MILAN — Bea Bongiasca pinpoints the major shift in her business to her decision a year ago to focus on markets outside Europe. The choice has served the young Italian jewelry designer well, as her brand has quickly built a solid business with the likes of Bergdorf Goodman, Twistonline and Moda Operandi, not to mention Net-a-porter.
“I connected with Muse, a showroom that is specialized in the representation of jewelry designers in New York, after years of working with more fashion-oriented showrooms, but jewelry is something distinct,” explained Bongiasca in her easy yet spirited way. The designer, who turns 29 next month, started working with Muse in February and in June attended The Couture Show in Las Vegas. “In September, I started working with Net-a-porter and by the end of the month, they had put in a reorder.”
A graduate of London’s Central Saint Martins, she founded her namesake brand in Milan, presenting her first collection in 2014. Foregoing collaborations with other brands and designers, Bongiasca has succeeded in nurturing her own style. Her first collection, called “No Rice, No Life,” used polished rice grains in silver and gold to create hoop earrings, cuffs and band rings. Her “You’re So Vine” chokers, quirky drop earrings and rings are made with strands of enamel, twisted and curled into whimsical vine-like tendrils. The enamel is available in an expansive range of colors — exclusive in some cases, as for Moda Operandi — and paired with semi-precious stones, amethysts, topaz or tsavorite and sapphire or diamond pavés.
“I learned through my own work,” she admitted, noting that her rings are her bestsellers so far. The “A Golden Lesson” line telegraphs the designer’s passion for the Far East, Mandarin ideograms standing out on her jewels. “The Americans are very much open to trying new things, Italians are more traditional in their choices of jewelry,” said Bongiasca.
That said, the designer is not neglecting her hometown, and has just opened her first store in Milan’s arty Brera district, an all-pink delightful jewel box, literally.
Conceived by architect Massimiliano Locatelli, who also designed her room when she was a child — again, in all pink — the store in the past used to sell dollhouses. “I always walked by it and loved all those miniatures,” said Bongiasca. The banner, which has a Pop Art feel, stands out as her jewelry does, with its pink latex curtains and pink aluminum foil chocolate wrapping on the walls. What looks like traditional ceramic tiles on the floors is actually linoleum. “This allows us to change all the colors on a whim,” said Bongiasca. Blooming flower patterns are printed on the windows and furry black armchairs stand near a display designed by Bongiasca.
The designer, who employs 9-karat gold, was keen on creating a line of jewelry that would be available across different age segments “and wallets,” she said. Prices range from $254 for silver Rice Ball Chain earrings to $667 for a Baby Vine Tendril ring in green enamel, $2,023 for a Vine ring with diamonds, or $3,811 for Vine drop hoops in rose gold with red enamel on silver vines and fuchsia sapphire pavé, for example. Bongiasca sells through her own web site, too.
The jewels are made in Italy with an artisan in Pesaro.
In 2015, Bongiasca was bestowed the “Young Enterprise Award — Believing in the Future” for the jewelry category, when the Spanish-born Álvaro González won for the accessories category with his Alvaro brand. This was a mentorship program created by Fondazione Altagamma and realized with L’Uomo Vogue, the Italian Bourse and Maserati.