It’s the powerful, emotional connection that women have with accessories that prompted Eddie Borgo to start designing jewellery. “My mother and grandmother were both avid jewellery collectors,” says the New York-based accessories designer. “Women have such an intense connection with jewellery – they are so symbolic for them, in many ways.”
Launched in 2008, Borgo’s eponymous label garnered an instant following and industry accolades, including the CFDA Swarovski Award for Innovation in Accessories Design in 2011. His sculptural jewellery, with a clean, architectural feel and hand-finished hardware, combines geometric shapes with modern finesse, achieving an instantly recognisable aesthetic that many young jewellers strive for. “I think of jewellery as a miniature form of sculpture,” he says. “When I look at jewellery or handbags, there is a structure to them that’s very different from what you can achieve in garment construction.”
Borgo brings that same sculptural approach, infused with memories of the immaculate pieces the women in his family wore, to his handbags, which launched a year ago. “When we launched the handbags, I was remembering the ones that my grandmother would carry that were from the 1950s or 1960s," he recalls. "The construction was brilliant and the hardware was exquisitely done."
Eddie Borgo's Dean Mini Doctor bags from the autumn/winter 2016 collection
For his autumn/winter 2016 collection, the designer features new styles, including the Pepper Mini Pochette and the Dean Mini Doctor, with the classic structure of the bags from his grandmother’s days but with an undeniably 21st century feel including sleek, metal finishes and minimal detail. We sat down with Borgo during his recent trip to London and talked about his childhood in the American south, his mentor, and the emotive power of jewellery.
Q: How did you get into jewellery design?
A: I grew up with a mother and a grandmother who were avid collectors of jewellery and they had such an emotional connection to them. Women often pass down pieces of jewellery and they become heirlooms. They’re also gifted from lovers, boyfriends, girlfriends – each purchase is symbolising something in their life, a specific moment in time, whether it’s a romantic weekend away or a trip to an exotic place they never thought they’d end up in.
At school, my focus turned to art history [Borgo studied art history at Hunter College in New York] – specifically, the history of adornment and how you can differentiate cultures and periods in time by identifying adornment. That triggered a new fascination for me. When I first started making jewellery, I made one-off pieces for editors. I apprenticed for different metalsmiths and learnt the trade after school.
Q: And when you started the label, you had a great mentor, right?
A: Yes. I had a mentorship with a woman named Maureen Chiquet, who was the former CEO of Chanel. Maureen lent her expertise in figuring out how to put together an open-to-buy plan and introduced us to different sales people. She was one of the first people years ago to really bring up social media in a way I understood. I’m a rather private person, so the idea of social media horrified me at first. [He now has almost 50k followers on Instagram].
Jewellery from Eddie Borgo's autumn/winter 2016 collection
Q: What do you love most about jewellery?
A: I love that it’s so personal. I was out to dinner here in London the other night with a woman who had the most beautiful signet ring on – it was inlaid in amber. I asked her about it and her entire mood shifted – she lit up and told me this whole story about how she found it and the moment she identified it. It’s just wonderful that these little objects have this amazing power to evoke emotion.
Q: What was it like growing up in Atlanta, Georgia? It must have been very different from where you are based now, in New York.
A: If you are a creative person, growing up in an environment where you are detached from the thing that interests you, whether it’s modern art, or architecture. The idea of living in a large city, can be tough. When I was a child, Atlanta was a smaller city but now it’s quite cosmopolitan – they say it’s the New York of the South.
The moodboard for Eddie Borgo's autumn/winter 2016 jewellery collection
Q: After receiving such great praise for your accessories line, how did you approach designing handbags?
A: I think with both my jewellery and handbags, I’m looking at history – I love historical references. When you look at vintage bags, they are really well constructed and you can tell right away. I asked my mother for photographs of the bags my grandmother used to carry and I did vintage research and started looking at those constructions. We have lined each of the bags in moiré, which you see a lot in pocket books from the 1950s and 1960s.
Q: Do you have plans to venture on to other categories?
A: I’ve been exploring different outlets to eventually expand into homeware. I would love to design furniture, lighting fixtures, tabletops, desks, etc. I think with our skills in metalsmithing, we could create quite interesting things for the home.
Interview by Jainnie Cho