We catch up with Susanne Kölbli, creative director of Thomas Sabo

Fashion Assistant Ellen Bird had a whirlwind 24 hours in Berlin with Thomas Sabo for an exclusive preview of its SS19 collection. Aside from fancy cocktails and falling back in love with charm bracelets, she scored an interview with the brand's creative director Susanne Kölbli, who spoke about Thomas Sabo's Irish customer and a woman's personal attachment to jewellery. 

WORKING AS A FREELANCE STYLIST FOR ADVERTISING AGENCIES AND JEWELLERY COMPANIES was how I began my career before being discovered by Thomas Sabo. It was my side hustle in order to finance university. I met Thomas Sabo directly after college and have now been with the brand for 30 years. When I joined the company, the brand was only developing. The office was in a two-room apartment and only had five employees.

FROM A YOUNG AGE, IT WAS CLEAR I WOULD CHOOSE SOMETHING CREATIVE. Growing up, I could knit before I could write. My mother was a tailor and introduced a plethora of creative projects to us from a young age - everything from knitting and drawing, arts and crafts. When I was a child, I always wanted to be a teacher who taught handcrafting in school. Having said that, I always wanted to be successful; not only to create things but also to sell them.

YOU HAVE TO LEARN TO ADAPT TO CHANGING TIMES. If you’re in the design business, pay attention to your customer, reflect on what you’re doing, and know how to communicate it. Social media is developing rapidly, standing still will only leave you behind. It's important to follow what’s going on.

WOMAN LIVE SUCH DIFFERENT LIFESTYLES. It’s difficult making sure your designs resonate with everyone. The Thomas Sabo woman is someone that purchases jewellery when she’s approaching a special occasion, like if she’s expecting a baby or celebrating a special birthday; a personal occasion where the heart is included.

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MANY WOMEN ARE QUICKER TO DONATE CLOTHES THAN JEWELLERY because there's a more personal attachment to jewellery; it's closer to your heart. It's also easier to wear. It can be frustrating when you love a piece of clothing but it’s not the right size, the material is wrong, or the price-point is too extreme. Jewellery is timeless.

THE IRISH CUSTOMER OF THOMAS SABO is different from the English. Irish women prefer more handcrafted coloured stones. The British opt for white stones and a more feminine look.

FROM THE NEW COLLECTION, THE ARIZONA COLOURS IS MY FAVOURITE. Inspired by traditional Native American artwork, talismans such as lizards, eagles, scorpions, dreamcatchers and sun symbol. This elaborately handcrafted pendant in the shape of the sun that I’m wearing is a symbolic signpost for the wearer’s own path through life. It’s extra special to me because I personally adore native American Indian jewellery. I have a private collection from them, antique and contemporary. I've always been intrigued by their techniques, stone cuttings and the colour combinations used and really love the turquoise stone. It’s the colour, but it’s also the meaning of the symbol, that makes it a perfect piece for summer.

FOR SS19, WOMEN ARE EDGING MORE TOWARDS COLOURED STONES AND BIG STATEMENT EARRINGS. Actually, a mixture of both. Big earrings became big in the 80s and early 90s, before dainty styles lingered for years. But now, people are looking for big bold styles again, which I’m delighted about - it's a new opportunity to decorate fantastic designs. 

HOW THE FASHION INDUSTRY TRANSLATES THE CATWALK INTO THE HIGH-STREET is what’s interesting for me. The catwalk is important to watch, designers showcase extraordinary things, but I’m examining what the crowd is accepting and what the press choose to communicate from the collections. If designers are introducing tie-dye, but the fashion population is resonating more with billowing sleeves, tie-dye might fall through the cracks. I find this fascinating. 

COCO CHANEL has had major influence over me, from what she’s done for women, clothing and in fashion today long after her passing. 

FOR YOUNG DESIGNERS HOPING TO MAKE IT IN THE INDUSTRY, open your eyes and keep your personality.

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