Blending industrial materials with jewellery making, the United States-based creative duo turn concrete into luxurious modern jewellery pieces. AFJA Review had a chat with Chris about the philosophy behind Hanover Designs.
Q: What caused you to come up with the idea of using concrete to create jewellery?
A: We have always been amazed by its look and feel in the architecture and interior design field. After making some concrete furniture pieces and seeing the flexibility of the material, we decided to see how it could work for personal fashion.
Q: How did you start creating your own jewellery?
A: My wife Rachel doesn’t have any formal training in jewellery design. She has always been a maker, doing lots of DIY projects and a wide range of crafts. The flexibility of concrete allows for a lot of creative freedom, which drew her strongly to concrete jewellery making.
Q: In what ways are your designs and style unconventional?
A: Concrete is actually one of the lightest materials on the market, and it’s relatively easy to polish. Usually, people have all of these assumptions about our materials: heavy, cold, raw, rough, dirty etc, yet we break those assumptions by making it light, warm, smooth, clean, luxurious and modern. And our customers like that. We always like to defy people’s expectations. Our styles might be simple or minimalist, but they are also strong and bold.
Q: From where do you draw your inspiration?
A: Mostly from architecture. We try to capture the feel of modern industrial buildings and we like their sense of simple utility and their sharp clean lines. Hanover Designs is based out of Pittsburgh, which is historically a manufacturing town, so we draw a lot on the foundries, forges and warehouses that made this city; but we also pull in elements of style from the new wave of technology, fashion and culture that has been exploding here in the past five years.
Q: How do you incorporate your aesthetics to keep the pieces modern and chic?
A: Our contradictory combination of luxury metals and concrete represents what we are to people: you can be strong and you can still be luxurious. Just because you are strong, doesn’t mean you have to be cold or rough. Just because you are beautiful and luxurious does not mean you have to be fragile. This is the theme behind all our work: highlighting the beauty of strength. We think that will always be fashionable.
Q: Can you tell us about the fashion jewellery scene in the United States?
A: The Maker Movement has been huge on the jewellery scene in the past few years. People want a piece that was customised just for them. They don’t want to adopt someone else’s style, they want a designer to capture their own style and bring it to life in a piece of jewellery. Maker spaces like TechShop and online platforms like Etsy have made it easier than ever before to make custom jewellery. As manufacturing technology improves, more and more of our jewellery and fashion pieces will be custom-made.
Q: What kinds of materials do you mostly apply in your fashion jewellery?
A: Concrete, precious metals, coloured glass, gold leaf. Generally we sell our fashion jewellery at from US$20 to US$100.
Q: What are the difficulties you face in working with concrete?
A: The hardest part is getting the chemistry behind the concrete right. You have to get the perfect combination of aggregates to get the strength you need, but without making the surface too rough. We use three to four types of concrete, depending on what the piece needs.
Q: Which is your favourite and most elaborate piece, and why?
A: Definitely the light-grey diamond necklace with the gold leaf. It’s the most versatile piece: it looks great with a formal outfit, a cocktail dress, or a casual everyday ensemble.
Q: Can you describe your production procedure?
A: We make a special concrete mix, depending on what type of piece it is and how strong, smooth and thick it needs to be. We then hand pour it into moulds. We let it set (the length of time depending on the type of concrete mix), and finally, after it’s set and dried, we sand down the piece and polish it.
Q: What are your brand’s major sales channels? How do you promote your brand?
A: Primarily e-commerce, but we also wholesale to independent retailers. We promote through online channels as well as influencer marketing.
Q: What projects are you currently working on?
A: We have a lot of projects in the lab right now. We’re working on a new men’s line, launching some new necklace designs, and playing with a technique to “marble” our concrete.