JOHANNESBURG — Four years after leaving her job as jewelry designer at Erickson Beamon, where she worked on high-profile projects alongside Matthew Williamson, Rifat Ozbek, Julien Macdonald, Dries Van Noten and Alexander McQueen, South African-born Kirsten Goss faces a future that has never been brighter.
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In May she unveiled a new look for her two-year-old boutique in London, a stone&’s throw from Kensington Palace. Now, with a retail area of 250 square feet, the Kirsten Goss boutique has been transformed into a gallery that looks like an oversize jewelry box, with white walls and light aquamarine-tinged wooden floors.
“Basically, with the new shop, we&’ve gone gallery style, with an ever-changing selection of pieces on exhibition,” explained Goss. “We&’ve pulled out of wholesale completely, and expanded our range to include our exclusive pieces — all handmade, bold and beautiful precious and semiprecious jewelry with a bespoke element — as well as our new collections for men and children.”
Goss is also introducing a Precious Collection, which she said features diamonds and precious stones set in platinum. “I use them in a less obvious way,” she said, “as diamond beads, for instance.”
Goss said she resisted doing diamonds for some time, preferring to concentrate on other precious and semiprecious stones, which she sources mainly from big jewelry fairs in Hong Kong. “I am on a mission to break people&’s concentration from this absolute desire to covet diamonds all the time and make them aware that there are other stones,” she half-joked.
She cited amazonite, citrine, chrysoprase, Zimbabwean kyanite, unusual Australian opals and white agate as among her favorite stones. She loves juxtaposing them in unusual combinations and textures, adding an element of surprise, such as a bright, oversize turquoise sphere with smoky topaz chunks. “It gives the jewelry a bit of an unexpected edge, I like to think.”
Sensual and sophisticated has become her signature look, a departure from the rich yet multilayered neo-Edwardian vibe she started out with in 2003, prompting London&’s Sunday Times to christen her “The next big thing.” Liberty of London came calling soon after, asking Goss to design a collection for the Spirit of Liberty exhibition. Earlier this year, she was commissioned to design special gifts for the BAFTAs, the British equivalent of the Oscars.
American expatriates in London are among her loyal clients, not to mention celebrities Sarah Jessica Parker, Rosamund Pike, Helena Bonham Carter and Jane Krakowski, plus a host of chic English aristocrats. Goss believes a presence in the U.S. is the next logical step, and is looking for an American agent.
Goss has done trunk shows in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, and has been pleased with the results. She recalled her first trunk show in California&’s Marin County, at the home of a friend who lived next door to Sean Penn. “It was crazy, all these fabulous women coming in to buy. It was like a scene out of ‘Desperate Housewives&’! I left the States a few days later with my jacket stuffed with dollars, like a drug dealer, because I hadn&’t opened banking facilities in the U.S. yet.”
Goss hosts regular trunk shows here and in Cape Town, South Africa. She lives with her husband and daughter in Durban, where she has a small showroom. She retains two workshops, one in Durban “for all the labor-intensive metalwork,” and another in Chiswick, London, where all the pieces are handmade and hand-finished. Goss is in London every two weeks to oversee operations.
She believes full control of all aspects of the business has been key to her success; sales have quadrupled in three years. “When I started out, it was just me,” she mused. “Now, having a staff of 11 allows me to concentrate on the creative process — sourcing the most amazing stones cut in the most unusual way and using them in designs that are just as individual, and of exceptional quality. I am hugely into texture and form.”