LONDON, United Kingdom — For Sarah Angold, the journey from studying textile design to running her own jewellery and product design studio started in the offices of experimental fashion designer Hussein Chalayan — or more accurately in the lobby of said offices. “I was really determined that Hussein Chalayan was the person that I absolutely had to work for, no matter what,” the animated brunette, with a youthful pixie cut, told BoF.
So determined, in fact, that after two months of unsuccessful attempts to arrange a meeting with Chalayan, she simply turned up in the lobby of his London design studio and waited patiently for his schedule to clear up. Eventually, one of Chalayan’s assistants greeted her, offering Angold exactly three minutes to make her pitch.
“I prepared a real elevator pitch. We were in the hallway and I had all these papers on the floor and people were stepping over them. I showed her five pieces and then I saw another person and another person, and two hours later, Hussein commissioned me for seven pieces, due in six days’ time,” she recalled, confessing that it remains her favourite moment of her budding career.
Her tenacity and instinct have served her well. Angold now has clients all over the world clamouring for her necklaces and earrings, cast in the same acrylic resin that she fell in love with as a textile designer. Inspired by science fiction films like Transformers, her handmade pieces are defined by a futurist-meets-craftsmanship aesthetic and an unusual blend of materials from wood to manmade composites.
For her signature necklaces, Angold begins with a curvilinear sketch of the desired shape, then painstakingly strings together dozens of plates that together form an undulating whole that moulds to the wearer’s body. With a reflective, iridescent laminate coating, the pieces also pick up the colours of the wearer’s environment, to striking effect. They also retain the playfulness of their creator; puzzle-like earrings snap together and the necklaces change shapes when worn upside down.
Stocked at retailers like Lane Crawford and Luisa Via Roma, as well as the Victoria & Albert Museum, her statement jewellery and lighting fixtures are equally appealing to trendy twenty-somethings as they are to 50 year olds, one of her most loyal demographics.
“The futuristic touches present in Sarah Angold's pieces render the collection unique in today's market. Sarah's pieces began to attract interest and attention from our clients as soon as they were launched, and sold out immediately,” Ivan Perini, jewellery buyer at Luisa Via Roma, told BoF.
Her latest collaboration, a seven-piece limited-edition diffusion range for Topshop’s jewellery brand Freedom, launched in July and has already proven a hit with shoppers. The day before we met, Angold had received an email from Topshop saying there were only 11 pieces remaining at the retailer’s Oxford Street flagship.
“Sarah’s product is very unique, with innovative perspex techniques that Freedom haven't explored before,” said Ashkin Yolsal, Freedom at Topshop’s buying manager. “I felt her product was luxury but with an edginess to it, which suited our premium range and would appeal to our fashion-forward customers.”
Not bad for someone who was “an absolutely constant frustration” for her MA tutors at the Royal College of Art. “They wanted me to produce textiles, which I had no interest in doing,” she explained cheekily. What she was interested in, however, was exploring as many design disciplines as possible, and to that end she collaborated with everyone from vehicle designers to scientists.
After graduation, her multidisciplinary approach and a series of happy accidents helped to drive her career forward. There was a yearlong stint in Japan working for Toyota on vehicle design (“I naively had no idea that no one would speak any English”), before she took up residency at the Design Museum in London for lighting design (it was sponsored by a lighting company). It wasn’t until she was commissioned by London department store Selfridges to decorate their shop windows, however, that she began making jewellery.
“They [said], ‘what we’d like to have in our windows is these lights, if they were giant, oversized accessories.’ So I cut up all the lights, took them apart, and re-transformed them into crazy shapes. I got my name in all the windows on Oxford Street!” Not long after, she began receiving emails asking where they could purchase her non-existent jewellery collection, and she slowly formed her studio, where she now employs one full-time assistant and calls upon a roster of freelancers.
For our August Spotlight, Angold has adorned the BoF logo with her arresting ‘Capitra’ necklace, a particular favourite of hers. “You can tell what kind of person each customer is because they either see an Elizabethan ruffle, or one of those dinosaurs that have like…” she hisses to mimic the frill-necked Dilophosaurus that terrorised the stars of Jurassic Park. What do you see?
As for the future, Angold is launching another diffusion line later this year, this time for Asos, and aims to add headcount to her burgeoning studio in order to take on unconventional, multidisciplinary bespoke commissions.
“I am confused by the idea that you have to be a ‘something’ designer. I want to be a designer and an artist and everything else as well.”