All of your favourite Nyrelle fines first find their shape at the desk of Pauline Revet, our Head of Design. Drawing from her inspiration, memories, and — less poetically but equally important — her fifteen years of experience in the industry, the French-born designer brings her ideas to life using gouache paint, a traditional skill she also teaches at Van Cleef & Arpels' "L'ECOLE" School of Jewelry Arts.
"Life is funny," Pauline says as she contemplates her venture into the world of jewellery design. It's a journey that brought her from Paris all the way to French Polynesia, across Asia and eventually, to Hong Kong, where she's planning on staying "for as long as the city will have me".
Get to know Pauline as she shares everything from her design process and tips on breaking into the industry to her role models and the stories behind the most treasured pieces in her jewellery box.
Has becoming a jewellery designer always been your dream?
Ever since I was a kid, I knew that I wanted to be a designer; I just didn't know what kind of designer. In my free time, all I did was draw. My dad is an architect, and my mother studied art, but they never pushed me in a specific direction. Eventually, I decided on going to a fashion and textile design school, but I didn't feel like it was the right place for me. Then one day, I had to attend an accessory design class. It was amazing. I realised, "Ok, that's what I want to do!". I transferred to a jewellery school, and there, my passion really started. I specialised in jewellery design because it's my favourite part of the process. I know how to make jewellery; I learned all the techniques, but I never really worked in an atelier or a workshop.
So, why jewellery and not fashion?
I like the craftsmanship, the savoir-faire and knowledge that the masters pass on to you when you're working as an apprentice. To become a jeweller, you have to complete ten to fifteen years of apprenticeship. It's really a craft you learn from other people. Another reason why I prefer designing jewellery over clothes is that the industry isn't as 'fast'. It's all about precision; it could take up to a year just to complete one piece! I'm also more easily inspired when I think about jewellery, but I never really understood why.
"[Designing jewellery] is all about precision"
How do you establish yourself as a jewellery designer?
If you want to break into this industry, you need to do a lot of networking. You'll need recommendations from the people you worked for; your reputation is more important than what school you went to, for example. These days, you also need to have your own website and social media accounts in addition to a good resume and portfolio. You need to show everyone how you're different from others.
What's different about you, you think?
My background has helped me get where I am today. I know both the world of fashion and high jewellery, so I can use my knowledge of high jewellery to create high-quality fashion jewellery. At jewellery school, I always felt like I wasn't 'classic' enough, but now I think it's one of my strengths.
What advice would you give to an aspiring jewellery designer?
You'll experience many ups and downs, but as long as you're passionate about what you're doing, you'll be fine. The jewellery industry is competitive, but your effort is worth it. So, never give up! When I first started out, many people told me, "you're not going to succeed; you're never going to make enough money to survive", but I couldn't imagine doing anything else. I really love my job, and I don't ever want to give up on it. If you're really passionate about something, you understand what I mean!
It's also important to be patient, which is what I tell my students at L'ECOLE when I’m teaching them how to render jewellery using gouache, an opaque paint similar to watercolour. Most of my students come in and think they'll be good at it in one day, while it takes years to fully master the craft. Designing jewellery is not just about the designs themselves: it's also about meeting deadlines and being creative constantly. You need to build your reputation, which takes time.
"The jewellery industry is competitive, but your effort is worth it. So, never give up!"
Let's talk a little more about gouache. What do you like about it?
The 'feeling' you get when you look at gouache drawings is different from when you're looking at computer renderings. Gouache illustrations are so precise and realistic, they look like photos. Traditionally, these drawings were used to give clients an idea of what their piece of jewellery will look like. Today, they're also shared on social media and printed in catalogues because they're so beautiful. They're works of art.
What do you enjoy most about being a jewellery designer, and what's the most challenging aspect of the job?
The most challenging part of the job is to keep coming up with new, creative ideas every single day and trying to guess if people will like them. I've had several clients come up to me like, "Please design the next best-selling item", but it doesn't work like that! If you're lucky, your design will be a great success, but you'll never know exactly why.
What I love most is to finally see the finished piece that I designed. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning every single time the team brings me a new piece of jewellery, even after fifteen years!
What's it like to design for a newly launched, ethical and sustainable jewellery brand?
It's exactly the challenge that I was looking for. When you start working for a new brand, everything is possible because you start from zero. At big and established companies, you have the history and the heritage of the Maison to guide you, but in a way, it also blocks your creativity. At Nyrelle, I was given a free hand in designing the jewellery.
I like how at Nyrelle, fashion, trends and aesthetic meet sustainability — I really believe in this concept. Giving new life to a piece by upcycling it into another design is a great thing. We can't keep producing jewellery the way we did before, so I'm glad that vintage and sustainability have become trendy. I hope that this trend will stick around.
So far, which collection or piece you designed for Nyrelle are you most proud of?
The Droplet Capsule. Droplet is one of the more classic collections I designed for Nyrelle and the most popular one. It may look simple, but I spent a lot of time getting the details right.
It's challenging to make sure that all of the proportions are perfect. Take the Bezel-Set Diamond Drop Necklace: I wanted to make sure that the three diamonds fall at the right place of the neck, right between the collarbones. I also designed the chain to be very thin, so the diamonds look like they're floating.
Speaking of favourite pieces, what are the most treasured items in your jewellery box?
My godmother gave me a ring for my 18th birthday, which she let me pick myself. I chose a silver ring with marcasite stones because it's a timeless piece. I wanted something that I could wear all my life and something to remember the moment by. It's not an expensive ring, but it has a lot of value to me. It's the inspiration behind the Soufflé Ring, actually!
But the most precious piece I have is a copper medallion with my name on it. I was given this necklace when I was baptised as a baby, and I'm still wearing it a lot. To me, the story behind a jewellery piece is more important than how it looks or the material it's made of. Jewellery doesn't have to be made of 18 karat gold to be considered to be precious.
Who are your role models in life?
My role models are powerful people who don't care about the limits and make you feel like anything is possible. I'm inspired by strong women in particular because I think it's more challenging to do certain things in life as a woman. I really admire adventurers and pioneers, like Maud Fontenoy. She's a French sailor who rowed across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans all by herself when she was about thirty years old. Nobody believed that she, a tiny, feminine woman, would actually be able to do that; she was laughed at when she tried to find sponsors for her trips. But she succeeded and wrote books about her experiences. Every time I feel like I'm losing my confidence, I'm reading her books.
"My role models are powerful people who don't care about the limits and make you feel like anything is possible"
Moving forward, what's your vision for Nyrelle?
I dream about Nyrelle becoming known and liked by all kinds of women around the world. Collaborating with other types of sustainable brands, in fashion or food, for example, would be great, too. But most of all, I want us to be recognised as one of the go-to sustainable brands worldwide because I think this is our strength.