Petite Grand started out as just a hobby. After a decade of working in the fashion industry, designer Tanja Kovacevic enrolled in a jewellery-making class with no expectations other than to make something with her hands.
The label, known for its subtle designs, is stocked in some of Melbourne’s best boutiques, including Incu, Bassike and Zimmermann. Like the label’s name, every Petite Grand piece is an oxymoron. Each is very detailed and calculated, but gives the impression of simplicity, something the wearer just threw on. The pieces act as a little accent that complements the overall look of the wearer, without overwhelming it. “Something I’ve noticed is that no matter how delicate or subtle or small it is, people always notice it,” she says.
Every piece of Petite Grand jewellery is made by hand by Kovacevic and her team. “Making the pieces all by hand is just so important because it’s the part that I love doing. I’ve had people say in the past that my jewellery feels different, it has an energy around it that’s a little bit ... I don’t know, special? Genuine.”
Over the past two years Kovacevic has grown the small Petite Grand team to help her make the pieces. “They are a great little team of girls who are all studying jewellery and who have a love of making it. But the local jewellery industry is getting smaller and smaller, so when they graduate, there are not many opportunities for them,” she says. “Often there’s one working with me, another one in the living room, one in the kitchen soldering on the table,” she says with a laugh. It’s a nice, free environment that enables Kovacevic, as well as her team, to imprint the passion they have for making the jewellery into each piece. The nucleus of the Petite Grand workspace, however, is the sunroom.
The sunroom is filled with all that Kovacevic requires. In this space, plants abound (succulents are her favourite), the water is never far out of view and there’s warm winter sunlight that streams through the windows, illuminating her creations scattered over the work desk. It is covered with the beginnings of every Petite Grand piece; trivets, loops and chains sit in compartmentalised sections. There’s an overall organised-chaos vibe to the space, perhaps reflecting Kovacevic’s design process.
Swapping sketches and mood boards for a more hands-on approach, Kovacevic starts by making one of the designs she has in her head of which, she jokes, there are an “infinite amount”. The design process is sporadic and slightly chaotic, but it’s a method well-tested and it works for her. “Previously I’ve written down my ideas but then I go to make the prototype and it just doesn’t look anything like I have it in my head,” she says. “Now I just sit down and surround myself with all my different beads and metals and chords and just go for it.”
Petite Grand is available online at petitegrand.com.