Bleue Burnham's jewellery is inspired by nature and trying to save it
The London-based creator's designs are attention-grabbing, but theres more to them than meets the eye.
Image courtesy of Bleue Burnham
While we’re living through a period of horrible uncertainty, fashion has been kind enough to provide us with a constant: everybody seems to have gone mad for jewellery. Whether it’s Connell’s chain stealing the show in Normal People, BTS setting off a spike in sales for their custom jewellery designer or this lot making earrings from literal trash, it seems we’re all set to shine in precious metals for the foreseeable future.
Naturally, this level of demand has made the jewellery industry one that requires you to really stand out, which is no easy feat in our Instagram-era of mass creativity. Yet East London-based Bleue Burnham has managed to do just that, with his rings, necklaces and bracelets now stocked by the likes of Browns, Goodhood, SSENSE and Matches Fashion.
Bleue’s much-coveted jewellery is even more impressive when you discover that he’s self-taught and still a relative newcomer to the game. “I started around five years ago,” he tells us. “I’ve always worn and loved rings but weirdly never thought of making jewellery, probably because I had no entry points into the industry. Then a friend taught me how to make a ring and I was hooked! I spent two and a half years practising until I got to a place where I was happy to release pieces, and I had formed an understanding of what inspired me creatively.”
It’s easy to see the appeal of Bleue’s work. His contemporary gold and silver designs are playful, many adorned with lab-grown precious stones in a variety of bright, retina-pleasing colours. The natural world crops up across his work: there are floral bouquet earrings, wood-textured rings and pendants on which pink sapphires are cradled in a gold seed-like casing.
“All I can say is that I create from the heart, have fun with it and try not to take notice of what’s going on in the jewellery space,” he says, reflecting on his success. “I design all my jewellery around a playful and fun understanding of health and happiness. This breaks down into three main categories: connection to nature, connection to people and connection to culture. Our current collection is called ‘Grow with a Garden’ and explores humankind's connection to gardens and the plants and flowers within.”
Bleue’s previous job as Head of Sustainability at London menswear label Oliver Spencer clearly informs not just his nature-centric aesthetic but also the brand’s eco-friendly business practices. “Environmental sustainability has always been deeply important to me as my studies were focused on this,” he says. “My background has allowed me to develop an understanding of the pressure points in the fashion industry, as well as developing my creativity when finding solutions.”
“One of the main positives of working in jewellery is that our main materials, silver and gold, are easily available in recycled form and are also easy to recycle at the end of their life,” Bleue explains. “The clothing industry would have a much lower footprint if they could do this as well.”
A visit to the brand’s website is more than just a visual smorgasbord of wishlist items. Instead, you’ll discover Burnham’s green-minded approach to all aspects of his craft: details of his use of recycled precious metals and packaging, a bonus discount to customers who use renewable energy suppliers, and a convincing argument for why switching to a progressive bank will help save the planet.
Even more impressively, Bleue is putting his money where his mouth is, using profits from the sale of each piece of jewellery to support carbon reduction schemes and plant trees in the UK with the Woodland Trust. “A greenhouse gas reduction scheme that we invested in last season provided lower carbon cooking apparatus for families in rural Kenya,” he says. “Their previous cooking apparatus was heavily reliant on biomass and as a result contributed to deforestation, had a high carbon output and also had negative implications for respiratory health. By investing in lower carbon cooking apparatus this automatically lowers carbon output and also helps improve respiratory health for these communities.”
Acutely aware of today’s consumer being disenfranchised by big companies whose actions fail to back up their messaging, Bleue isn’t afraid to shy away from such a vital topic. “I think it’s important to be open and honest about your business practices and to try and create a dialogue within this space,” he says. “Change is needed across the globe so that business has a more harmonious existence with the natural world. So sharing information on how you have improved is an important part of adding to the conversation. I think traditionally this wasn’t as common but now it’s becoming much more commonplace.”
This openness is evident in Bleue’s own assessment of his efforts so far, something he feels he can still improve on. But then, who among us could not be doing more to help protect our ever-warming Earth? “We work for and towards environmental progression but that doesn’t mean we are sustainable,” he states simply. “Sustainable means that every intricacy of your business is managed in a way that doesn’t affect future generations’ ability to do the same. Examples of things that stop this are: not having a carbon footprint or wasting any resources. We’re not there yet. I don’t know any business which is there yet. Any business or brand that positions themselves as ‘sustainable’ or ‘fully sustainable’ should be approached with caution.”
While it’s clear that Bleue is laser-focused on a mission to build on what he’s done so far, we wonder whether he has he taken a moment to stop to reflect on his life as an independent designer in the toughest year in recent memory? “There were many, many changes and ups and downs, smiles and frowns, but overall it has been a positive year for us and I am very happy with where we are and where we are heading,” he says. “The collection we are presenting in January is called ‘Grandma's House’ and delves in to the beauty of time spent with grandparents.”
As for Bleue’s advice for any budding jewellers out there who might be inspired by his own ethically-grown success: “The internet is your oyster. Don’t be scared to ask for advice. Anything is possible if you want it enough, so don’t be in a rush. Work as hard as you can and treat others with kindness and respect.” A wise man indeed.