New Zealand jewellery designer Cathy Pope has been making handcrafted, ethicall -manufactured gemstone jewellery for years. Her new campaign, Real Women, Real Words, features Cathy Pope customers in twenty portraits and interviews. MiNDFOOD STYLE caught up with Cathy to discuss the meaning behind the campaign.
Your campaign is all about celebrating real women. Why is authenticity important to you and your brand?
Authenticity is so important because I feel an obligation to my customers to represent who they are, as well as make my imagery relatable and inspiring.
You use real women who are customers of Cathy Pope Jewellery, as opposed to models. How did you select the women for the campaign?
I use a combination of real women and professional models throughout the year. I choose professional models for brand campaigns for new collections, as the imagery has a wider and more commercial value. I use real-life women who are authentic wearers of the jewellery for more editorial type shoots throughout the year, and these are women who I know as friends mainly. They have to have that special something, though, and I guess in my 20 years of experience as a costume designer and stylist I have a pretty good eye at casting the right type of person. There’s usually a certain cheekiness, twinkle in their eye, sparkly personality and ease with themselves that transfers well in photos – it’s intangible but I know it when I see it.
As well as photographing the women, your campaign shares their personal stories. What was the inspiration for including their stories as well as their images?
I really wanted the portraits of the women to sit next to their own words, almost as if the images are speaking. I asked them questions that I was interested in hearing the answers to. They were quite personal and it was up to each woman how deep they went – luckily for me they went quite deep and were incredibly honest, which made for sombre and happy answers.
The concept of authenticity and “realness” applies to your jewellery itself. You make ethical, limited edition jewellery instead of using mass production methods. What inspired you to take this path?
It all started with what I prefer to wear as a woman myself. I prefer jewellery that isn’t mass produced because I like having a certain individuality about my style. I also like wearing and working with natural gemstones which are created from the earth and I make many pieces in New Zealand as well as manufacturing in a small, ethical factory that I visit each year in India. I could mass produce in China if I wanted to, but I would lose a lot of creative control, have manufacturing headaches, issues with quality and would lose overall control and trust in my processes. I’m happier with things as they are. I’m still able to grow as a small business and maintain the values that are so important to me.
You talk about connecting with other people through jewellery. Do you think this concept applies in a broader sense to fashion? How are fashion and jewellery influencing factors in people’s relationships and experiences?
I guess at the end of the day you’re most likely to connect with customers who enjoy your fashion and jewellery than anyone else. I feel that jewellery has more meaning and sentimentality than clothing, especially if it’s not cheap and throwaway. Clothing is more finite as it’s mostly dictated by fashion and trends. It will eventually physically perish, but jewellery has longevity which enables a more intimate relationship that lasts longer and perhaps evokes more feelings and memories.
Do you have a favourite piece from the collection?
My current favourite new pieces are the bright agate earrings in the StoneStruck collection. They’re such a bold statement and I love that there’s more gemstone than metal. They’re light and easy to wear and always turn heads.
The new collection contains a number of statement pieces. What was the driving factor behind this?
When I saw these gemstones last year I just fell in love with the patterns and bright colours, and designing very simple settings around them seemed like the perfect frame. Simple, elegant and bold – all the things I love in jewellery design.
Your jewellery is completely designed in New Zealand. Do you connect the local to the authentic? Does being 100% NZ-designed make your jewellery the perfect fit for these women because in a sense it is also “real”?
My jewellery is designed for the modern women in mind, and she’s an international woman. I imagine that the New Zealand women I spend most of my time with are my first point of reference, but my designs are also aspirational and researched so exposure to international designs has some influence.
Visit Cathy Pope’s website to view her jewellery.