I currently live and work in Birmingham, which I love, but find one of the frustrations as a designer living outside of London is the creeping feeling of always being on the fringes of the fashion and jewellery industries because you don’t work in the capital.
Now, I love London – I was born there, I’ve lived and worked there, and I visit often for both business and pleasure. However, it never ceases to frustrate me how London-centric the industry can be - an issue Liv Olver raised in her IJL talk last September.
I also think there’s also a preconception that the jewellery that comes out of Birmingham is either 'boring' commercial or slightly dodgy craft product, certainly nothing fashion-led or cutting edge. As a designer working in a Birmingham-based commercial manufacturing company I know how trend aware and innovative we are – but I suspect people who visit our company are actually always a little surprised when they see this.
As a city, Birmingham suffers from just not being as ‘cool’ as it’s other big city counterparts such as Liverpool and Manchester, and is often not taken seriously. A review of Birmingham’s Spring Fair Jewellery Show in Professional Jeweller remarked that “many of the designers joked about wanting to being taken back to civilisation” – which seems a pretty nonsensical quip to make about what is, after all, the second city.
To demonstrate how skewed these preconceptions are, I've illustrated this post is the work of a very cool and very talented designer working in Birmingham today - Fei Liu Fine Jewellery.
Having graduated from Birmingham Jewellery School, Fei Liu now runs a highly successful brand, designing pieces that fuse both Chinese and English aesthetics. His beautifully designed pieces have earned him high profile awards, stockists and celebrity fans - and a stand alone store in Beijing.
I’d certainly encourage a visit to Birmingham if you want to expand your jewellery horizons – can I suggest next time Brilliantly Birmingham comes to town?