Designer Interview

By: Fashwire
Mar 16, 2021 01:46 PM

What is your earliest design memory for your brand? 

The first piece I designed was the Affinity when I was 24 years old, after my first ever experience of Africa. It blew my mind and it was the only place that has ever made me shed a tear when I left. I had always worked with animals in some way since I was a kid and to experience Africa for the first time was just incredible. I was given a hair bracelet by 2 locals who were my age that I had been hanging out with at the reserve and I bound it with white gold when I got back to symbolize friendship. I called it Affinity because of the sense of belonging and connection that embodied was my experience.


What is your favorite part about designing? 

Creating or weaving a story into a tangible expression. Every design evolves out of a meaning or an experience, then I choose the materials which determines the design. It’s sort of seeing what I can design once I know what I want to use and why. The purpose, experience, story, or memory is represented by the materials and the design is a function of fusing those things together.


"Every design was inspired by a singular and significant life experience."


Where do you find inspiration?

It sounds a little cliché but by experiencing life. Every design was inspired by a singular and significant life experience. The Accent is a great example. I came across a baby royal python in Battersea Park when I was thinking about setting up Atlas. In Native American traditions, an encounter with an animal, especially out of context, is as a clear message of import, and snakes represent the power and ability to transform (amongst several things). I had made some prototypes and was teetering on the fence about setting Atlas up. After the experience with the python and reading up on the symbolism, I made the decision to take the leap. I canceled the few consulting gigs I had and put absolutely everything into committing to making Atlas happen. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, as I had built lots of companies for other people, and although this was something I was passionate about I had no clue about the industry or if it would even work. I was really unsure and I basically took it as a sign to take the leap. I had followed similar logic twice before in my life and they both led to amazing things, but at 55 years of age, the drop seemed that much more perilous in some way. That is a long way of saying that my inspiration comes from these kinds of events. The first thing I did was spend hours googling materials that would work and have meaning since I immediately wanted to make a bracelet to mark the event. I came across the vintage snake beads, which were just perfect because of their story and look, and the Atlas Accent with black snake beads was born. It not only commemorates that decision and unique moment but serves as an ongoing symbol of transformation, which is a constant in life. 


Do you have a favorite piece that you have designed? 

That is a tough one since they all connect to very significant memories. If I chose one, it would be the Aeon, with brown amber and bison. The anchor to that design is a love lock sitting on a bridge in Wroclaw, Poland, still to this day.


What inspired you to name your brand?  

Well, Atlas was the name of my dog. A ridgeback mastiff cross rescue that I found in Los Angeles while living there and then I brought him back home to London with me. He passed away in June 2019, but naming it Atlas was for a different reason. Life was a mess when I came across Atlas and he got his name because at 3 months old, he took the weight of the world off my shoulders and he was my constant companion for 13 years. His name had a meaning – almost all cultures believe that when you say the name out loud of a deity or saint or entity, you call on their divinity, memory, wisdom or power each time. And this is why I called the company Atlas. Every time I speak of the company, which is all the time, I am invoking one of the single most important and powerful memories and meanings of my life. It is an ever-present reminder of that unconditional love that animals give us and that is so important to remember, honor and respect. Having worked with rescued wolves for years, I also have a very strong affinity with canines in particular.


What is the one piece of advice you would give to a new designer? 

You can design for yourself if you can figure out how many other “you’s” there are out there and how to reach them. Otherwise, remember you are running a business and the cornerstone to that is knowing your customer intimately. Set that foundation and you will be able to enjoy the freedom of creativity all the more. Treat the business side with the customer focus as a joy and a service that you are providing to enrich people’s lives.


"I like to design for style and purpose – something that looks sharp, subtly calls attention, and then delivers further depth on closer inspection."


What sets your brand apart from the rest?

Story, Connection, Legacy – I would sum it up as these 3 things. Reduce waste, preserve memories and empower individual storytelling to create connection using materials that are sustainable, reduce disposability and ensure that every action has a tangible and measurable positive impact, ensuring a better future with each purchase.

I like to design for style and purpose – something that looks sharp, subtly calls attention, and then delivers further depth on closer inspection. People are layered and fascinating, and I believe design and jewelry should be as well. Atlas’s goal is to create stylish jewelry pieces that are equally focused on meaningful experiences, empowering storytelling, and using success to power change. You actually never have to take them off, which always seems to surprise people but is something everyone likes. We are obsessed with lasting quality – every material was chosen for its historical provenance of durability and utility. We pay the greatest attention to the smallest details and care deeply about the finishing’s and carrying our craft to the very end.


What is the most important thing you would like your brand to be recognized for?

Connection and legacy – helping to create connection, give voice to connection, and ensure that our actions form a better future.


What can consumers expect to see next from your brand? 

We definitely plan to broaden the stones we offer but we are most excited about some ideas we have for plant fiber in particular. We think it is going to yield some really interesting new designs. The material is fascinating, as you actually need to wear it in the shower or get it wet regularly – it’s that organic. When you first wear it, it just feels wrong in a way. Stiff, probably catching at the wrist bones. But the minute you wear it in water it will mold to fit your wrist specifically. For me, this material is the embodiment of personalization – an organic substance that is incredibly durable yet flexible and that changes shape to fit you.  It embodies the ethos of Atlas, so we want to do more with this material after we expand stones. It will also allow us to expand our vegan offering using this material more.


What do you envision for the future of your brand?

The ability to allow everyone to express their unique story with jewelry and to be a company that leads change with a positive impact on our future. Not just nice words, but tangible action. Atlas is very much about legacy and we really want everyone to smile when they touch or look at an Atlas piece. Not just because the materials and designs have meaning or a great look, but because you know that land was permanently saved and protected, that your purchase results in positive action saving and permanently protecting endangered habitats. We give 5% off the top – no fancy accounting. When we make a commitment, we make it tangible and transparent. We believe giving back is not about marketing but about creating a true ecosystem. My specialty in business was ecosystem design. My philosophy has always been to treat the planet like a stakeholder, so giving back in a tangible way is part of our DNA. Interestingly, this is finally becoming a topic – the value of the environment we live in. I want Atlas to be representative of the responsibility we have to take action as a keystone species. We will actually be changing our name at some point to Atlas Keystone. I want Atlas to lead by example and promote that concept of responsibility.


"For me, style is a balance of form and function."


How would you describe your personal style? 

I would say my overall aesthetic draws on the elegance of organic shapes with strong, rugged accents, stripped of anything superfluous. Simple, but with depth. I like clean and simple while letting the material or richness of color and texture speak. I like when things look organic or effortless and go with literally anything else. For me, style is a balance of form and function. I always believe that if it feels comfortable and effortless then it will look good, as it is more about how you carry yourself than anything. Understated is key and I like designs, colors, and textures that draw you in and are tactile. I think clothes are experiential as much as visual and it’s always fun when someone has an unexpected experience when they touch the material. I remember buying a shirt with an amazing (but not at all obvious) texture for exactly that purpose. I am also a big fan of tonal layering. For me, it keeps things simple and I also feel it has a timeless quality that feels comforting and easy. I am definitely a more muted and earthy-colored person. I would normally not gravitate to bright colors, such as the coral or bright blue snake beads used in some of my designs, but that too has a story. I have a dear friend in LA named Raul who always inspires me to be positive and happy. He loves bright colors, so when I made the black Accent for myself, I saw the coral and blue and thought of him, which lead me to make those as well. They were actually the first pieces I ever designed with bright colors, so that was actually fun to do.


What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? 

Life experiences and impatience born out of an inability to contain excitement.


If you could visit one place in the entire world, where would it be and why? 

The middle of a desert. You feel serene, connected, and completely in touch with nature because you are literally enveloped and immersed by it. The night sky is pristine and almost overwhelming, and it is a sort of serenity you do not often get to experience nowadays. The grandeur of the desert and sky is both inspiring and wonderfully humbling.