The 'Scorpion' earrings
Morgan Mallett's unconventional jewelry line DESIGN + CONQUER first caught my attention at Vancouver Fashion Week where her pieces complemented Joseph Domingo's sleek evening wear perfectly. Made of unusual materials such as acrylic polymers and industrial tubing, DESIGN + CONQUER consists of statement earrings, necklaces, and cuffs. Mallett's pieces reveal an inventive wit and bold confidence--definitely not for wallflower types--while at the same time sweeping away any notions of preciousness and daintiness associated with jewelry. I was lucky enough to have the chance to ask Morgan some questions via email, and I have to say, the designer behind the baubles is just as irrepressible as her designs.
Solo Lisa: You have a background in graphic design and have always done jewelry on the side. What prompted you to take the plunge and found DESIGN + CONQUER last year?
Morgan Mallett: Admitting to myself that it was possible to make an impact designing highly unconventional jewellery. I’d previously dismissed this idea, as I already worked in a creative career as a graphic designer and illustrator. I think in the past, I subconsciously assumed that one had to work with precious metals and glittery stones in conventionally aesthetically appealing ways to be considered a ‘jewellery designer.’ Once I let go of this narrow categorization, my ideas were free to maraud, and DESIGN + CONQUER was founded.
I suppose another tipping point for me was when I wore a pair of earrings I designed to a wedding the other summer—I made them simply to satisfy my inner anal graphic designer (I am a notoriously picky shopper, often modifying purchases, hunting items down online, or making things myself). Then I got all sorts of positive feedback (often from complete strangers!). These were fiercely unconventional pieces—and they appealed to people other than myself (and not just in my demographic). I thought…hmmm…I’ve got something here. I then made more samples and applied to Vancouver Fashion Week. My designs were accepted, and there was no turning back. It was ‘go hard or go home’ from there!
Solo Lisa: Why did you choose this name for your label?
Morgan Mallett: I design in many different areas, with diverse materials—and want to conquer as many as possible, hence DESIGN + CONQUER. Plus, many of my pieces are quite large—and have conquering on their minds!
The 'Mitosis' earrings
Solo Lisa: DESIGN + CONQUER is divided into 2 lines based on the size of the pieces. What prompted this decision?
Morgan Mallett: I love the drama of huge pieces—they are fantastic for special events and fashion shoots, and if they had their way, they would love to be worn every day (…the divas)! However, I also understand that people often wear jewellery as a component of an outfit, not just as a focal point. The Small + Saucy line was developed with this application in mind.
Solo Lisa: I sense a bit of tongue-in-cheek science geek fun in the names of some of your pieces—Mitosis, Valve, Scorpion, Vader. As a self-proclaimed nerd, I have to ask, are you one too? ;-)
Morgan Mallett: Ahhh, yes…there are quite a few science geek references in my collections—perhaps I’m just in denial about my penchant for Battlestar Galactica episodes, Lord of the Rings metaphors, and Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre quotes..."Chancho. When you are a man, sometimes you wear stretchy pants." How could you not love that quote!? OK. It’s official. Nerd alert!
The 'Vader' cuff
Solo Lisa: Your jewelry was so perfectly styled with Joseph Domingo's designs at Vancouver Fashion Week. How did you land this gig, and what was it like working with Joseph?
Morgan Mallett: Thank you! As soon as I found out that Joseph was showing at Vancouver Fashion Week, I contacted him, as I love his aesthetic. He called me right back, and Bob’s your uncle. We collaborated so well (despite us working from different countries!), and it was a dream to come up with custom designs for his show. He also used pieces from my existing collections at Vancouver Fashion Week, so this was exciting. He was unafraid to use my big pieces—he just layered them on the models. What struck me the most was his awareness of the powerful dynamic between accessories and clothing—how they can both be bold and opinionated, yet enhance each other. Not all clothing designers have the confidence to embrace this.
DESIGN + CONQUER necklace and earrings paired with Joseph Domingo designs on the runway of Vancouver Fashion Week. Photo by Yvonne Chew.
Solo Lisa: Where do you find your inspiration?
Morgan Mallett: Everywhere—that’s what I love about designing—you can find inspiration from the most classically beautiful art, or from a piece of dirty gum on the sidewalk!
Solo Lisa: What's next for you personally and professionally?
Morgan Mallett: To continue to DESIGN + CONQUER! I’m currently planting the seeds of my next collection—getting my hands dirty experimenting with different materials. I’m also marketing my current collections—I designed all of my promotional materials (anal graphic designer alert!), so it’s been exiting to be able to synthesize my diverse skills, and to work for myself. I also plan on traveling this summer—I find that this helps me get out of my (constantly designing) head. Plus, vitamin D is always good...!
Solo Lisa: Are there any new materials, design ideas, or inspirations you're toying with now that will end up in the DESIGN + CONQUER line sometime in the future?
Morgan Mallett: Yes! My upcoming line will be just as uniquely unconventional as the last…I’m experimenting with some reusable plastics that I ordered from the States, and am solidifying the art direction for DESIGN + CONQUER’s Spring/Summer campaign...so stay tuned!
This interview is also cross-posted on Stylefinds.