamford, A new collection, my website re-launch… It never stops.

From the Kirrily Jonson X Cooper Street X Sarina Suriano capsule collection, 2015

From the Kirrily Jonson X Cooper Street X Sarina Suriano capsule collection for MBFWA 2015

How would you describe your home style ­ creatively messy or minimal zen etc?
I hate clutter.  When I have clutter around me it usually means I am stressed and have lots that I’m thinking about.  I wouldn’t say I am super minimal as I love design, detailing and interesting little tokens picked up from travels, shopping, my childrens’ drawings hang on the walls. My husband is a stone mason, so we have marble everything – tables, kitchen, dining table… That’s our minimal along with our love for 20th century furniture.

I am in the middle of re-organising our home as our kids are past the toddler stage, so we can bring back the gorgeous Alvar Aalto glass vases, our marble coffee table, candles… and I’d love to somehow display my jewellery works in some glass artbox frames.

Who is one artist (or person) you always fall back on for inspiration?
I absolutely love Art Deco.  It was such a flamboyant & decadent era full of exceptional detailing.  So anything Art Deco will captivate my heart everytime be it jewellery, fashion, Architecture.  I love the illustrations of Erté. He is always such an inspiration to me.

Russian-born French artist and designer known by the pseudonym Erté.

Russian-born French artist and designer known by the pseudonym Erté. Often known as the father of Art Deco

What is your favourite flower and why?
Of course I love Dahlias.  The intricate detailing is so delicate yet so robust.  You just can’t beat the detailing in nature can you.  And they remind me of my mother’s garden growing up as a child.  And they are so hot right now too!

Of course I love Dahlias.  The intricate detailing is so delicate yet so robust.  You just can’t beat the detailing in nature can you.

 

Pieces from the 2014 collection, Floris. Styling by Marianne Malafosse.

Where is your favourite spot to pick up something beautiful for your home or creative space?
I love 20th Century furniture so I would have to say Space Furniture.

If you find yourself with an unexpected spare hour to spend on yourself, what is your favourite thing to do?
I rarely get to sit down or lie on the lounge.  My mind is always thinking of work, the kids, dinner, new jeans I need… the usual.  So if I am rewarded the luxury of an hour to myself, I usually sit in the sun to soak up the Vitamin D and revive!

Tell us what a beautiful life means to you?

A beautiful life to me means having honest & genuine people in my life.  That is paramount for me…and a happy and healthy family of course.

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Sarina’s new, botanical inspired collection LUSTRUM is now available online.

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About the Author:

Philomena is the founder of Bloombox Co, occasional hatmaker and pickle aficionado. She lives in Melbourne where she works to get locally grown flowers into homes and businesses.