As a child St. Petersburg born, Sydney-based designer Alina Barlow dreamed of designing her own jewellery. Twenty years later, she created her own brand, ALINKA jewellery. Expressing her own unique personal style and story-telling traditions of her Russian heritage and upbringing.
How did you establish the ALINKA brand?
I have been designing jewellery for over the last 7 years and I have absolutely loved the process of it. Two years ago I decided to follow my passion for jewellery and created my own jewellery collection. That is how ALINKA was born.
Tell us about your formal background.
I was born in Russia, Saint Petersburg where I spent my childhood before moving to Sydney in my late teens to complete a Commerce degree at the University of Sydney. Following this I have became a member of the Institute of Charted Accountants Australia and practiced as an accountant at PWC. I spent a number of years working for PWC before launching ALINKA last year in 2015.
Wearing many hats, what do you feel best describes your role?
Being the designer of ALINKA it is necessary to have an understanding of product design and an eye for fashion and style. Given my business background as an accountant, I am able to underpin the design process with financial discipline, which is a necessary skill to succeed in this industry and in any industry where you have your own business. My role is one of multi tasking. You need to be able to multitask with family and a business. I try my best on balancing the both the best I can.
Where do you draw influence for the collection?
I draw influences for my collection from my background; in particular my childhood spent in Russia, St. Petersburg with its rich history as well as the 20th century Russian literature. I love Russian cold winters and I remember as a child walking with my mum alongside the frozen lakes and catching the reflection of sunlight on the snow creating a sparkle that resembled diamonds. Each piece I design captures the essence of these memories, expressed creatively in different ways.
How would you describe the philosophy of ALINKA jewellery?
ALINKA philosophy is to achieve that highest quality of jewellery. I try to design and create a mix of elegance and contemporary design. It is my view that fine jewellery can be incredibly stylish whilst still being able to be worn every day.
Tell us about your production processes and the materials you work with.
I work exclusively in black and white diamonds and 18-carat white, yellow and rose gold. ALINKA unites the finest craftsmanship with a contemporary, fashion-forward edge.
What is the ALINKA signature and essential jewellery piece?
All ALINKA pieces are very versatile. They are all designed to be mixed and matched depending on the occasion. I have designed ALINKA so each person is able to mix the pieces and develop their own personal style on how they wish to wear it. If I had to pick one piece it would be Stasia Star rings, inspired by the Moscow Kremlin stars that form a tiered statement piece when stacked.
With your background in commerce and finance, what is the most valuable lesson you have learned in business?
I think quality of product is one of the key factors of success closely followed by a marketing strategy that takes into account all the commercial factors. It is very important to carefully budget and stick to it no matter how tempting it is to overspend it. The business environment has drastically changed with the advent of e-commerce and social media. You cannot ignore these channels in today’s world and part of my strategy focuses on staying current with evolving technologies.
What has been your proudest professional achievement?
Turning my dream into reality and establishing a real business around my passion. I get such enjoyment, a sense of achievement and a real kick when I see people on the street wearing my designs.
Do you have a mentor or muse?
Growing up in communist Russia I looked up to mum who had to work very hard alongside my father to provide for our family. She had a very positive attitude, never complained and was great at multi tasking. She had inspired me to always do my personal best, to never complain and to have dreams. I learned pretty early on that working hard gets you a long way.
How important is the international market to your brand?
The international market is very important for ALINKA in the long run. I have had very encouraging feedback from some international media and buyers, but establishing my brand here in Australia is my current focus.
What are your interests outside of fashion?
I am passionate about supporting the Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation, which I have done over the last 7 years and the Australian Ballet since last year. I am addicted to yoga that I have been practicing for the last 5 years. It makes me feel re-energized and inspired.
Off the back of yoga I have recently been introduced to meditation, which fascinates me. I also love travel, contemporary art and water sports. I am an adventurer at heart.
As a lover of travel, what are your most loved destinations?
I love going back to my native Saint Petersburg, Russia where I was born and grew up. During the European summer I love travelling to the beautiful Italian Amalfi Coast, Capri and Positano, where every time I visit I discover something new. I love walking the streets of Rome. It is fascinating to imagine that the cobble stones my under my footsteps, have been there for hundreds of years. In winter I love the magic of the French Alps, especially the snowy village of Courchavel to name my absolute favorite.
Describe your own personal style?
When I get dressed each morning it has to feel right for that day. I describe my style as cool combined with classic elegance.
The perfect day is…
Spent with my family.
What designers (fashion and/or jewellery) do you find compelling or admire?
Where do you see the ALINKA brand in the future?
My dream is to see ALINKA evolve and grow, push design boundaries and take risks. I would love to see ALINKA in stores in other parts of the world including in my native home Russia, in Europe and the US.
You can find Alina on Instagram at @alinkajewellery