Hailing from Copenhagen, Denmark, our latest Superette International addition is nothing short of perfection. Striving to make intelligent jewellery that makes people think, Maria Black has moved from being a silver apparel brand, into the exclusive and elusive world with fine jewellery.
Continuously innovating the perception of body adornment with effortlessly chic androgynous forms and expressions Maria Black is infused with a philosophy of making jewellery playful and customizable, encouraged to be mixed and matched.
We chatted with the designer herself about her story so far and what’s next for the Maria Black brand.
What’s your story? How did you get to where you are today?
I was a late bloomer. After travelling extensively throughout the world in my early 20’s I fell in love with jewellery, in Ibiza of all places. When I returned to Denmark at the age of 27 I immediately looked for an apprenticeship with a jeweller and was fortunate to get one straight away. It takes 4 years to become a goldsmith so I was 31 by the time I graduated. I was living in London for my final year and when I graduated and started selling jewellery at London’s weekend markets. Portobello Road market and Sunday Upmarket, I would make the jewellery during the week and then sell it myself. Doing that was like running a mini business. I had to think about packaging, display, prices etc. but the truly brilliant thing was that I was talking to all my customers, saw what they reacted to and what they fell in love with. My very first collection was shaped together with the people who supported me. A few months after graduation I launched my first collection in the summer of 2010. I was designing, producing, selling, shooting campaigns and building websites with the help of friends, and finally got my first agent. It was very much the case that I was learning by doing, that is still how I do things. Do it, think after 😉
How would you describe your brand in 3 words?
Current, alluring and inclusive.
What inspires your collections, your aesthetic and how do you keep it relevant?
Being Danish has given me a natural penchant towards strong, clean and beautiful curves and lines. That was the starting point of my aesthetic journey and then my style has evolved and altered in the last 9 years, because the world changes and we change with it. I couldn’t think of anything worse than finding a ‘look’ and then designing variations on that for 30 odd years, I would die from boredom, to me being relevant is just being alive. Always curious and always ready to try new things. My designs are always directly linked to how I feel, love and live. The best designs speak to you on a subconscious level so you are not sure why you love it, but you know you have a connection to it.
Is there one item or perhaps a collection in particular that is your all-time favourite?
I have so many, it’s like being asked; what is your favourite movie, who can choose?? But I will say that in all design work you have your moments of pure bliss and you know it when it happens. A lot of thoughts and tests all of a sudden come together and voila. The first collection that I felt was truly strong, because it was coherent and had a fierce look was my 2015 collection called Helix. I had been very fascinated by piercing jewellery and the way they used mostly wire and balls. It was really fun designing with such a strict guideline. Each piece was unique and was so very carefully selected. But I think as statement pieces go I keep returning to my disrupted hoop, also inspired by piercing jewellery. So simple and so very striking, I keep returning to it.
What is something not that many people know about you or your brand?
I’m a salt maniac. I literally eat salt on everything, tons of it and I am now barred from salting any kind of food which is to be consumed by any member of my family or friends.
How do you go about designing?
I usually formulate an idea in my head and then start making a mood board. My mood boards consist mainly of paintings, drawings, photography and sculptures. I rarely use jewellery as I find much more inspiration from the art and fashion world. Then I start sketching. The first 2-3 days are the worst, I don’t really have a direction and the drawings are bad. Then my hand starts remembering and usually I will do 50 to 60 designs in a day. After that I start selecting and grouping them in stories. Usually 1 story starts to dominate pretty quickly, but that doesn’t mean that’s the one I go for. Sometimes 1 piece is so strong it spawns a whole collection. I am not good at saving the drawings that don’t make the cut, but when I do I sometimes find gold in my old sketches. When the selection is made I hit the jewellery work bench with my product developer who’s also a goldsmith. We discuss and produce mock-ups of the chosen designs and sometimes something new evolves on the jewellery bench. After that I will make masters by hand or have a piece made in CAD. I go to India at least 4 times a year to sit with my team there to have the final pieces made, my true samples as I call them. I love working with my Indian team, they are very skilled and passionate and they take all my crazy ideas with stride. My jewellery is not really for mass production, so we spend a lot of time nerd-ing about jewellery production techniques. Last year I spent nearly 4 months in India.
What has been the absolute highlight of your career so far?
So many because they all pertain to where I was in my career at that moment, but recently it was when I woke up to find 10 emails in my inbox with roughly the same words; OMG, Christina, front page, paper magazine, mom ring, Google NOW. I googled and it was a definite highlight. It was the iconic front page cover with Christina Aguilera with no makeup in Paper Magazine wearing my MOM ring, which was set to launch the week after. Already after 2 days I realised it would be the most talked about cover of 2018, and that we really really needed to launch that ring asap 😉 That was epic.
How would you describe the Maria Black customer?
I am not a fan of describing my customers. How do you describe a multitude of people and personalities? I know that a lot of brands describe some mythical brand muse creature, who is strong, sexy, knows what they want blah blah. I think they teach that at design and marketing schools. I would rather state that we are a very inclusive and open brand worn by an astonishing variety of people and the designs are meant for all who feels a connection to them.
If you were to describe your own style, what would it be and what couldn’t you live without?
My style is very relaxed, I am very colourful now compared to how I used to dress…which was all black of course. My everyday go-to is high-waisted skinny jeans with boots and top. I love jackets, blazers and everything you can layer with and then I use my jewellery to make finish the casual cool look ;). A new journey for me recently is that I have steered sliiightly away from the jeans and have started a rather nice collection of colourful pants and dresses. Can’t live without my classic Chelsea boots though.
What do you do to switch off?
I am not very good at switching off or spoiling myself, taking downtime as they call it. I am very energetic and spend a lot of time working. I love my job so it feels good, but I don’t realise how much I stress myself. When I stop working I am almost at a loss as to what I should do with my spare time. I think that’s why I created A PAUSE. It was a reminder to myself to try and use some time to stop up, breathe and relax. To plan my down time as I would plan my worktime. Ooookay I just made myself laugh; Quite ironic that I work to express what I would like to do …if I wasn’t working.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
I don’t remember any specific advice, but I have been taught to treat people with kindness, to give positive vibes, to be fair and to believe in myself, so that’s what I live by. It has worked out great so far 😉
Where are you based? What are some of your must-go places or hidden gems there?
I just recently moved back to London after spending the past 4 years in Copenhagen. It’s really exciting to be back in London and I’m based in Dalston which is a really cool and diverse area in east London. I love both cities with all my heart and split my time between my 2 lovers. For London, I would recommend exploring east London as it has got so many gems. Shoreditch, Hackney and Dalston offer Indian realness in Brick lane, Sunday upmarket, Columbia road flower market and the well visited Broadway market on Saturdays as well as tons of bars and clubs. In Copenhagen you should always get a bike and go explore, the city is so small you can take everything in on the bike. Go to Christiania, a famed hippie commune area that has it’s own laws, it’s truly unique, dance, eat and drink in the meatpacking district or cycle further out to the street food area where you can rent a heated hot tub boat and sail the canals while listening to Club Tropicana with a drink in your hand….and that’s during the winter time too. Class.
Where is your favourite destination of all time and why?
Tokyo! I have been fortunate enough to go there a few times with work, and I feel head over heels in love with that crazy city! But for a vacation I am in love with road tripping in Italy. Everywhere is stunning, full of adventure and I love the pasta and the people!
You’ve already achieved so much, what’s next for you?
When I started researching piercing 4 years ago I decided I wanted to make piercing jewellery. I teamed up with a piercer who has been doing his craft for 20 years and developed a quality line of piercing jewellery in 14K gold which we tested in 2017 and launched permanently in May 2018 in our Copenhagen store. Recently we did a pop up in Selfridges on Oxford Street and it looks like we might get a permanent space there in 2019, I’m really excited about that! We can pierce directly with the gold jewellery, so you get the most gorgeous jewellery from start. Creating a new take on piercing jewellery is my new passion and I hope to be piercing all over the world within the next 6 years!
Shop our Maria Black range online now.