SINGAPORE — It’s not a tale as old as time, but a new story altogether.
Disney asked Singaporean jewelry designer Carrie K, otherwise known as Carolyn Kan, to design a line of jewelry inspired by the movie starring Emma Watson and Ewan McGregor, and on March 8 Kan launched a collection of 15 designs where Beauty (iridescent pearls) meets Beast (lightning motifs based on his fangs).
“With Beauty and the Beast, the theme of the movie we picked up on was the balance of perfection and imperfection,” said Kan, who was wearing a necklace in which a white pearl nestled in a jagged-edged shell. “It’s a combination of the Beast’s fearsome teeth as well as the perfection of the pearl.”
Kan, whose launch in her Carrie K studio/showroom was one of the main events of Singapore Design Week, admitted it was a bit of a left-of-field take on the romantic fairy tale, the most obvious symbol of which is the rose, but that Disney gave her and her team of designers and craftsmen free reign to create what they wanted.
“Emma Watson is the lead actress in the movie and she’s been a muse for us, so a lot of the pieces are the kinds of designs she tends to wear,” Kan said. “We will also be launching a piece supporting UN women because that’s also an initiative Emma Watson has been very vocal about — gender equality — so sales from the limited-edition item launching March 9 is going to a program to educate people about gender equality in Singapore.”
In 2015 Kan got a call from a lady executive at Disney, saying they would love to work with Carrie K.
Kan was incredulous: “How do you know about us?”
The lady replied she had heard about Carrie K’s style of telling stories through jewelry design, and said they were free to choose what story they wanted to tell. Kan chose Alice in Wonderland; fortunately Disney was about to release Alice Through the Looking Glass, and her succeeding collection, which featured gear motifs, pendulum earrings and lockets modeled after pocket watches, became Carrie K’s first collaboration with Disney.
“The story resonated with me,” Kan said. “It’s about imagination and so many things our brand is passionate about.”
Last July, Disney said they were launching Beauty and the Beast in 2017, and one of Kan’s partners, a designer in her 20s, related to the story and the character of Belle, in particular.
“She said, ‘Belle is not a princess-y princess: she’s strong and independent — I think we should do it,” Kan said. “The character played by Emma Watson has a very strong role in education and doing things ahead of her time, so we designed the collection with that character in mind. It’s not super-feminine, but a conceptual twist on the story and the theme. If you look at our style, our aesthetic is a little more androgynous.”
Carrie K executed the Beauty and the Beast collection in silver and micro-pavés of cubic zirconia — the better to keep prices accessible to the movie’s fans, whose ages range from tweens to 50s, though she says they can execute any design in precious metal and diamonds.
“We have single charms you can buy for S$98 and it goes up to S$360, but we also have limited-edition pieces people can preorder. We wanted it bright and blingy. We’re targeting markets like the US as well, and bling sells there.”
Kan, who used to run an ad agency, found a second life and career in jewelry design. She traveled to Florence, where a silversmith taught her to make her first piece of jewelry. “I fell in love with the whole process of silversmith-ing and wanted to replicate the magic I felt in the craftsman’s studio, which is why we handcraft everything,” she said.
She founded Carrie K in 2009 with the help of her husband, Chiew Huan Chong, aiming to create provocative, playful jewelry that would revive an appreciation for artisanship and whimsical storytelling. Consequently, her collections have included “A Beautiful Mess,” leather chokers with drips and splats, and “Burglar Ants,” in which gold ants signifying people’s quest for material status crawl over semiprecious stones.
This month, another collaboration with Singapore Airlines has her telling the national carrier’s history through a pendant necklace featuring the North Star and a four-leaf clover that can be worn three ways: “I designed this with the traveler in mind, because I don’t carry a ton of jewelry when I travel, so if a piece of jewelry can do three things, then I’m very happy. Also, the people who shop on Singapore Airlines are the men! So it has to be good for emergency shopping: it has luck, direction, and the romance of travel.”
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Carrie K’s “Beauty and the Beast” collection is available online at www.carriekrocks.com, or check the website for stockists.
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