Just over two years since launching their jewelry label URiBE, and off the back of a three-month honeymoon traveling through North and South America, husband-and-wife duo Tiffany and Sion Phillips have wound up with Karl Lagerfeld as a fan and some of the world's biggest fashion stores stocking their wares, including Colette, Opening Ceremony, Joyce, Luisa Via Roma, and Net-A-Porter, where they've just launched an exclusive new collection (more on that later).
But such an impressive resume is perhaps hardly surprising given that between them they've also worked with some of fashion's biggest names: Tiffany, who has a background in womenswear, spent 10 years working in accessory design with the likes of Chanel, Kenzo, Loewe, Maison Michel, and ThreeAsFour; Sion worked on branding, advertising and design for clients including Nike.
Here, we meet the pair and find out what it's like to run an extremely successful jewelry label and count Mr. Lagerfeld as a supporter. Read on!
Where does the name come from?
Tiffany Phillips: It's part of my maiden name. In Chile, where I was born, you take both your mother and father's surnames. When I took Sion's surname, Phillips, I dropped the Uribe. It was sentimental in a way: you are a name all your life then it's gone! So, calling our brand Uribe was a natural and personal decision.
How would you describe the brand's style?
TP: A mash-up of who we are aesthetically. Perhaps the biggest influence to our aesthetic, however, comes from our travels and love for design and architecture.
Sion Phillips: Yes—URiBE has a chic yet playful vibe.
What are your signature pieces and why?
TP: The "U"-shaped hoops, called "Willie," which are simple and easy to wear, plus they are key in our design—the "U" is a repeating element. Then there's the "Camille" hoops with beads, which are great for fiddling with! Also the "U" necklace because, again, the "U" element is our thing, and it's also very comfortable. And lastly the Rubik earrings, coming soon. They're simple cubes in either gold plate, silver, or hematite plate; are cute and tiny and can crawl up your ear if you have several piercings.
How do you work together, and who does what?
TP: The real objective was to create something unique and personal to our different aesthetics. We are married and come from different creative backgrounds, so we wanted to create a brand that we could both focus on while implementing our different skill sets.
SP: Both our experiences have helped us out in so many ways to build a brand and define our business.
TP: I take care of product management, design of the pieces, and production with the factory along some other odds and ends while Sion handles all the art direction, branding and visual communication strategy.
What processes, methods, and materials do you use?
SP: We start through extensive research together before anything else, then decide the direction of the new collection and go from there.
TP: Once the dominant elements are established, I work on drawing everything up. We almost always have two-toned (silver and gold) pieces and/or semi-precious beads in every collection. The beads are usually moving, spinning, and contrasting as a material with the polished smooth metal.
SP: We are a design studio at heart, so every piece is conceived on paper before going into work. Sometimes Tif uses some plasticine to create shapes and will then move them into drawings.
How many collections do you typically produce a year?
TP: We design two collections a year with a focus on the main seasons, fall/winter and spring/summer. In special cases we do bespoke pieces and projects, as well as exclusive collections, as we've done for Net-A-Porter.
Tell me about that collection:
TP: We worked closely with the buyer to develop special colorways and use different materials on some really special pieces. Taking a two-tone approach is something we always do, and for NAP we pushed this in a new way using metal beads plated in Rhodium to contrast the 18-karat gold-plated tone of the rings or earrings. The collection is a bit more grown-up, and translates from day to night really easily—there are even some reversible pieces.
How did you come to work with Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel?
TP: I was hired by the then-director of accessories/costume jewelry as I had worked with her previously at Delvaux. Karl is very much in charge of all the collections he designs so working with him directly was not only a privilege but the most incredible learning experience. He is a living legend! Karl himself is an inspiration, as is his work ethic, and on top of that he is a nice and considerate being.
He's worn it, right?
SP: Yes, he has worn it! We gave him the Sterling pendant customized into a brooch.
TP: The crazy thing is Karl receives a ton of gifts all the time but he chose to wear ours to the Chanel show with his other jewelry and it was so amazing to see that. It felt like we were on the right track, in a way.
And what about Kenzo, how did that come about?
TP: I met Carol [Lim] and Humberto [Leon] in the very early days of their work with Kenzo, months before the first show. As I was in the process of leaving Chanel, I was working on both brands at once—a bit incognito but it all worked out. They are amazing people to work with and learn from. Like Kenzo, a lot of projects and freelance I have done have happened quite organically, through a brief introduction and then hitting it off. Or by being introduced through friends.
How is working with another brand different to designing for your own brand?
TP: Completely different! Working for another brand most of the time is strictly design and styling. Designing for our brand takes a lot more than just creative ideas as there is always a budget in place, certain limitations with styles, and of course the actual running-a-business part behind it all.
SP: We are creative in everything we do, however admin takes more of our time than the actual designing itself.
TP: For URiBE as well, at the end of the day, we have each other to approve decisions with and take action immediately. Whereas working with other brands there is a validation factor and sometimes you have to wait for that in order to take the next step. Collaboration is so much fun though and something I miss a lot—tying in jewelry with shoes and bags and ready-to-wear for a total production is so much fun!
What would your advice be to someone who wants to get into jewelry design?
TP: Work work work work work! Get as much experience as possible and understand all aspects of design.
SP: Go through old magazines and books to develop a sense of history and style, knowing what's been done is important if you want to stay on top.
TP: My background is in womenswear, and I really just landed in the jewelry department by accident. So pay attention to accidents, trust your instincts, and always work hard.
What are your tips when it comes to wearing jewelry?
TP: I love the old Coco Chanel saying, "Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory." It's sound advice and makes loads of sense—too much is not a bad thing, but editing it is a real skill that comes with wearing jewelry. For URiBE, I love to stack our rings as so many go with each other, and I never wear a complete pair of earrings. I'm usually wearing one single statement earring on one ear, and maybe the Rubik or Willie earrings on the other ear or my keepsake gold hoops I've had since my 14th birthday. Mixing vintage in is always great as it shakes it up the idea of the new a bit.
Now you've met them, shop the new collection, exclusive to Net-A-Porter:
Jay Gold and Rhodium-plated Ring, $205, net-a-porter.com.
Guion Gold-plated Beaded Bracelet, $690, net-a-porter.com.
Raven Gold- and Rhodium-Plated Agate Earrings, $210, net-a-porter.com.
Skylark Gold- and Rhodium-Plated Lapis Lazuli Earrings, $250, net-a-porter.com.
Laura Set of Three Gold and Rhodium-Plated Agate Cuffs, $415, net-a-porter.com.
For more, see studiouribe.co.uk.
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