The creative director of Thomas Sabo helped to revolutionise the silver jewellery market in the mid-1990s and has managed to turn the jewellery house into a global brand.
Susanne Kölbli has worked with Thomas Sabo for 27 years. “When I met Thomas, he had five employees, but soon realised there was a market for his designs in Germany and Asia, and that’s when I came on board.” Kölbli’s style is characterised by her vision, humour and natural instinct for trends. Her latest collection for the brand, entitled Africa, focuses on love and the theme of coming together. “We travel a lot, bringing inspiration and ideas back home with us. We are witnessing a lot of people moving to our country too so, globally, we need to find a way to come together in harmony. It starts with couples, friends, families, communities and then nations. In this collection, I tried to combine different influences in one piece of precious jewellery. They are symbols of love and respect.”
ON WOMEN IN THE JEWELLERY INDUSTRY
“There’s more personal attachment to jewellery than clothes because they are the markers of our lives, tokens of those moments when other people show you their love, so they are emotional, precious things touching your skin. Female jewellery designers capture this emotional aspect when we create those little things for women.”
Discovery trips to faraway cultures are a rich and endless source of inspiration. Kölbli has a special love affair with Paris; however, the main focus of her life is Frankfurt, where – in collaboration with a creative team – she is responsible for shaping unique and covetable accessories.
Kölbli doesn’t believe in transitioning jewellery from day to night, but wears the same pieces all day long. “I love earrings, but not on me. I feel decorated, like a circus horse.” The colour black dominates Kölbli’s wardrobe, providing a canvas for her jewellery. As for brands, Chanel is a firm favourite. “I bought my first piece at the age of 38, and since then I haven’t looked back. I also love Belgium designers like Christian Wijnants. I like to wear Chloé too, when I’m feeling more girlie or romantic. At work, I favour a combination of something fluid with something structured like a blouse and fitted blazer. I love that – things that maybe don’t fit together at first glance, but come together in the end. I tend to wear flats or at least always have flat shoes with me as an option. I used to wear a lot of heels, but as you get older, I think you can see the pain of wearing heels all day in the face, so I switched to flats.”
Kölbli studied graphic design and, after graduating, began her career as a freelance stylist for advertising agencies and jewellery companies. In the early-1990s, she was discovered by Thomas Sabo and has been the creative head of the brand since 1992.
WOMAN OF INFLUENCE
“I admire Coco Chanel. For me, she was a great woman who endured many personal tragedies in her life. Out of her unhappiness, she created so much beauty. I need harmony to work or to create things, and I don’t think she had harmony in her life, so I am amazed at how a person can be creative out of darkness.”
BEST CAREER ADVICE SHE EVER RECEIVED
“Be who I am. My parents taught me I am what I am, and I shouldn’t try to change because it costs you too much energy to try to be another person.”
This article originally appeared in the February issue of IMAGE magazine, on shelves nationwide now.