Going for (14k) gold

26 Sep 2016 / 11:50 H.

PRACTICAL and pretty don't typically exist side by side. But there's a new kid on the jewellery block proving otherwise.
The Straits Finery (TSF)'s Amira Yahaya and Foo Chia Chern are bridging a gap in the local market that's torn between extreme ends of the jewellery spectrum – posh versus costume accessories – by introducing minimalist rings, earrings and necklaces made with the unpopular 14-carat gold.
Unpopular here at least, as most Malaysians would demand for 22k or at least 18k gold for its investment value. However higher carat gold does not fit the bill for Amira and Foo as it is softer and yellower. 14k gold, on the other hand, is able to fulfill TSF's design philosophies, possessing the ability to endure daily wear and tear, while exuding a modern aesthetic that goes with any getup, whatever the occasion.
"The colour is very mellow for 14k, but what makes it especially good for our jewellery is that it's extremely hardy because it's only 58% gold and the rest is alloy. They won't bend even though our pieces are so fine," explained Foo, who's the design lead.
Chiming in on 14k gold's durability, co-founder Amira said, "We have a customer who doesn't take her ring off when she's washing the dishes! And the ring's OK because it doesn't get in the way nor does it tarnish, and it's so flat that it sits comfortably against the skin."
This November, TSF (www.thestraitsfinery.com) will be unveiling a new batch of nature-influenced designs to complement its Essentials and Luna Collections.
theSun met the articulate and pragmatic duo over coffee to unearth their inspiration and vision for this five-month-old start-up.
Why, of all possibilities, did you choose to explore jewellery?
Amira: We've always loved accessories and jewellery, but they're not necessarily wearable everyday. As one matures, you try and streamline your looks. Almost everyone has a go-to uniform or outfit, but not so much with jewellery.
Foo: Real jewellery here is very inaccessible in terms of pricing, and because there's lots of diamonds and precious stones, you don't feel particularly safe wearing them. You also don't want to bling up when you go to the office.
A: Professional women generally don't want to be ostentatious. It's already tough in the workplace, why do you want to make dressing up complicated? Even tai tais don't want be showy on a day-to-day basis, so they end up buying costume or high-end jewellery. There's no middle ground.
Tell us about The Straits Finery's approach to ringstacking.
F: Stacking rings has always been popular, but I've also found that a lot of rings don't really stack – you wear it on one finger, then a midi ring on another. So we wanted to make it possible with a cohesive design instead of haphazard stacking. The manufacturing process was a big learning curve because the gold- and silversmiths had to craft the rings so that they fit exactly – in millimetres – with three other pieces. It was challenging as opposed to making a single ring.
A: You can either wear them separately, or stack them whichever way you want to. It gives versatility to the wearer to change her look throughout the day.
How has the reception been towards TSF's minimalist approach to jewellery?
A: I've been told that we design with practicality, which strangely has led a lot of men to understand the concept and pick it up easily. I've had male friends who have point-blank said, "I'll never buy my wife jewellery but I might consider yours because it has a practical, functional value as opposed to just being... fluff."
F: When we're at bazaars, men would be the ones dragging their girlfriends and wives to see our jewellery. To them, it's LEGO for women and it's easy to understand because it's not complicated with diamonds. The pricing is also accessible, so it's an easy purchase and they can buy another next time to match the first.
Lastly, how about a teaser for TSF's upcoming collection?
A: It's inspired by the short breaks you take out of the city – it's not even travels to faraway lands. Chern and I found the same shapes and themes when she went to the beach and I went caving, and we decided those are lovely to work with. F: There's a pattern throughout nature. I don't think we strayed too far from the current collections so it's more or less seamless. The whole idea is still be able to mix and match between collections.
A: And about styling with ease, but doing it with a certain element of yourself. We're adding more earrings this time, as we started out focusing on stacking rings.


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