meet the power couple behind jewellery brand meadowlark
As their autumn/winter 16 collection lands online, we caught up husband and wife duo Claire Hammon and Greg Fromont talk about life in New Zealand, their design process and leaving school at 16.
Auckland-based Claire Hammon and her husband Greg Fromont are setting relationship goals at a whole new level. After they gained experience in the art and fashion worlds, they created Meadowlark, a jewellery brand which pulls together their eclectic range of skills and interests. Whether it be architecture, plants, landscapes, art or even car construction, they take their inspiration from a variety of interesting forms which they adapt and perfect using luxe stones and metals. Their range for autumn/winter 16 is no exception, titled Stratus the collection breaks off into four distinct groups exploring influences as unconnected as Sade and celestial bodies, yet naturally fit together as part of a coherent and timeless collection. As the collection launches online, the collaborative couple talk us through their past, present and future.
What was the path that lead to the creation of Meadowlark?
Claire: I was always the kid that made things and sold them at school, I forced my best friend into making a band when we were about ten. We made our own costumes from ripped up petticoats inspired by Madonna. I was always making little businesses - it was like I couldn't stop making and wanted to share my weird creations. Eventually I left school pretty young, I made my own clothes and someone spotted me and asked me where I got them. They helped me get my pieces into a store and introduced me into the industry side of things. Back then I hand painted my own labels and it turned into a real business, which I eventually sold. During that time I also taught myself graphic design, I did every short creative course that was available to me - everything you can think of! I learn fast so short courses are about as much attention span as I have. I got offered a job designing skate and snowboarding magazines and did that seasonally until a few years ago. Greg and I met through friends and kept in touch online. At the time I was designing a skate mag and he was in it, haha! We eventually got together and have been inseparable ever since.
Greg: I was pretty influenced by my three older brothers and two sisters. They were into lots of different things, from the music they listened to (e.g. Bowie) to the things they used to get into (flying model planes, creating miniature battlefields, building boats, car projects, computer programming, engineering, art). Fine arts was the path I went down after school, intending to do print making, but realising early on that I was more interested in the creation of the plate/woodblock than I was the print. This moved me into the jewellery field. It was experimental, and we were taught the basics and then left to our own development, which was interesting. Since then, I've taught myself a few more traditional techniques. I've been into skateboarding since 1992 too, which took over my life for much of my teenage years. I had sponsors and got into some magazines here in NZ, but never took it further overseas. After finishing my degree I spent most of my time skateboarding, but was doing some commissions in jewellery and working in a workshop making skateboards.
Claire, you left school at 16. How was that experience for you?
It was actually really hard for me. I have suffered from anxiety most of my life but back then it didn't really have a name. I didn't know what was going on, I just suddenly couldn't walk into school anymore. My friends knew all about it and we all thought it was kind of funny and weird but I got worse and worse until eventually I just stopped going altogether. My school was quite unsupportive creatively and I never enjoyed being there, I think I was just one of those kids that wasn't cut out for school really. I had really severe anxiety and barely left the house for two years after this but during that time I was sewing and messing around creatively so I guess it was a good thing to have that time but also it was the darkest and most difficult time of my life.
Have you always had interests in fashion and jewellery?
Claire: Yeah I have, I made ugly jewellery as a kid, I did a silversmith course as a teenager and in my early twenties I met a few jewellers and commissioned pieces I designed. It wasn't until many years later that I met Greg and we started Meadowlark. Obviously I was obsessed with fashion during the time I had my clothing brand. This was the 90s so I was obsessed with i-D and The Face and I kept scrapbooks of everything I loved - I still have those scrapbooks and we reference them often when we are designing new collections.
There was this freedom and rebellion in the 90s that I haven't really seen since, I am so glad it's had a revival! Back then I loved Margiela and Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan. With no Internet or social media, you had to really search out and learn and read more and being in New Zealand information was slower to get to us, it was great!
What was the Inspiration behind the collection?
SADE, the queen of hoop earrings was our main inspiration. We made our own version of her iconic oversized hoops which people have been going crazy for! The stars are inspired by a ring we designed in a previous collection - the pave star ring, which we are all still obsessed with. So we altered it into a charm form. These are literally inspired by the night sky. And the bolt pieces were inspired by architectural shapes. They just happen to look like lightening bolts on almost all angles.
Talk us through the process of designing a new collection…
We are both creative types and we are always in our own dream world so when it comes to process, we approach it differently every season. We seem to be coming into more of a certain way of working. We start with a whole lot of ideas and then we just make every idea that we like - we used to really nail the designs before making but now we just make everything we come up with. This means that often we have actually made two collections worth and some of it may go into a future collection. As we are making things, we get together and expand on the ideas, different sizes and shapes of a concept. I usually am the annoying one who has a good idea about 24 hours before the deadline. We work through the ideas together and do some editing along the way and really get a clear idea of the ones we want to keep going ahead with. At the very end we edit it right down to a tight collection with three stories.
What's your favourite thing about life in New Zealand?
I love that you can travel everywhere easily and the landscape is so varied. Beaches and mountains are always close by and in Auckland we are surrounded by water, volcanoes and amazing food!
How do you find the experience of working together?
We work together really well. We don't actually spend much time working together day to day unless we are working on a collection. The only downside is that we take work stress home with us and we spend most nights working. But we definitely make time for each other and always take weekends off to be a family.
Give us three songs you like to work to…
Claire: The Damned's New Rose, Blood Orange's It is what it is and Miloux's Me & Mine.
Greg: Mermaidens - Seed, Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band's P.I.M.P. and Damon Albarn's Heavy Seas of Love.
Is there a film/album/photograph/artwork/book that changed your life?
Claire: I'm not sure any of these things have changed my life exactly, but some of the things that I love the most is photography by Maxime Ballesteros and Just kids by Patti Smith. Music was a major influence for me when I was a teenager and is probably part of what sent me down the road I have followed. Back then I think PJ Harvey's album Dry was a huge influence for me.
Greg: In a weird way, listening to David Bowie vinyl as a four year old on headphones has probably shaped my life in ways that are incomparable. There has been a lot of artwork along the way, Aubrey Beardsley, Alphonse Mucha, but many other things.
What's the most important thing you've learnt from your time in the fashion industry?
That it's really important to surround yourself with genuine supportive people.
Why do you think people have such a strong emotional connection to jewellery?
Claire: I truly believe that it is because metal is part of the earth and so is every part of our body. I think that regularly wearing something close to our skin kind of imbues that piece with a part of ourselves.
Greg: It's a very traditional art form that goes back millennia, so I think jewellery is burned into our psyche to an extent. There is something magical about a tiny, perfectly formed object, and the wearer sort of passes something of themselves into it, which is why heirlooms can carry such emotional weight.
What's your favourite personal piece of jewellery you own? Why is it special?
Claire: My engagement and wedding rings are my favourite. My engagement ring was the first one Greg ever made and is the reason we ended up releasing our ceremonial styles. I never get sick of them.
Greg: My wedding band is mine. It's a symbol of our amazing relationship and journey, so in that way it's imbued with our personalities.
What are your ambitions for the future?
We hope to have our jewellery sold all around the world in beautiful stores!
Text Lula Ososki