Sustainability is a big deal for Queensland-born, Sydney-based jewellery designer and sculptor Holly Ryan. For her eponymous handmade jewellery label she makes pieces using recycled metal, has an in-house repair service so she can fix people’s jewellery, and there’s an option to return preloved pieces for her to redesign and create something new.
It’s an ethos that carries to her wardrobe. “If it’s not recycled, upcycled, locally made or handmade, I generally won’t buy it,” she says. Ryan scours online marketplaces for the best vintage finds and scrutinises the make-up of each piece before purchase.
Her work clothing needs to be highly functional, so there’s a heavy rotation of coveralls, overalls and boilersuits – all with pockets for transporting her tools around the workspace. She also has a stack of eight jewellery pieces that she never takes off.
Ryan invites Broadsheet inside her home, which is above her studio in the inner-city suburb of Redfern, to share a few details of her wardrobe and accessory essentials.
Broadsheet: How would you describe your personal style?
Holly Ryan: It’s definitely very casual. I mix a lot of denim and vintage pieces with classic linen and cotton shirting. But I do also love colour; I wear a lot of Nagnata – it’s my friend’s sustainable active leisurewear brand.
BS: What’s your definition of a good work wardrobe?
HR: I wear a lot of overalls. They’re something that I can be comfortable in, and I don’t need to worry about them getting scuffed up. They need to have pockets because I’m constantly carrying things around the studio. I get really hot and sweaty with my work, so they need to be made out of a fabric that breathes. I actually just got sent an amazing pair of coveralls from Assembly Label, which is one of the brands I currently work with. I’m obsessed with them! I just want to wear them every day.
BS: How would you transform your outfit if you had to go straight from the studio to, say, a showing or a meeting with a client?
HR: Generally, I’ll either be in overalls or jeans, so I’ll just change my top underneath and wash my face and probably undo my hair (it’s always tied up in the studio). I’ll also change my shoes from work boots – I usually wear Blundstones or Converse in the studio – to my St Agni slides or just cleaner, nicer looking Cons [laughs].
BS: How does your dress sense reflect your attitudes as a jewellery designer and artist?
HR: In terms of jewellery, my style has always been quite pared back and minimal. My designs aren’t overly fussy – they’re made to be worn every day and are handcrafted to become heirlooms. I think that’s reflected in my style by the vintage pieces I wear – the more worn in they are, the better. I also don’t really wear many prints, or much colour. I go for pieces I can re-use and re-wear. Most of the pieces I buy are also either recycled or upcycled. All of these fashion choices reflect my brand as well.
BS: What’s your approach to adding jewellery to an outfit?
HR: If I’m going out at night, I’ll always put on a pair of earrings. Depending on the neckline of what I’m wearing, I might go without a necklace altogether. I feel like you should either do a necklace or earrings, not both. Less is always more.
BS: Do you have a set of jewellery pieces that you wear every day? Or a particular signature piece?
HR: I wear my solid gold “H” initial pendant and my zodiac Scorpio pendant, and then I wear two different Wabi-Sabi rings, a diamond Estrella ring, an Unconditional Ring, a solid gold signet ring, and my Keshi Pearl Hoops. It sounds like a lot, but they are all really fine. I literally never take these pieces off.
BS: What's the last fashion purchase you made?
HR: Nagnata, yesterday. My friend [Laura May Gibbs], who runs the business in Byron Bay, came to visit and I got some pieces from her new collection. I tend to wear her little Yoni Bike Shorts around with a band T-shirt and Converse. She’s also got some mini dresses out in a technical stretch knitwear that I have been wearing around nonstop in this heat. So I picked up another one of those in orange and a little yoga set in green. Probably the only colour in my wardrobe is Nagnata [laughs].
BS: What are some of your favourite places to shop?
HR: I generally do a lot of second-hand shopping if I do go shopping. For my vintage pieces, I’ll search for them on a lot of different online marketplaces. My favourite is The RealReal. I have a rule with shopping: if it’s not recycled, upcycled, locally made or handmade, I generally won’t buy it.
BS: What does an average work day look like for you?
HR: I work between my Queensland studio and my Redfern studio. If I’m in Queensland, the first thing I’ll do is either a mountain climb – my studio here is on the side of a mountain – or a surf. And if I’m in Sydney, my day will start by either taking my golden retriever, Hugo, to Centennial Park for a couple of laps running or down to the beach for a swim at Bondi. Then I’ll hit the studio at around 9am. The first thing I do is respond to all my emails to make sure every one is answered, and then I set out my plan for the day. After that, I’ll pick up the tools and start making jewellery or sculptures – depending on what my deadline is at the time.