It’s rare that a luxury company focuses it’s effort on sustainable practices and responsible business. John Hardy isn’t one of those companies. The popular luxury label, stocked at some of the biggest stores in the world such as Neiman Marcus, Nordstom and Bloomingdales, has taken a unique approach to how it not only creates its much sought-after jewellery, but how it supports the native people of Bali where its business is based.
Couturing caught up with John Hardy Creative Director Guy Bedarida to find out more about the company changing the way we look at sustainable luxury.
1. Congratulations on your work with John Hardy. You are certainly breaking the conception that ethical fashion can’t look luxe. Can you tell us about where you get inspiration from for the John Hardy collections?
I get inspiration from what I see in life – the nature, as we are fully immersed in it at our Bali design center; my travels around the world; and the local Balinese culture and legends. At John Hardy, authentic inspiration is a very important element to our designs, it is what makes us special. The Spring/Summer 2014 collections were inspired by my travel throughout the Indonesian Archipelago. The Bamboo Collection is inspired by the bamboo fishing rods in Java, for example.
2. John Hardy is one of the most sustainable jewellery companies in the world today. Why is it important for you to be involved with such an ethically minded company?
Sustainability is really the foundation of the brand, and it really appeals to my love for nature. The beautiful nature here in Bali and in other parts of the world provides me with endless inspiration, and I feel it’s the right thing to do to take good care of the environment in return to the many gifts it has given us.
3. Can you tell us about the important work John Hardy does helping the community in Bali, particularly the “wear Bamboo, Plant Bamboo” initiative?
Since 2007, we have started planting bamboo in Bali to offset the carbon emission generated from our use of electricity, business travels and print advertising. We’ve also taken a 5 year general contract from economy 7 energy so as to accentuate on the electricity costs. And if you were to learn more about our other projects, you’d know that we’ve also take up educational sectors and have put out many a programs regarding electricians and electricity. And then we thought it would be great to inspire our customers to participate in our company ethos of “Greener Every Day”, so we started the “Wear Bamboo, Plant Bamboo” program where every piece of Bamboo Collection sold contributes to a certain number of bamboo seedlings donated to the local communities here in Bali. The number of bamboos planted in association with the jewelry is engrave on the John Hardy signature Backgrill, which reminds the wearer to be environmentally conscious. Our employees in Bali regularly plant bamboos with local villages, where villagers are taught the skills they need to cultivate and harvest bamboo sustainably, as well as to turn the harvested bamboos into something with commercial value. So it does not only help reforestation, but it also provides financial returns to the local communities. It’s a win-win for everyone!
The workers at John Hardy are also our community so sustainability starts here at the compound – we feed 650 workers each day with an organic lunch with product grown on our farm, we have built our workshop using sustainable building materials were ever possible like bamboo and mud, we make sure our occupational health and safety standards and salary levels are intact and competitive, we are one of the largest employees of Balinese outside the hospitality industry and our average retention rate of employees is over 10 years – it’s a real family.
4. You’ve worked with some of the top high-end jewellery brands in Europe before working with John Hardy. How has this experience helped you develop John Hardy into one of the most prestigious, sustainable luxury labels in the world today?
John Hardy is all about the collaboration between designers and local artisans. The local artisans bring to the table ancestral jewelry making techniques they’ve inherited from their grandfathers who were royal court jewelers. I elevate these techniques with contemporary designs, international quality standards, and European high jewelry techniques. This partnership is what makes us truly unique.
5. John Hardy has a very distinct look. How would you describe the aesthetic of the brand?
I would say our designs are all timeless, while the looks can be very diverse. On one side you have the bold Naga – the Balinese mythical dragon which is very figurative, and on the other side you have the Bamboo and Classic Chain collections which are intricate and delicate.
6. To create John Hardy pieces, you employ methods of artisans who have crafted jewellery for the ancient royal courts of Bali. Why is it important to you to maintain these practices and skills in modern times?
Traditional techniques like these, whether they are Balinese or European, are very complex, time consuming and labor intensive. In a world where mass production prevails these techniques will disappear if we do not keep them alive. I am proud to say that we are one of the few companies which still insist weaving our chain necklaces and bracelets by hand! Making jewelry entirely by hand creates pieces that are really, works of art. There’s a special feeling to these pieces, as if they have a soul. To us, sustainability does not only apply to the environment, but to preserving these traditional techniques as well.
7. What are some of your must-have pieces from the new Spring collection?
The clean silhouette of the Bamboo collection is amazing, the black and white contrast of the silver and black sapphire cuffs and necklaces make some chic additions to any summer outfits. For a more dress-up look, the delicate Classic Chain Collection with the lace-like intricate woven chains adorned with diamonds set with the traditional Parisian setting will surely add glamour to your dresses.
8. What exciting things can we expect from John Hardy this year?
On this paradise island, in addition to the Kapal Bambu boutique in our beautiful Bali workshop and the store we have at the Bali International Airport, we are opening a new store at the spectacular Mulia resort in Bali! I am very excited about this and with the perfect weather and sunshine we are looking forward to welcoming our collectors from around the world at our workshop!
Visit the John Hardy website to shop the collection.