25 March, 2024

Bertrand Mak On Designing Cillian Murphy’s Oscars Brooch, Future Aspirations For Sauvereign & More

25 March, 2024

Hardwork, a bit of luck and a deep passion can take you places, for Bertrand Mak, it was designing Best Actor Cillian Murphy’s brooch for the 2024 Oscars.

Hong Kong is not new to fine jewellery establishments, local jewellers have gone above and beyond to bring their vision to life and their works are worn by the likes of celebrities and every day people alike. Bertrand Mak, a Hong Kong-based designer and artist, and the founder of art and luxury brand Sauvereign, recently achieved a new feat.

If you’re a cinephile, you would’ve watched Oppenheimer and be aware of Cillian Murphy absolutely Cill-ing it (sorry we had to!) at the awards season. What you may not have been aware of is, the Best Actor awardee donned a custom brooch made by Bertrand Mak at the 2024 Oscars! Ahead, we talk to Bertrand about the inspiration behind his designs, future aspirations for Sauvereign and his reaction to designing a piece for Cillian Murphy.

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Tell us about your journey as a designer and how you got started in the industry.

Born into a family of professionals, I never imagined I would ever pursue entrepreneurship, least of all in creative. Whilst I was climbing the corporate ladder, my natural propensity to always challenge the norm did not go down well with my immediate superiors.

When it reached a point where I was constantly unhappy, I decided I had to take back control of my life, and there was no other way except creating my own company.

It led me to partnering with a British footwear label, unknown at the time, and I introduced it to the Greater China market. The defining moment was when I conceptualised using 24-carat gold leaf as a signature, developing a proprietary technique to apply and protect the precious material on various surfaces.

It was during this era that I gradually discovered and sharpened my innate artistic sensibility and obsession with detail. My true ambition was never footwear, but creating precious objects of art, reviving extraordinary and rare craftsmanship. I constantly seek out the world’s finest from diverse realms and bring them into my work – fusing innovation and creativity.

It is from this vision and modus operandi that gave birth to Sauvereign.

What are some of the key influences or inspirations behind your design aesthetic?

My creative process is inextricably tied to my mission to find identity, purpose, intimacy, and meaning. I often draw inspiration from memories and past experiences, connecting them with the present. My parents sacrificed so much to give me a decent education with diverse exposure that has put me in a good stead.

I am fascinated by the preciousness and immortality of gold. I am consistently applying our proprietary gold leafing know-how in my practice, at the same time, constantly exploring new materials and applications to challenge the status quo. Creating is a matter of the heart, I hope what comes from the heart reaches the heart.

Read More: Where To Buy Fine Jewellery In Hong Kong – Diamonds, 18k Gold & More

Cillian Murphy recently wore a custom brooch you designed for the Oscars. How did this project come by?

I had the privilege and good fortune of meeting the renowned stylist Rose Forde in London last December, who was forward-thinking and progressive – interested not only in the usual conglomerates but independents such as myself.

Not long into our conversations, I learned that she dresses Cillian Murphy and was looking for a brooch for him. It was never intended for the Oscars. She asked if I would work on a design and I could not resist, even if Murphy were to end up wearing it on his dressing gown.

Can you walk us through the design process of the brooch? What did it signify and how long did it take to make?

The HS14 Gem Brooch is a one-of-a-kind bespoke object, expressly conceived and created for Cillian Murphy. It embodies the dedication of both J. Robert Oppenheimer and Cillian Murphy to their respective craft – a symbol of artistry, intellect, and integrity.

Style is deeply personal, especially for someone as enigmatic as Cillian Murphy, I knew my design had to be simple but well-considered, subtle yet bold, minimal yet detailed. I played with the fundamental forms that only upon closer inspection reveal depth and complex nuances; it constantly oscillates between the two ends of the spectrum.

Like Murphy, HS14 has a quiet intensity that is strong but silent. I had a week to craft it from scratch, luckily Kari Voutilainen came to the rescue and made the impossible possible.

Read More: “I don’t want to just be known as the cereal girl,” Local Artist Riya Chandiramani On The Inspiration Behind Her Iconic Works

Cillian Murphy is not the first to don a piece of your art, Sauvereign has been worn by the likes of the Royal family and Olivia Coleman, is this something you envisioned when you first started Sauvereign?

Sauvereign was born a few months after the global outbreak of Covid and unsurprisingly times were extremely challenging. Starting a brand is hard enough let alone when the world is falling apart. One must always be prepared for the lucky moments in life, everyone has them, and one must passionately follow one’s beliefs.

I never compromised nor deviated from my core values and vision, even when they were challenged and ridiculed, for myself and Sauvereign. I think the short answer is, I believe in the law of attraction.

What future aspirations do you have for Sauvereign?

Sauvereign and I shall continue to strive for beauty and purity, persevering with substance in our very noisy and complicated world. One swallow doesn’t make a summer, though without a doubt this small moment of triumph has catalysed new ideas and chemistry that I am excited to present in the near future.

We have to keep climbing to prove and inspire, and the proof can only be in the pudding.

What advice would you give to aspiring designers who want to make a mark in Hong Kong’s design industry?

Sauvereign’s presence on Murphy at the Oscars and the very moment he fulfils his destiny is a testament that, with hard work and a bit of luck, it is not unimaginable for an independent brand from Hong Kong to climb to one of the world’s biggest fashion stages.

Read More: “Patience And Persistence Will Make It All Happen,” Rania Hatoum On Following Her Passion For Food & Fashion

To stay up-to-date on Bertrand Mak’s projects, follow Sauvereign on Instagram

All images courtesy of Bertrand Mak and Sauvereign.

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