GSA graduate designer Akvile Su intent on putting an end to gendered jewellery
Akvile Su carefully laid the silver jewellery items on the coffee table, the dishevelled, mug-stained wooden surface of which seemed to enhance the pristine quality of the pieces even more so. Arranged together in this uniform manner, the items took on the appearance of surreal artefacts, displayed for peering onlookers.
“Which one would you like to shoot first?” she asked. I gestured towards a necklace piece that immediately caught my eye: a large tubular pendant threaded onto a thick wire. “Let’s start with this,” I suggested, and Akvile lifted her sea salt-sodden hair to allow me to help fasten the piece behind her neck.
Akvile, who, alongside her jewellery design work, has also modelled for five years, was no stranger to the camera. Standing before our photographer in front of a dappled grey backdrop, the enigmatic pendant hung starkly against her skin, which was bare between two lapels of a dusky pink tailored jacket.
The piece, called ‘Hold It’, can be worn in two ways – as a simple necklace, or by placing the finger into the hollow pendant, which automatically fixes the wearer’s hand into the position of ‘cupping’ their breast. This, alongside some other pieces in her graduate collection, Objectified, are designed to restrict the body into specific provocative poses, and are what Akvile describes as, “A direct response to what I saw as the female body objectification in fashion advertisements.”
Regarding the name of the collection, Akvile says, “It is a direct explanation of what I do, which is make objects. But it also refers to a broader conceptual meaning referencing topics that my work is about.”
As a model, in a world of perpetual “Hold it!”s, her first-hand experience of ‘the gaze’, paired with an awareness of the sexualisation of non-diverse bodies in the fashion industry, has undoubtedly played a role in inspiring her to comment on such topics. “I have been modelling for several years now and I am very familiar with the issues the industry holds. It has made me question things like diversity, ageism and gender stereotypes,” she explains. The Objectified collection, which has organically formed the basis of Akvile’s own jewellery brand of the same name, is a slick retort to this non-inclusiveness; it offers jewellery that is designed for everyone – regardless of their gender, age, lifestyle or background.
Akvile, who was born and raised in Naujoji Akmenė in northern Lithuania, always had a passion for the arts. Her parents, who were both creative themselves – her father had a talent for drawing, her mother was an art teacher – encouraged her in her pursuit to become a professional artist or designer.
After finishing school in 2012, Akvile moved straight to Glasgow, Scotland, where she embarked on the Silversmithing and Jewellery course at the prestigious Glasgow School of Art.
Now graduated, Akvile works from a humble ‘studio’ space in her home in Edinburgh, working with sustainable materials such as recycled ‘Eco’ silver, and in the past, even cast-off old family jewellery, in an attempt to create pieces that are environmentally, as well as socially, conscious.
Objectified jewellery exudes a ‘less is more’ refined elegance: cool, sculptural and modern. As a unisex range, it is designed with the intention of challenging social norms surrounding jewellery: how it is worn, and by whom it is worn. Akvile does not subscribe to the notion that jewellery should be gendered, “I think it is a very dated idea to be separating adornments into ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’,” she declares, before adding, “Overall, I do not believe in gender and the stereotypes that come with it.”
Some of the pieces convey a BDSM-inspired aesthetic, perhaps most blatantly the ‘Ring of O’ piece, which alludes, in both name and appearance, to the jewellery inspired by Pauline Réage’s sadomasochistic erotic 1954 novel Story of O. Akvile employs visual elements connected with these sexual subcultures, and works to desexualise them, exposing them in “cold, abstract and architectural forms” in an attempt to subvert passé stereotypes of a submissive femininity. She claims, “I firmly believe that as an artist I hold a responsibility to start conversations through conceptual work about the issues which our society has”.
I think it is a very dated idea to be separating adornments into ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. Overall, I do not believe in gender and the stereotypes that come with it.”
Our photo shoot with Akvile was drawing to a close; the mid-May Scottish sun was still high in the sky. Dressed again in her own simple ensemble of black jeans, black vest and trainers (all reminiscent of what she describes as her typical personal style – “Minimal, practical and mainly black”), we exchanged our goodbyes on the hot-stone doorstep.
And as for the future? Akvile hopes to stay true to her aesthetic and continue to create high quality, handcrafted pieces; she states, “Moving forward, I dream that Objectified will become recognised as a sustainable and unisex brand internationally.”
Objectified is currently stocked in the Scottish Design Exchange in Ocean Terminal, Edinburgh, and can also be purchased online through Akvile Su’s social media pages.
Objectified – Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/objectifiedjewellery/
Akvile Su’s Instagram https://www.instagram.com/suakvile/
Scottish Design Exchange http://scottishdesignexchange.com/
Fashion Writer & Stylist – Carmen Haigh / Fashion Feature Writing & Styling Student @ Glasgow Clyde http://www.carmenhaigh.com
Photography – Keir Laird http://www.keirlaird.com
Make up and hair – Yvonne Lynch http://www.yvonnelynchmua.com
Model/designer – Akvile Su