IJL Inspired: Interview with Isabella Lui

IJL Inspired: Interview with Isabella Lui

Isabella Liu is a leading jewellery designer and artist. She was born in Wuhan, China, and currently based in London. Isabella commenced the BA in Jewellery Design and Related Products at Birmingham City University’s School of Jewellery, and MA in Arts and Cultural Management at King’s College London.

In 2014, Isabella founded her design studio in London. 2016 she stablishes jewellery consultancy business with Chairman of British Silver Festival Gordon Hamme. As ‘The Jeweller’ Magazine from National Association of Jewellers reported, ‘Isabella Liu – bringing China and Britain together’.

We caught up with this amazing designer to talk about her work, inspirations and what you can expect to see from the brand at IJL 2019.

What has this year been like for Isabella Lui and what have been your most successful collections?

This year has been a very fruitful year for Isabella Lui, with lots of progress. Our production has become stronger and stronger. We just launched a very beautiful collection at CMJ, which captured lots of attention. We have launched our official website with e-commerce and an international payments system. Most importantly, we are growing stronger and bigger in the market.

My collections are divided into two categories: one is jewellery, and the other is art. They have a beautiful story, and a profound concept. Some collections are successful for their creative originality; other collections have a strong commercial impact. Following the success of the Twilight collection, launched at the Zaha Hadid Gallery, there is no doubt that Butterfly Lovers collection will make a big impact! The collection is made with white rhodium-plated silver, set with handcrafted gemstones, including jade and mother-of-pearl. Thoughtfully designed, this collection is a celebration of purity, faith and love.

What are your top jewellery trend tips for the approaching spring season?

Since the jewellery trade is highly competitive. I think customers are already tired of low level fashion jewellery on the high street. They are always looking for something to touch their heart — something out of ordinary. Thus the design concept needs to be strong. Secondly, nature is a top jewellery trend for the approaching spring season. I think the success of the Butterfly Lovers collection is in using universal language to celebrate nature and love. 

Where do you draw inspiration from?

As a designer, I draw inspiration from the universe, nature, different forms of art, my experiences travelling, and philosophy of life. Jewellery is a form of my expression, a mirror of my heart and emotions. People normally can feel the spirit of my creations. The Butterfly Lovers collection is inspired by Nature. This collection draws on the classic Chinese legend of two lovers, Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, the Chinese “Romeo and Juliet”. In this the tale the lovers spirits merge in the form of a pair of butterflies, which fly away together, never to be separated again. This epic story has inspired musicians, artists and performers. I have captured the essence of this love story, with its passionate narrative, in the creation of the Butterfly Lovers collection – delicately recreating the drama with beautiful colours and textures. Chinese folklore is translated into contemporary sculptural design.

When did you first discover your love of jewellery and design?

I came from an arts and culture focused background. I was trained as an oil painter when I was young. I knew from very beginning that I would work in the arts and the creative industries, maybe dealing with different forms of creativity. I transferred my fine arts background to jewellery design when I was 20. I met my first jewellery design teacher who encouraged me to explore myself through jewellery. I was fascinated with different metalssmiths, and narrative expressions.

What is it like to run such a successful, award-winning jewellery business?

It has been a wonderful experience for me. As a designer, it has never been an easy path to be a creative entrepreneur to run my own business. I always try to learn and balance the value of creativity and commerce. My business mission and vision, was inspired from my learning experiences at Tate Modern. I found that this organisation is so embracing; it was my first time seeing so many children running around this world famous museum like a playground. When I looked at their slogan, “let arts embrace everybody” I was so inspired. I embedded this concept to my jewellery business as well. I always try to deliver the finest craftsmanship and design that I can, with supportive commercial thinking. I follow my 3 Ps: Profession, Passion, and Power. I love to see people find their joy, love, and self-satisfaction. I think this is the power of a creative person running a jewellery brand. Although I don’t come from a business school, I do deliver and pass on my spirits. I inspire women to be their own legends!

Which celebrity would you love to see wearing your jewellery?

I would love to see Lady Gaga wear my jewellery. Lady Gaga is an inspirational artist. Earlier in her career, she seemed to have no boundaries at all, but actually she is a super creative person with humanity and a deep, broad heart. I love both her early and her current work. Likewise, I have made very artistic bold jewellery, as well as commercial thought-provoking jewellery. My jewellery journey has become broader and wider and longer alongside with my raised awareness. 

If you had to summarise Isabella Lui in a couple of sentences, what would you say?

ISABELLA LIU is a London based designer brand, inspiring women to become their own legends!

What can people expect to see from Isabella Liu Jewellery at IJL this year?

I will present five international award-winning collections at IJL this year, including the ‘Scar is No More a Scar’ from my arts category, and “Sea Rhymes”, “Twilight”, “Butterfly Reborn” and “Butterfly Lovers” collections from the jewellery category. You will see a contemporary, beautiful, and welcoming presentation for those collections. People will expect to taste uniqueness, freshness of my fine design and craftsmanship with supportive commercial thinking and attractive price points.

What has been the proudest moment in your jewellery career?

I am proud that I won seven international awards within one year in 2015, including three gold and two silver Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Council Awards known as “Jewellery Oscar”, as well as two gold awards for best product and best new designer, at the 2015 Milan World Expo China-Italy. But I always live in the NOW. So I continue to grow as an international brand, creatively and commercially. I look back to my foot prints. I am proud of how much I have been through, and I appreciate my current moments the most!

Any advice to people starting out in their career in jewellery?

Firstly, I encourage emerging designers to try whatever they like, and to think outside of the box. Do not limit “design” as a form of skills or services. Design actually is a way of thinking, which includes creativity, aesthetics, and strategies. Thinking is much more important than skillsets. Especially for young people, never be afraid of making mistakes. The value of youth is that you can afford to make mistakes, and grow bigger and stronger from it. Secondly, evaluate where you are good at in jewellery. Some people are good at design, some are good at selling, some are good at communication. Evaluate your strength. Passion is important. Then you find your focus. Once you find your focus, just keep practising and keep the consistency.  

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