To launch our designer spotlight series, we sat down with Nathalie Melville, Founder and Creative Director of Hatton Jewellery Institute and Melville Fine Jewellery.
A graduate of the prestigious Central Saint Martins and with both collections and collaborations under her belt with brands such as Shanghai Tang, Plukka and Lane Crawford, Nathalie is at the forefront of jewellery design in Hong Kong whilst also being a market leader in the field of sustainability.
In between creating her sought after engagement rings and spearheading the studio's creative direction Nathalie talks fairtrade sourcing, design inspiration and life outside work.
The maker movement has become a huge trend in the last few years, but what attracted you to the jewellery industry over a decade ago?
I had started my art foundation course, (the mandatory diploma needed prior to an arts degree in the UK), thinking fashion or costume design was my calling. It was there that I first worked in metal and it was love at first sight!
The idea that I could bring contemporary designs to life using craftsmanship that can be traced back hundreds of years or more was such an inspirational concept.
Although that was many years ago now, the maker movement has really been born out of that same desire – for me it is to bring together traditional skills with contemporary design.
What brought you to Hong Kong?
Having trained and started my career in London my husband and I decided to move to Hong Kong in 2010. He had lived in Asia before, so it was a known entity and one, we felt, that offered the right opportunity and environment to build the brand. Although it has also brought challenges we would not have otherwise had – largely in the sustainable sourcing arena – it put us in the heart of one of the fastest changing markets in the world whilst enabling us to be part of a region’s and a city’s creative evolution.
When not at home or work, where can you be found?
I can’t remember the last time that happened… If time allowed, I would like to be found at Grassroots Pantry (for food), The Envoy (for cocktails) or The Mandarin Spa (when in need of a treat). Realistically, it is more likely to be on the sofa with the dogs (both Hong Kong Dog Rescue alumni) – very rock and roll…
What does your ‘normal’ day look like?
Normal is a very subjective term! Mornings always start with a dog walk and a large coffee. After that I am in the studio by 9:30am(ish) and running through the day with the team.
My time is divided between designing, bench based prototyping and client meetings. Luckily my right hand, my general manager Agnes Shum, keeps everything running smoothly!
Aside from jewellery, what fills your time and thought process?
We have run various programmes over the years – our cornerstone being Street Poppy; a monthly street art event working with refugees and at-risk youth.
My husband’s business, BSD Code and Design Academy, also runs coding programmes with refugees – Refugeek and Refucoder. Although I am not involved in those I have to mention them as they do phenomenal work.
Any brands or business you feel passionately about?
I am always drawn to brands with strong social awareness and ethical credentials.
As such I’m a big fan of Matt & Nat – a vegan leather accessories brand that does beautiful handbags and John Hardy as a pioneer in the Jewellery industry. I will always love Chanel for its enduring appeal.
Why ethical jewellery?
I am a passionate advocate for the use of sustainably sourced, raw materials – particularly Fairtrade Gold.
(Fairtrade gold guarantees traceability, that the certified mines support basic human rights, implement safe working conditions, recognize the rights of female miners and eradicate child labour).
Whilst I have had the privilege of having turned my passion into my career, there are millions working within the mining industry who do not have that luxury. Through necessity and survival they are forced into working in dangerous conditions. As such I feel it is my responsibility to be both aware of, and speak up for, those who have no voice and no choice.
If money were no object, what one piece of jewellery in the world would you like to own?
Anything by Rene Lalique – he was the grandfather of art jewellery and a pioneer in so many ways – Wallace Chan or JAR, (Joel Arthur Rosenthal). As a group of artists spanning generations they have redefined the jewellery industry.
From Melville it would be the Aurora ring from our Rising Sun collection. For me, it truly defines our commitment to contemporary luxury and my passion for sculptural silhouettes.
What could you not live without?
Family for love, jewellery for passion, literature for inspiration and (unashamedly) marmite for indulgence!
How do you overcome creative blocks?
I have go-to artists, books and places that I can absorb myself in, that creatively reinvigorate me. They change depending on my mood, but my absolute failsafe is the illustrator, Errol le Cain. I can absorb myself in his work and come out the other side ready to go.
I have always found solace in literature and fairytales and I find the depth and detail of his work is a visual summation of all that inspires me.
To any aspiring jewellers, what advice would you give?
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, you have to know and trust yourself as a designer. Don’t spend a fortune on a course just to get a piece of paper, invest more in giving yourself the time to realise your vision and voice. The quality of what you learn and how you learn it is invaluable.
Lastly, seek advice. Our doors are always open for aspiring designers who need a sounding board as to what their options are. Even if their path is not with us, we are always happy to share our experience if it helps another jeweller join the industry.
Nathalie is based at Hatton Studios and available, by appointment, for bespoke fine jewellery commissions, design training and brand consultations.
+852 2857 7751
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