27 July, 2015

Super Styler: Jewellery Designer Sophie Birgitt-Debuf

27 July, 2015

We interview the stylish designer behind Hong Kong jewellery brand Sophie Birgitt!

We adore a bit of bling at Sassy HQ, but we prefer ours with a little edge! That’s why we can’t get enough of the clean lines in Sophie Birgitt’s namesake jewellery brand. This month’s Super Styler studied political sciences and worked in finance before falling in love with the art of jewellery in Hong Kong. We chat to the beautiful Belgian about how she turned her passion into her career, her favourite fashionable spots and one of the best jewellery studios in Hong Kong!

DSC_0856Tell us a little more about your background and what got you interested in jewellery?

I was born in Belgium, but I moved to Rome when I was 21, and three years later to Paris where I continued my master’s degree in Political Sciences at Panthéon-Assas. After a while Europe began to feel small, so I traded the sophisticated city of lights for the bustling concrete jungle of Ho Chi Minh City. After spending time in Vietnam and Myanmar I moved to Hong Kong.

I have always been attracted to jewellery – particularly the gems and precious metals that make them special. Hong Kong allowed me to pursue my passion because it’s a global hub for jewellery manufacturing and trading.

 Any insider tips Sassy Girls buying jewellery in Hong Kong?

For those who like creative, luxurious designer jewellery there is Plukka in the Landmark Atrium, which is a glamorous jewellery haven. Plukka is not a mainstream jewellery destination, which is why my collection retails there.

DSC_0531What does your typical workday look like, where do you go when you’re stuck for inspiration?

None of my days are the same. I am a night owl, so I get creative with design in the middle of the night; as a result of this most of my weekdays usually start later in the morning. I’ll have a healthy smoothie or a young coconut for breakfast. I always do some simple exercises at home before I start the day. When I’m working I spend a lot of time between my atelier in TST and my office in Sheung Wan. During the day I try to walk around the city as much as I can to draw inspiration from all of the buildings. My office also has a great view over the harbour, so whenever I get stuck I just look outside to find some inspiration. Also, no matter how busy my day is I always make time to stop by Genie Juicery in the afternoon. The juices there are fantastic!

Do you have a go-to getaway spot for when you need some time away from the constant hustle and bustle of Hong Kong?

When it comes to travelling I love to be off the beaten-track in Asia. For me, the real way to switch off is to grab a backpack and just leave for a couple of weeks. South-East Asian destinations like Bangkok, Koh Samui, or the Philippines are great for get-aways.

DSC_0614What inspires you and how do you keep coming up with such original jewellery designs?

I have an intrinsic need to be surrounded by clean straight lines, patterns, and geometry. Whether it’s jewellery, interior design or fashion I love for things to be stripped back to their purest form. That’s why Hong Kong’s different skylines have been a great physical mood board for me. I am infatuated by the shapes and patterns of the countless architectural marvels here. I also like to challenge the way women traditionally wear jewellery; I try to create pieces that grab attention in a subtle yet elegant way. The jewel is the object par excellence, as it has no physical function. Its sole raison d’être is beauty, and for me beauty is a form of meditative escapism.

We hear that the Hong Kong skyline has influenced many of your pieces. What are some of your favourite outdoor places – with views – in Hong Kong?

I take the Hong Kong Star Ferry at least four times a week to go to my atelier – I really enjoy the ride across the harbour. It’s like an oasis in the city, where you can contemplate the impressiveness of the two skylines. So much is going on up in the sky, and because of Hong Kong’s fast pace I feel most people forget to look up at it. It’s a whole different world up there.

DSC_0708What kind of woman wears your jewellery?

A contemporary and independent woman. She is cultivated, sensual, a free spirit and in search of luxurious, unique, audacious pieces of jewellery that embrace simplicity and sophistication. 

What is your must-have piece from your collection?

I have an exceedingly unique relationship with every single piece in my collection. Behind every design, there is a story of how it came alive in my head, changed on paper and eventually was transformed to its final form. I truly love every single piece, but if I had to pick a must-have piece from our collection I would choose our double reflection ring. It’s super easy to wear, very comfortable and edgy chic. Depending on your style, you can wear it to work, for a night out or in a more casual way over the weekend. I wear it every single day.

image1What challenges do you face in the design or production process?

Transforming a concept into an design, and then transmitting the design into a collection doesn’t happen overnight – it can be pretty tough sometimes. 

What’s your favourite thing to do on the weekend?

You can either find me hiking in the mountains, or at the beach with my beautiful giant fluff monster Boris – a rescue dog I adopted with my partner three years ago. I am in my element when I have sand between my toes, the sun on my skin and I’m by the ocean.

DSC_0939What do you love the most about HK?

This city has so much to offer: so many different colours, tastes and landscapes. It’s never boring. I love the contrast between the hustle and bustle of Central and the beaches in Tai Long Wan. Not many world cities can offer you this eclectic mix; I feel very blessed to be living a life filled with different experiences here.

DSC_0767Any advice for aspiring jewellery designers in Hong Kong?

I think the most important thing is to work hard and stay humble. Starting a business is anything but glamorous but it’s definitely very rewarding. Start with a small project and let it grow organically. It’s all about the personal process of finding your own creative voice. If you are a novice to jewellery make sure you check out Hatton Studios Hong Kong, run by my dear friend Nathalie Melville, for an introduction to silver and gold-smithing.


All the photos above were taken by the wonderful Sasha Tory of Sassy Media Group.

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