“I have always been quite creative. As a child, I was always drawing, sketching clothes and putting jewellery together. A lot of my drawings were on the fantasy or darker side; my mind always wondered and explored different things … I excelled in fine arts in school; that and sports were always my strongest suits,” says creative director, Leonie, who attended boarding school in Sydney before pursuing tertiary education in Melbourne. “This was when my parents decided to let me explore my creativity in design in university. That is exactly what I did when I went into graphic design, learning packaging and logo design,” she says when we meet for this interview at VLT’s boutique, which is open to customers by appointment only, in Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur.
Although Liane spent many of her formative years dabbling in art and design, it was at a silver jewellery-making workshop that she truly fell in love with the craft and decided to explore it. VLT was introduced to family and friends at end-2017 before its e-commerce store opened in December last year.
“This is our baby and my dream,” says Leonie who, between her time with Cartier, where she handled public relations matters, and Selberan, where she obtained first-hand knowledge of crafting jewellery, attended a seven-week jewellery workshop at the Gaffa gallery in Sydney.
Liane, the younger of the two, attended school in Sydney at 13 and went on to study psychology at the University of Sydney. She is VLT’s marketing director.
“We usually put jewellery in a vault but, for us, it is more than just [guarding] material of value; it is about the sentimental value behind it,” she says, explaining the meaning behind the brand’s name, an abbreviation for “vault”. Drawing from her years of experience in product and brand marketing for L’Oréal, Chopard and Nestlé, she believes VLT’s pieces are non-traditional to the local jewellery market.
“There are a lot of new players in the market but they are more focused on plated and vermeil in terms of fine jewellery. 14K is what we are trying to bring to the local market, which we think has a good carat amount due to its hardiness,” she says.
On why 14K gold was the material they chose to work with, Liane explains that it hits the sweet spot for versatility, price and durability. “We believe solid gold is the way to go for everyday wear. Like us, our friends too did not want the hassle of taking things off and putting them back on. With plated, vermeil or gold-filled [pieces], the colour tends to rub off and over time it does not last. Solid gold is built to last,” says Leonie. VLT’s jewellery, which complies with strict ethical policies, are crafted from yellow, white and rose gold, and made either locally or in Hong Kong.
Liane and Leonie’s connection to their creations for VLT is personal and their unique sense of style is evident from the pieces they have chosen to don for the photo shoot.
“Jewellery is like my armour; I cannot walk out without something on my fingers or neck. It is my second set of skin,” says Leonie, who has an edgy sense of style and likes to mix and match or layer. Liane, on the other hand, prefers delicate pieces and wears them on their own.
In designing the jewellery, the women put themselves in the shoes of a potential customer, making things that they would wear themselves, according to Liane. “Our customer base is very broad; there is not one person that it is for. The fact that you can layer and style things on your own means it all comes down to your personality. Everyone is different and it is exciting every time someone new comes in.”
Each piece of VLT’s jewellery displays the co-founders’ strength in design and eye for detail as seen on the millegrain ring and comfort fit on the inside of the cigar band ring, which allows the wearer to seamlessly slide it on. “Every little bit counts, even that 1mm more to the thickness of a band or the size of a stone. We put in everything for it to look its best,” says Liane.
The first Essentia collection — which means essential — features stackable rings, necklaces suitable for layering and studs, all showcasing Swarovski Zircornia. The designs are delicate but are durable too, says Leonie, who even wears them while working out at the gym. On its own, the jewellery exudes a minimalist appeal but, with a bit of creative mix and match, it can look striking and bold. This design philosophy flows into the Essentia II collection, but with the introduction of precious stones as seen on the diamond Enso Bracelet and the customisable birthstones on the Bar Bracelet, which has sizes for both babies and adults.
At the moment, Liane and Leonie are gearing up to unveil of VLT’s brand-new collection. Privé — which highlights both semi-precious stones that Leonie loves working with as well as precious ones — best defines her core style as a jewellery designer. “My personality comes out — it is bold and minimal compared with the Essentia range.”
Expect to see south sea and freshwater pearls daringly paired with unusual colours and semi-precious stones, a change of narrative derived from fusing the classic qualities of pearls with modern designs. Another proud masterpiece is the Khaleesi Ring made from moissanite. This high-end set is a sneak peek into her future collection that has a romantic, dark and sexy edge to it. Design inspiration is everywhere, Leonie says.
“When I travel, I keep a sketchbook with me most of the time because you never know when you are out and about and you see something. It could be architectural or a pattern that you see on someone’s sofa, or a shadow just cast — it can be anything really,” she adds.
In the odd chance that one cannot choose from the existing collections, there is always the bespoke service to consider — which includes resetting stones from heirlooms — opening up a world of possibilities in terms of jewellery and design.
This article first appeared on June 17 in The Edge Malaysia.