As part of our founder interview series, we speak with Mélanie from Mélanie Pigeaud about creating a line of ethical jewellery that pays respect to its origins.
What were you doing before launching Mélanie Pigeaud? What inspired you to start designing jewellery?
I graduated with a Master degree in Business Administration. I used to work as a marketeer at Vodafone but I always knew I wanted to start my own company one day. I was practicing in a goldsmith workshop next to my fulltime job. Just because I liked to be creative with my hands. Actually this was the point where I got a lot of compliments from colleagues, friends and family about my designs and before I knew I was making things in my course for friends and family. I knew this could be a start of something really nice.
Why do you call your jewellery pieces “heroes”?
I see the mineworkers in the gold and silver mines as true heroes of the industry. They work so hard to get the most precious metals from our earth. And they do it with a lot of risk for their health. Most of the time they are the ones neglected in the supply chain. They do not get enough paid for the hard work and the risks they take. The mineworkers and their families are often so bound to the work they do because in their region there is not other work to do. Therefor I would love to see that they get more safety description, that their children can go to local schools and that they get fair wages to at least have the option to live a normal, stress and risk free life.
When did you first become aware of some of the lack of transparency in the jewellery industry, and how did this inspire you to create Mélanie Pigeaud?
While I was doing the Goldsmith workshop I became conscious of the amount of gold and silver that is used in 1 single piece of jewellery. This made me curious of where it came from. I read a lot of articles online and I talked to people in the industry and at fair-trade organizations such as Solidaridad. I realized the lack of knowledge at the customer side when I talked to my friends and family about this and that no one ever heard about the stories behind this industry.
What steps do you take to ensure the materials you work with are ethically and sustainable sourced?
I only work with local suppliers of gold and silver that are 100% certified for selling and producing items with 1st or 2nd time recycled metals. The production of this is very transparent and everything is made by highly qualified people that work for dutch companies in Amsterdam and in the area of Rotterdam. This process of finding the right suppliers was one of the most time consuming steps to be sure these companies are doing it the right way. The communication is perfect, the lines are short and I can come and check/control the production any time I want.
Where do your jewellery creations come to life?
My jewellery designs come to life in the atelier of my mother. She is a professional painter and she has a lot of light and industrial materials around her. We always discuss the story I want to tell and then she literally grounds me and gives me a piece of paper and says: What forms are the first that come in your mind when thinking of the story you want the world to know. Then most of my designs are coming to life by its own. Often 1 shape becomes 4 designs by playing with the shape in many ways. That is the most magical part of the process.
What is an average day look like for you in your atelier?
I describe my days in two ways: 1 day: I come in my atelier. I turn up the music (without techno or deep house I can’t live). Then I check my emails if there are any customer requests or orders that I haven’t seen in my email yet. Then I work on making the jewellery that are not in stock. Usually I have 3/4 items in stock in silver and gold-plated. Real gold I always make upon request. Then I work the whole day on the designs. These days are my meditation days where I am in a total flow of production and creation. Day 2: I have meetings with stores that I am selling my heroes or I have inspiring coffee dates with entrepreneurs who I want to meet and learn from each other. Then I decide to optimize my facebook ads or change something on my website. So creation and marketing/strategy are 2 different days which I try to plan as much as possible.
How would you describe the aesthetic of your “heroes”? Where do you get your design inspiration?
Often I choose a theme that I think is inspiring for the customer who is not aware of this story yet. I also get a lot of inspiration by looking at contemporary art. The shapes and richness of certain sculptures that are so simple but yet so complex to make.
What Mélanie Pigeaud do you love to wear most? And what do you pair it with?
I always wear my simplicity necklace chain with my imperfect balance necklace together. The combo is perfect for the stacked necklace feeling and it wears so easily with a sweater or a simple deep v tank top. I like to see the jewellery as the cherry on the cake. Any wardrobe can be nice but with the right jewellery you really make it a total different look.
What advice do you have for shoppers looking to become more informed about the ethics of their jewellery?
Ask the designer or the seller about where the gold and silver is coming from. Ask them how it is made and who makes it. These are the 3 simple and basic questions that are necessary to be aware of the ethics of jewellery.
How would you like to see Mélanie Pigeaud grow in the future?
One day…. I would love to have a store of my own in New York. (A girl can have a dream right)!