Today we are sitting down with the Creative Director and Founder of Harlin Jones, Sumer Sayan. We get a first look at Sumer and his alter ego brand, and what he believes is a key character for success and creativity.
Can you provide us with some background on yourself, anything you want to share, your upbringings, and what you are like as a creative director, founder, and individual?
I was born in Turkey and when I was five, my family immigrated to Australia. My teenage years were about three things: music, graffiti and skating… that’s all that seemed to matter. I left school in ’99 and returned to Turkey to work alongside my Uncle, who was a jeweler, to see if the trade was for me. After a year working alongside him I was sold. I came back home to Australia and started a four-year apprenticeship. The next 10 years that followed were all about learning the craft. Once I was confident enough in the craftsmanship side of thing, I then put all my time and energy into creating my own style.
It’s a great way to get your brand out there to get a feel as to how it will go in the market without putting everything you have on the line.
During your 4 years of apprenticeship, what has been your most valuable lesson in becoming a jeweler? What has been that one defining moment, which made you want to become a jewelers?
The most valuable lesson throughout my apprenticeship was definitely patience! I had to continuously remind myself that becoming a master of such a craft wouldn’t be accomplished in four years as an Apprentice. It’s a craft where you’ll keep learning until the day you stop. The one defining moment when I was blown away was when I was in Turkey watching a designer/ jeweler mapping out a sketch of this very elaborate necklace before crafting the piece. To watch someone sit there and use their imagination to create this amazing piece of jewelry on paper, to then see that same piece slowly come to life as a fine piece of jewelry made my mind go bonkers.
How did the brand launch, what was this process like for you? Can you explain the story behind the name?
We launched in 2015 with a Kickstarter campaign to see what the reaction would be and it went really well. It’s a great way to get your brand out there to get a feel as to how it will go in the market without putting everything you have on the line. The name Harlin Jones just came to me one day and I think of it as like an alter ego – the alter ego that personifies everything the brand stands for.
We have seen a lot of jewelry brand start through a Kickstarter campaign, was this entire process easy, what did you like most about it? Do you think this type of launch is something every brand should look into?
For me, personally, I would say it was an easy process as I had already designed and crafted the collection, and all the photo-shoots were done. All I needed to do was a little video, which I got a friend to shoot for me. It’s also great in the fact that there’s still a creative process of how you want your campaign to look and feel, with regards to your page layout to the way you create your video. I absolutely support the Kickstarter concept. It’s an amazing way to give an audience a visual peek of what you want to create, without going out and spending a fortune. I would definitely recommend other designers that are thinking of creating a label to give Kickstarter a go.
What is your creative process and outlet with the brand, how did this process start?
I have always been heavily influenced by architecture, music, the tattoo culture, spirituality and cultures that date back centuries. Whenever I see or hear something that inspires me, I start drawing and the ideas start flowing for a collection. I could be on the way to work, on a trip overseas or just watching something on the History Channel, there’s no one particular thing that gets me. I’ve been this way since I can remember and my process has always been like this.
Over time as a jeweler and creative director of your brand, do you think your creative process has evolved, and how has it grown since the beginning of this journey?
Absolutely! In many ways I have come to a point at which I have a lot of trust and confidence in my creative direction. In the beginning I would always compare my work to others and “trends of the moment”. But I’ve now learnt to stick to my guns and not worry about what’s out there in the market and what’s selling. This in itself has had a massive impact on creating my own style. The simple truth is that your work isn’t going to be for everyone, nor should it be. It’s about creating something that is a reflection of you, and this will attract the right crowd.
We personally think you have an amazing team, and are up to whatever challenges are put in your direction. Throughout this entire journey, what has been your biggest struggle?
The biggest struggle from the beginning has been the ability to get the label seen by the wider fashion community, especially when you have a unique style that is different to what’s on offer out there. Also, starting a label isn’t financially the easiest thing to do, so marketing the label on a budget has also been a key difficulty.
It seems that a key problem for a lot of brands is getting a larger audience. At BRENMI we believe that with time, this problem will get better. However, from running your own brand, what has been your biggest personal struggle? We’re sure that you have gone through a lot of growth since the launch of the brand.
The biggest struggle I think for a majority of labels out there is the financial side of things. Especially in the crazy world of fashion, where there’s so many newcomers everyday. You have to keep coming up with new pieces and keep your label fresh, and with jeweler, where you’re working with fine metals like silver and gold, that can be a very expensive task. But as you mentioned with time it does get better, as you start getting followers and you start making sales to a point where the business starts to cover itself.
The designs we have seen are beautiful, how would you describe your customers, what are they looking for in your product, and how do you ensure this congruency between the brand and them.
My customers are definitely those that go against the grain, have a unique sense of style and don’t just jump on to whatever trend is in at that particular moment – it’s someone that lives and breathes a lifestyle. It’s not just about wearing a piece of jewelry, there’s a meaning and an inspiration behind every Harlin Jones piece, which I’d like to think our customers connect to in some way or another, which suits their personality. We have descriptors for each piece on our website as to what the piece symbolizes and what I visualize when I created it.
Personally as the founder which of your creations has been your favorite piece? You cannot say every piece, and why is it your favorite!
For me personally it’s the oxidized sterling silver / 18ct rose gold rings. The color combination works so well and they have a great balance of detail and simplicity.
What are the next steps for the brand in terms of growth and creativity? In terms of product lines, collections, and individual products.
We are looking in to doing some trade shows through the US and Europe to expand the brand. In regards to the collections we are always working on new lines and bespoke one offs, and we add pieces to the website regularly so we encourage everyone to check in and follow us on social media so they can keep up with that’s available!
Thank you for taking the time conduct the interview Sumer!