Combining Style & Social Responsibility

Our first encounter was at the local futbol field. A combination of cool demeanor and effortless ease in spite of the heavy Manila heat is how I would describe Clare whose creative spirit sets her apart from the crowd. But to be honest it was her accessories that first caught my eye. A series of stunning hand woven gold brass bracelets with pops of fuschia and turquoise interwoven throughout adorned her wrist while a matching choker continued to carry out the creative theme of bold and bright. On some this may seem excessive but on Clare Hynes it’s simply a showcase of her latest and greatest designs.

Clare’s easy to wear pieces pop. A former graphic designer for fashion magazines in London, Sydney and Dublin, UK born Clare is a testament to the artist being influenced by their surroundings. Currently based in Manila with her husband and two children, Clare has taken inspiration from the colorful beauty and creative spirit of the Philippines to create her ‘Island Luxe’ collection. Inspiration for her designs has expanded to include the creative talent of local artisans where she has successfully combined style with social responsibility.

Beka Shane Denter

Designer Clare Hynes and community
Designer Clare Hynes and community

Beka Shane Denter: What is your first memory of jewelry?

Clare Hynes: I have vivid memories of searching through my grandma’s jewelry box as a young child and being obsessed by a particular pearl broach that she had. I must have only been about 5 years old.

Beka Shane Denter: You were a graphic designer before switching from one creative profession to another a few years ago. How long were you a graphic designer? Why the switch?

Clare Hynes: I was a graphic designer for about 12+ years working on various magazines in London, Sydney and then Dublin. I worked my way up to Design director for the magazine supplements for The Irish Independent newspaper. It was a job I loved. I loved the fast pace of working on a newspaper with weekly deadlines and the buzz of working on a newspaper. But after having my second child, it didn’t quite hold the same thrill! Juggling late night deadlines and young children was rather stressful. I had always dabbled with jewelry as a hobby, but it was after my son Cillian was born that I found myself drawn more and more to jewelry design. I actually found it was my way of distressing and just loved the feeling of getting lost in the process of creating something.

Beka Shane Denter: Was it a sudden decision or more of a gradual evolution to transition from graphic designer to jewelry designer? What inspired this career change?

Clare Hynes: I think the main instigator in the change was the fact that we moved to China. My husband was asked to move to North East China to take on a new role within his company. We decided to take the plunge and go for it! This meant that I could give up my ‘day job’ and after we had settled into our new ex-pat life in China, I had more time to work on my jewelry.

Beka Shane Denter: There appears to be some overlap between the two professions. How has your work in graphic design influenced your work in the studio creating pieces?

interview with designer clare hynes
Follow  Clare Hynes Jewelry on Instagram: @soliandsun

Clare Hynes: If I think about the way I design say a layout of a page in a magazine, it’s about how the different elements of text, images and blank space are laid out. They have to form a layout that’s pleasing to the eye. In basic terms, on my computer screen I would move the different elements about and adjust sizing’s until the whole picture looks good in my eye – the way I design my jewelry is similar in that I like to design with the different elements in front of me, and will experiment putting different materials together, combining them in different ways, looking at different sizes and shapes and how they look together, how they look when worn, how the shapes and sizing works. I will rework and rework the pieces until to my eye they ‘look just right’.

Beka Shane Denter: Did you undergo any form of formal training (or mentorship program) or has it been more of a hands-on learn-as-you-go process?

Clare Hynes: Definitely a more organic hands-on learn-as-you-go process. Although next year I am doing an ‘accelerator’ program called ‘Mastered.’ The program is ‘a completely new model for talent development. The ten months experience takes place online and in-person. You get access to world-class experts, valuable feedback, personal coaching, industry opportunities and the network you need to break through.’

So for me the main things I’m excited about is the network it will open up to me. Learning directly from and mentorship from industry insiders and understanding more how the industry works. Because I’m self-taught, I’ve just been trying to figure it all out myself along the way! This program will give me so much.

Beka Shane Denter: How would you describe your pieces?

Clare Hynes: Pieces that combine style with social responsibility; fashionable, easy-to-wear pieces that can add a stylish element to any outfit.

Beka Shane Denter: What is your creative process when designing a piece?

Clare Hynes: It varies. I’m often inspired by the materials. It can be a specific stone, bead or embellishment that I may be drawn to. I may buy it and then figure out afterwards how I can use it. I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with different weaving and knitting techniques and basically taught myself, and just experimented with how these different elements work with each other. Colour is also a key component for me; I can spend a lot of time working on various colour combinations.

Beka Shane Denter: Your most recent collection is called “Island Luxe.” How has living in the Philippines inspired your work?

Clare Hynes: I think being surrounded by a more vibrant culture and an incredibly talented and artistic culture has inspired my work. And it’s definitely since living in the Philippines that I’ve introduced more bright colours into my pieces!

interview with designer clare hynes
Follow  Clare Hynes Jewelry on Instagram: @soliandsun

Beka Shane Denter: Are there any specific spots that particularly inspire you? 

Clare Hynes: The beautfiul islands, Coron and Boracay. And even my garden. I love being surrounded by all the lush tropical plants and palm trees.

Beka Shane Denter: Where do you source most of your materials?

Clare Hynes: China for a lot of my chains and findings. After living there I gained a great supplier whom I can trust. I also source some of my materials from South Korea, UK, Singapore and the Philippines.

Beka Shane Denter: You have expanded your workshop to include a community of woman artisans in Tacloban, a city that was greatly devastated by Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013. How did this connection come about? Can you briefly describe your first visit and the impact it had on you as a woman and as a designer?

Clare Hynes: Through GKonomics, they introduced me to the GK community who are living in Palanog, located at the mountainside of Tacloban.

To be honest, that first trip I found very overwhelming. I didn’t really know what to expect. But the kindness and the generosity of the people I met when I went there was wonderful. That first trip I started by showing the ladies the different weaving techniques I use. We spent an entire morning working together. They picked it up fairly quickly and after that first trip I was able to send my first lot of supplies to them for them to fulfill some orders for me. I’m lucky that I have an amazing lady, Danika, who is my ‘production manager’ or ‘middle woman’. She lives in Tacloban city and is a jewelry designer herself. She handles all the supplies for me and oversees the work that the ladies do.

interview with designer clare hynes

I think the overriding impact it’s had on me is that I now have a reason ‘why’ I do what I do. It’s made me look at my business differently. I know and I’ve seen that the work I can give these ladies has a direct impact on their lives. On my last trip down there, they told me how proud they are of the work they’re providing for me and how important it is for them to earn their own money. When they earn their own money they feel proud, they feel like they can have their say in household decisions, not just their boyfriends or husbands.

Beka Shane Denter: How often do you get to visit Tacloban?

Clare Hynes: About every three months.

Beka Shane Denter: You’ve helped to create a sustainable livelihood for these women. Is this an ongoing relationship that will continue while you are based in Manila? And after you leave Manila?

Clare Hynes: Yes, absolutely, that’s my plan.

Beka Shane Denter: Who are your favourite jewelry designers? What specifically about each one inspires you?

Clare Hynes: Dannijo. The way they communicate to their customer is fantastic. You get to know the women behind the brand and I think they market it really well. Their designs are fabulous. I also like Lulu Frost, again another strong brand. I especially love their vintage pieces.

sustainable jewelry
Follow  Clare Hynes Jewelry on Instagram: @soliandsun

Beka Shane Denter: Being an expat, who is your target clientele while based in Manila? Has having an online shop helped to expand your global reach as a designer? If yes, how?

Clare Hynes: My target clientele is fellow ex-pat ladies and also Filipina ladies. I haven’t pushed my website as dispatching orders form here to Europe is a logistical nightmare! I’ve roped in my parents, who live in the UK to act as dispatch for me for now.

Beka Shane Denter: How is being a designer abroad different from being based in your homeland the UK?

Clare Hynes: I think the logistics are a lot more challenging, for example, shipping and importing. But on the plus side, you have the chance to meet so many more different types of people and such a varied people from different cultures. And thus the things that are going to influence and inspire are going to be so much more varied.

interview with designer clare hynes

Beka Shane Denter: What is your top selling piece? And why do you think that is?

Clare Hynes: The Martha earrings because the statement earring is very on trend at the moment. I think it’s an easy way to instantly update your outfit.

Beka Shane Denter: Where do you envision yourself and your designs in five years time?

Clare Hynes: That’s quite hard to say as a lot depends on Rob’s job as well and where we go from here. I’ll still be making my jewelry. I hope that I’m still working with the ladies in Tacloban and that I will have expanded into other accessories.

Beka Shane Denter: Do you have a dream destination that inspires you?

Clare Hynes: India! Just think of all the colours!

Follow  Clare Hynes Jewelry on Instagram: @soliandsun

Author’s bio:
Beka Shane Denter is a Canadian features and content writer currently based in Ottawa, Canada.

She has used her knowledge, passion and nomadic lifestyle to fuel her career as a writer. This has led to several inspiring collaborations with publications including FASHION, ELLE Canada, BUST, Women’s Surf Style Magazine, Mind Body Green, Today’s Parent, Ottawa Wedding, LUXE and The Inertia.

Beka’s experience with different platforms demonstrates her capacity to adapt to a brand’s style and voice. A natural understanding of reader’s and consumer interests shows she is capable of confidently taking on diverse assignments.

Beka holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, a Master’s in Teaching and a Certificate in Web Writing & Social Media Communication. She is forever in search of the perfect pair of jeans.

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