Co-founder and Creative Director of respected and ever evolving jewellery label Sarah & Sebastian, Sarah Gittoes drives the concept and aesthetic for the brand in a relentless pursuit to push design innovation with respect for traditional craftsmanship. A recreational diver, Gittoes’ love for the ocean not only serves as inspiration but plays a significant role in the social and environmental responsibility of the label.
Can you tell us about your formative design years?
I studied a design degree at UNSW, majoring in object design before discovering my love for jewellery. I was definitely drawn to the scale and wearability of jewellery and I loved being able to use my own hands to bring my designs to life. It was on an exchange in Canada studying jewellery design where I serendipitously met Robert and the idea of creating a brand came to light.
How do you describe Sarah & Sebastian in three words?
Conceptual, hand-crafted, ever-evolving.
What has been the most valuable design and business lesson learnt since establishing Sarah & Sebastian with Robert Grynkofki in 2012?
Many lessons have been learnt along our seven-year journey. However, I think the one that’s been the most crucial to our success is commerciality of product. Being able to create designs that are unique, innovative but also efficient for production and sales can be a real challenge but ultimately is what sustains a business in this industry. Sarah Gittoes wears Proenza Schouler from Parlour X.
What is your design and business approach; intuitive or measured?
As a business partnership I think this is the reason why Robert and I work so well together. I’ve always taken an intuitive approach to most aspects of the business and Robert is very measured and calculated. As time’s gone by, we’ve both learnt from each other’s natural approach and as a result there’s a greater understanding and appreciation of how we each look at things, leading us to make better decisions from both the heart and head. The brand is established a new jewellery/product category termed ‘demi-fine’.
What does this mean and what design techniques are unique to the brand?
We’ve always been passionate about creating jewellery that holds its value and has longevity. I love working with gold, it’s such a forgiving and malleable material and I’ve always appreciated the subdued colour of 10k gold. Using 10k gold means we can also retail pieces at an accessible price point, hence how the term demi-fine emerged.
Can you tell us more about your team of in-house jewellers?
I remember when there was a single jeweller working alongside Robert and I and now we have a team of over twelve full time jewellers working in our Sydney Studio. Each artisan jeweller is handpicked for their unique expertise and experience and it’s a privilege working with each of them on our designs.
What advice do you have for emerging creatives or design talent?
Be true to who you are as a designer but don’t rest on your laurels. The fashion and jewellery industries are constantly changing so it’s necessary to be able to evolve both as a designer and a brand. Build your brand with strong foundations, aligned with your personal values so when things shift in the market, your whole business model isn’t upheaved.
As a Parlour X devotee, what labels or styles are currently motivating your personal wardrobe?
My go-to for wardrobe staples has always been Maison Margiela, I love the cut of their trousers. Sacai is also a favourite, their silhouettes always feel sporty and new. And of course, I’m quietly excited about Bottega Veneta launching in-store, I can’t wait to add some of Lee’s shoes and bags to my collection.
Can you tell us more about your connection to the ocean, how this affects you professionally and/or personally?
I’ve always lived by the ocean and started diving regularly four years ago. For me, the personal and professional is very closely intertwined and I’ve been able to source the majority of inspiration for our collections from what I’ve witnessed in the ocean. Protecting our oceans and marine life is something I’m incredibly passionate about and I’ve found it really rewarding this year to support the Australian Marine Conservation Society, an organisation that lives and breathes the issues that affect Australian oceans. Sarah Gittoes wears Proenza Schouler from Parlour X.
We love having you as our Paddington neighbour, and congratulations on your new Mosman location. What’s next for Sarah & Sebastian?
Thank you! There’s always something exciting on the horizon, currently we’re looking at spaces in Melbourne for our next retail location and are about to finish up the next collection, so watch this space. Sarah Gittoes wears Proenza Schouler from Parlour X.
Images via: Meaghan Coles (portraits) and Saskia Wilson (campaign).