“It drives people mad when they first come to work with us,” says Robert Sebastian Grynkofki, one half of jewellery design duo and husband-and-wife team, Sarah & Sebastian. “If something’s not immaculate, even if it’s just the light flow on the surface that’s not good enough, it’ll be scrapped. It has to be perfect. If they’re the right people though, after time, they get in the right headspace.”
The pair has been creating work together since 2011 and this year moved into an industrial warehouse space in Sydney's Alexandria with neighbours such as Sass & Bide, Tigerlily and Rachel Gilbert.
“We just fell in love with the space, it’s so bright,” says lead creative Sarah Gittoes. “Everyone loves coming to work, which is nice.”
All the hallmarks of a warehouse conversion are there, from polished concrete floors to exposed steel beams. Colossal windows fill the space with light; the frames were imported from Scandinavia. Unique touches from the designers speak of the duo’s aesthetic of balance and simplicity, like the set of charcoal Walter Knoll chairs that soften the entry to the showroom space.
Precision lies at the heart of the Sarah & Sebastian label. Each delicate, intricately formed piece is made by hand, then critiqued and considered by the tight-knit design team.
“I guess the conventional approach to jewellery-making allows manufacturers to hide elements that aren’t perfect,” says Grynkofki. “We believe that jewellery, something so beautiful and very personal, is a gift. It should never be made just for profit’s sake.”
“Because each piece is so fine, every detail stands out,” adds Gittoes.
The label’s latest collection, NIMBUS, reflects the label’s constantly evolving design philosophy that holds modern minimalism at its core. A glimpse into plans for the 2016 collection stays true to this theme, a thoughtful and sophisticated range that borrows inspiration from the everyday.
“We take items and we study them, we draw and we photograph, and we just keep developing and developing," says Gittoes.
“The design process isn’t for us just about coming up with an idea,” says Grynkofki. “It’s about critiquing the piece and getting rid of everything we don’t need so that it’s just right. Are these details adding to the design? How can people wear this differently? Sarah’s initial idea was to work with bubbles; she was sitting here with soap, water and a little straw, making bubbles, taking photos of them and making imprints. We started thinking, how can we take elements of this and simplify them?”
M is the duo’s first men’s collection – it is understated and refined. “Designing for men is incredibly difficult, you very easily get put in a corner,” says Grynkofki. “It can easily become a statement of the group you belong to rather than a fashion statement.”
Clean lines and faultless construction leads to items that feel effortless and luxurious. “For us the challenge was to apply the essence of Sarah & Sebastian without being boring and repeating what’s already out there, but also without being too over the top when it comes to design. It’s a fine balance.”
"Online you don't really get the essence of the quality," says Gittoes.
The pair had incredibly high standards for the collection throughout both design and production. Grynkofki says, “If you don’t go with high high-end materials like solid gold or solid silver at least, you don’t get the longevity out of a product. If you invest in something, you want to keep it.”
Separating the retail space from production is a living wall called the iPot, designed by Supercake in Milan, dotted with philodendrons. In the studio, the walls feature imagery from past collections shot by Michael Naumoff. A jeweller’s bench made by Gittoes’s dad sits among more modern workbenches.
The result is a modern but honest workspace, harmony between design and production, and space to think. "In the afternoon the sun sets through the windows and it glows red; it’s amazing,” says Gittoes. "I always wished I could work outside and when we open the doors to the front it feels pretty close. I’m just excited to meet the people who buy our stuff.”
The Alexandria studio will be open to the public in the last week of October – the collection is available online.