Holly Ryan has only been making jewellery for two years but the West End based designer’s creations have already featured in the pages of numerous major fashion magazines and are sold at boutiques up and down the east coast of Australia.
Despite growing up with parents who were silversmiths, Holly Ryan initially had little interest in jewellery and wanted to make clothes instead. She studied fashion at QUT but when she sent her final year collection down the runway it was her jewellery not her clothes that drew attention. “We were asked to either design an accessories collection or do a 5000 word thesis to accompany our clothing collection,” she says, “I was like, I’ll just design some jewellery and my mum can make it.”
Thea Basiliou, owner of Fortitude Valley boutique Blonde Venus, approached her about stocking it. “She loved the jewellery, didn’t care about the clothes, which kind of killed me at the time,” admits Holly.
Still intent on making clothes, Holly moved to Sydney to intern with a fashion label, while her mum continued to make her designs for Blonde Venus. Interest in her jewellery kept growing and Holly soon realised it was something she needed to take a bit more seriously. “About four boutiques had put orders in and I was like okay, this is unfair to my mum. It’s not really what she wants to be doing with her time. So I ended up moving home to the Sunshine Coast for eight months and intensely learning from my mother how to make jewellery.”
Since then the business has continued to grow, but Holly still handcrafts each individual piece using all Australian materials. She loves the enduring quality of jewellery compared to the often throwaway culture of fashion.
There’s a real nostalgia and a romance about creating jewellery. It’s more timeless. It’s a beautiful gift to give someone. You don’t really buy someone a nice t-shirt for their birthday. It doesn’t carry the meaning that a ring will. A ring will also last seasons and seasons.
Holly says most of her design ideas come from nature. Her latest collection, Aurora, is inspired by Aurora Australis (southern lights) that is the southern hemisphere’s equivalent to the Aurora Borealis. “I much prefer a quiet life to a city life and I definitely escape to the park whenever I can while I’m in Brisbane, and on the coast I live five minutes from the beach … I need to be around that or I don’t feel like myself. As you can see I love plants, they’re everywhere in my house.”
Holly’s designs are available in a number of Brisbane boutiques and also online, but she says she doesn’t want online to be her main focus. “I’m pretty traditional and I do really believe in that unique boutique experience, going into a store, trying it on, feeling it, looking in the mirror, talking to a shop assistant … I think it’s kind of sad that that’s slipping away.”
Words by Leah Carri | Images by Gillian van Niekerk