Monday, April 9, 2012

DOES NOT EQUAL | A conversation with Jewellery designer Charisse Black.



So first of all tell us a little about yourself. Who is Charisse Black?

Well, I'm a moonlighter - work in Marketing by day, and run DNE by night. Frequently found wearing black, with a G&T in hand. 



When did you first get involved in the fashion/jewellery industry?

Like most, it came about from wanting to fill a void that I felt was present in the market. I was in my final year of studying Design at Uni, and just decided to jump into it.



How did the idea & concept of Does Not Equal come to fruition?

It was a really organic process - I started making one off pieces for my guy friends, then friends of friends started asking for them so I set up an online store and it just started flowing on its own.
In the beginning I had no real training or understanding of how to run a label, so I was really learning everything first hand as I went along. In hindsight I think it was the best way to learn because it forces you to think on your feet and not over analyse every decision.



What made you decide on the name Does Not Equal?

It was the perfect name to embody what the label was all about. The concept was for a unisex, predominately men's jewellery label - made in Australia that challenged and was unlike the other labels in the market.



Where do you draw your influences for the label?

From all over the place. From traveling, magazines, blogs, objects, typography, interiors, films, music.
Rarely will I design a collection based on a current or emerging fashion trend - I find that a little bit too literal. My process is to create a concept or theme, and then design the hero piece - the rest of the collection then follows in support of the hero piece. 



Who are some of your personal fashion icons?

To be honest I don't have any. Not that I know the names of anyway. I'm a big people watcher, I'm notorious for zoning out mid conversation because I'm watching someone in the street. The honesty of it interests me far more than a model or celebrity who have had their outfit 'created' and put together. 



 

Your collections come across as very strong, bold and almost industrial. Same may even say slightly masculine..what are your thoughts on this and was this intentional or more just a by product?
The collections are definitely intentionally masculine. They're always created with guys in mind, but with the idea that the girls who love them can also have the pieces for themselves. I really appreciate clean, bold, minimalist design - so up until now the collections have certainly followed that aesthetic. But as the label grows, it is likely to branch out and incorporate other styles.


Your collections,  as well as being very strong pieces,  also have what appears to be conceptual themes, particularly when you look at the Black Truth / White Lies Collection. Would you say that is something that comes before or after the conception of the collection? Can you elaborate on what the current XII collection represents?

The theme always comes first, and then the rest follows. XII followed on from our Cruce Signati collection, which was all about the punk rebellion and the removal of the ideology of the cross purely being a religious symbol. Funnily enough, the XII Crest pieces were actually designed with an 18th Century man in mind. A modern day George Washington wearing a DNE Centered Crest kilt pin. 
 


Who are some of your favourite designers and labels?

I'm really inspired by designers and labels that offer a lifestyle and have an offering outside of just fashion. Acne has always been a fundamental inspiration. I'm in awe of everything they do, from their store designs, to their Acne Paper. They have really perfected their brand.



Is there any one designer you would love to collaborate with?

Tom Ford - purely because I'm in love with him. Who isn't?




Have you ever had any celebrity clients? Is these anyone you would really love to design a piece for?
I'm not sure! Would love to know that!  There was a time when we were going to design a custom piece for Karl Lagerfeld... chickened out though.  
 

Do you do any custom work and if so can you tell us about it?

We do get some bespoke requests which we take on a case by case basis. So far we have done a few engagement rings, and custom necklaces.  It's really exciting to work with someone and create a one off piece.


What are your favourite materials and concepts to work with?

Up until now it has all been about minimalism in Stainless Steel, Brass, and Gold. But, we are due to start experimenting with other materials for our next release. To date, Stainless Steel has been our favourite material to work with. Not because it's easy to use (it's actually a really hard material to work with), but because it's a great metal for our pieces - it's hypoallergenic, hard wearing, and doesn't tarnish like other metals.


When you are not designing what can we find you doing?

I'm a big foodie. So I'm always out with friends eating or drinking somewhere new. My current obsession is Mexican - which Melbourne is doing brilliantly at the moment! 


What can we expect from Does Not Equal in the future?

Hopefully a lot - we would like to move into new areas of design and expand beyond jewellery. 2013 will probably be our biggest year yet.