As with any sector of the fashion industry, there isn’t one clear path to making it as a designer. Just ask Christina Tung, a public relations veteran who earlier this summer launched a covetable costume jewelry line, SVNR, on one of those unseasonably rainy summer weekends.
“I just went to the bead district during the week and bought a bunch of stuff and was like, I’m going to make my own earrings,” says Tung of the line’s unorthodox beginnings. “I was making a bunch of them and friends started coming over and saying they wanted this one and that one.”
The colorful long earring strands instantly attracted the attention of industry insiders, and for good reason. Consisting of beads, natural materials and upcycled, oftentimes broken, objects, there’s playfulness and texture in spades. They provide a charming sensibility without any campy gimmicks, are at once hand-done and vintage, and appropriate for day and night. You can categorize them as statement earrings with a casual spirit. In other words, they work across occasions, and everyone likes bang for their buck.
The name SVNR was born from an idealistic goal of curating an eco-friendly, sustainable vintage shop down the line, while also incorporating the nostalgia of travel with items sourced along the way; hence, souvenirs.
The earrings in the summer collection, Tung’s first, take on the palette of the various locales they’re named after. For Dharamshala, where Tung traveled to for three weeks teaching English and spending time with monks and refugees, there’s an alternating mix of ebony and variously colored rock quartz. The Positano is an elegant blend of soft pastel quartz, pearl and recently trending seashells. Tung’s proposition for Shanghai, where her mother’s lineage is from, features delicate porcelain alongside agate, quartz and pearl.
In total, the summer collection features 16 long strand styles, four each inspired by cities in America, Africa, Asia and Europe. There are also nine unnamed studs and droplets made of various stones, Tiger’s Eye and opal.
Though there are elements sourced from the actual locales, it isn’t all so grand. After all, there’s an inherent underlying narrative of upcycling. Tung’s family has been incredibly supportive — especially her mother and aunts who have all beaded throughout their lives — bringing their old beads, turquoise, shells and family heirlooms for Tung to work her magic. “Everyone is sending me so many things,” she exclaims. “They’re cleaning out their houses! I never thought I would make jewelry out of it.”
The new fall collection draws on more from Tung’s ancestry and Chinese artifacts, such as old coins, Ming dynasty-inspired porcelain, lifesavers and dragon and fish motifs. There are also more unique, one-off options that truly can’t be replicated, including earrings made from a fragmented vintage gold bracelet. Other hits include all the droplets with baroque pearl settings.
Notable industry supporters include stylist Rachael Wang and Brother Vellies’ Anja Tyson, along with Tung’s surprising first customer. “My first sale, this girl bought seven earrings that aren’t even on the linesheet, just stuff I was playing around with. My friend took a picture, posted it, and she DM’d and Venmo’d me right away. She ended up being a buyer from Saks.”
Within a day of sending out her linesheet to industry contacts, she was fielding interest from stores known to support emerging talent. Pieces are available at LCD, either and, Quiet Storms, Sincerely, Tommy, along with her newly launched site, svnrshop.com.
The range is reasonably priced: $38 for a stud, $45 for a droplet, and $98 to $175 for a long strand. It’s made to be mixed and matched however desired. With the approachable pricing, it’s eminently shoppable. “I don’t want it to be so precious where people have to think twice; no brainer, I’ll buy two.”
As for future plans, Tung is keeping it organic, fun, and, most importantly, transparent. “I think opportunities lie in the value beyond what the product looks like by developing and communicating the story and identity behind each brand,” she says, continuing, “the Millennial-minded customers seem interested in the process. Sustainability for SVNR, at this point, translates to utilizing vintage, found and natural materials, being dedicated to minimal waste, and being mindful of our packaging. I think this resonates with people. I operate the business this way because it’s important to me.”