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In Profile: Pia Hallstrom

In Profile: Pia Hallstrom

Editor's Note: This interview took place in the early weeks of March, prior to the COVID-19 breakout in the UK.

One day, Pia Hallstrom was walking out of a show at Fashion Week and into a taxi. It was raining heavily, and as she stepped into a taxi... we'll let her tell the story.

"I actually remember sitting in the taxi and it was raining," she tells us in the FLANNELS offices, "and my skirt just... disintegrated." She considered the way that the majority of fashion "rolls on too fast", with not enough time being spent on making designs last past a few months. While working as Head of Design at Burberry (under Christopher Bailey), Hallstrom found herself interested in the creation of accessories. "Part of the role was that we were doing a lot of the moulds for the accessories' hardware," she explains. "The hardware really developed and developed, and the buckle would stay there, more or less forever. It was nice."

Fast forward to today, and the Stockholm-born creative is responsible for developing her own accessories, with her self-titled jewellery brand. Since founding her brand in 2011, Pia Hallstrom has grown from a cult London-based jeweller to a recognised designer, with clients strewn as far and wide as Stockholm, Monaco and New York. Her designs are intricate without being overly delicate and are noticeable with their rich colours, yet are never overly flashy. It's an approach that she equates to her very Swedish point of view: "No unnecessary details, is it working, is it durable, does it look good?" she says, checking each factor off of her fingers.

Walking into from a photoshoot at the FLANNELS flagship, she's totally dry, the rain not touching her impeccable outfit (mostly in striking shades of Dior pink). Her arms and neck are covered in her striking jewellery designs, with several spiky pyramid bracelets on her wrist. As we talk, it becomes even more clear that Pia Hallstrom's designs are — unlike the skirt in the taxi all those years ago — are built to last a long time.

Pia Hallstrom, shot in FLANNELS London flagship
Pia Hallstrom, shot in FLANNELS London flagship


I noticed you're wearing a couple of the pyramids. Are they your go-to designs to wear?

Yeah. It's my party pieces, my party trick. They get so much attention, and I love it, people are like "ooh!" Even at the airport, I get that and get to say "oh yeah, it's my brand."

Do you enjoy getting to say that?

Yes!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I'm a fashion designer from the beginning, I'm Swedish and went to New York for university and business school - didn't like it. Transferred to Parsons for fashion design, ended up working for most of the American fashion houses, like Ralph Lauren. Designed for him for many years, then Burberry was being redone in England with an American management team, so I came over as head of design of Thomas Burberry. So anyway, I was head of womenswear, then menswear, then babies, then accessories. 

There was something about it that I was very attracted to because it was sustainable as supposed to other things in fashion. So during my time at Burberry, I met this guy in [famed London jewellery district] Hatton Garden and I started doing a couple of pieces myself, more or less hardware but casting it in gold and diamonds. Just for fun, nothing to sell. Then a lot of people started asking me about it.

What comes first when you sit down to make a design?

It just depends on what piece I'm doing. I don't like pieces that are too big or too heavy, because that just doesn't suit my brand, and because I do diamonds and gold it then gets too expensive and it's a whole other category. But I like pieces that's not in your face. When the woman that wears my jewellery walks down the hall, I don't want the first thing I see to be the jewellery - I want to see the person. And then as the person comes closer, I can see something sparkly, something interesting happening. For me, shape is number one, then the colour of the gold, the diamonds, but first the shape

Who is the Pia Hallstrom woman?

It's definitely more of an attitude than a person. It's someone that's a little more independent, makes her own money and buys her own jewellery - not necessarily something you'd get at a certain occasion. She prefers something durable and doesn't have time to change her jewellery every single day. She likes something that can stay on her but enhance her and look beautiful, and she likes classics with a bit of a twist. My pieces will tell her story for years to come.

Has the Pia Hallstrom woman changed since the brand started?

Totally. I envisioned very dainty pieces when it started, like barely-there pieces. Then my clients went from wanting this dainty stuff to something... not bling, but they like the bigger pieces. Maybe it's because they like the smaller pieces or they have them already. I think fashion jewellery is going into bigger pieces now.

Pia Hallstrom, shot in FLANNELS London flagship
Pia Hallstrom, shot in FLANNELS London flagship


What about the pyramids?

I made that after coming back from Egypt. I like things quite organised and symmetrical. So I did a rose gold bracelet in pyramid, and it had three sides, but somehow my guy misunderstood - sometimes that's really good and other times it's not. But it came out way nicer than I thought. It was totally a happy accident.

In jewellery, I had no idea what sold, what didn't sell, but I'm not from that mindset, I was happy if I only sold one piece. And actually, today, I only make stuff that I wanna wear, because what if nobody else is gonna love it? At least I'll love it. To be honest, most of the stuff I like, my customers like. I never had something that didn't sell - but I didn't care for sales figures, as a designer I have to think not about what they want... But about what they're going to want to have next, that's my big job, to figure out what the next pyramid is. If someone could tell me that, that'd be amazing. That's the hardest thing.

Where else from your travels inspires you? 

Loads, actually. I was just in Morocco and I'm inspired, craving any ethnic jewellery - next time you see me, I may have stuff on both my hands and feet. But I'm also inspired by... what people wear on the street. Travelling to Morocco, seeing what the women are wearing there, what is worn in their day-to-day life.

London is the place where I'm the most inspired. I don't think there's any set trend - in Chelsea there's one look, in Mayfair and Shoreditch and Camden there's one look, Clapham... Everyone has different feels. There's a million trends in London but there’s no trends in London. I'm inspired by that. I think that with London, you're close to everything. When I lived in America, it's all America. When you're in London, you feel like you're part of the rest of the world. Maybe in the future I'll work elsewhere, but I don't think that'll change my design process.

How important is the Swedish aspect to your designs?

The Swedish part is super important to me. It's recognised as a clean aesthetic, very practical. If it's not something that you can do all around the house, wear to the gym then go to work, it's a waste of time for me.

What Swedish designers interest you?


There's a lot of furniture designers - Joseph Franck, his work is so rich. The street style in Stockholm is sensational. Acne is a nice one. Ganni, very much, I was wearing some of their designs downstairs.

Do you have any go-to designers?

Ganni, 100%. Loving Aquazzura's shoes. Push Button. Balmain's always nice, they have a beautiful leather dress with stripes...


What would be the ideal outfit for one of your jewellery designs?

The thing is, I like beige, gold, cream, blacks. To complement the jewellery, it would be simple, clean lines. V-necks, three-quarter sleeves - I love three-quarter sleeves on everything, my coats, fake fur jackets, I love a bracelet sleeve. It depends on what piece you're looking for.

What's the biggest lesson from running your own brand?

Not to overstock. The hardest thing about running your own brand is if I don't have enough stock, I won't satisfy those who want it straight away. If I have too much, that's not too good either. My biggest challenge has been getting that right. I've learned so much having this brand. And every year it goes up a little more. Every year, someone's like let's invest, and I don't want to. I'm having so much fun designing every piece myself. When I was at Ralph Lauren, I was a lower-level designer so I was actually designing. Then I get to Burberry and design the first collection, then it gets busy and all of a sudden, BOOM, I have twelve designers so I'm almost like H.R. overseeing everything. I really like a hands-on role, being the actual maker. I like the concept too, but I really do like the actual sitting down with a pen and paper and drawing things, dreaming.

Is that what the rest of 2020 will be? Drawing and dreaming?

I have to find time. It's getting busy, so I don't have time to sit and dream. It's early in the year but I'm thinking you need to design, you need to design... Normally I have a million things, I have more ideas than I have ideas to execute because these samples are so expensive to execute. But then, recently... yeah, I need to get all inspired. It's the downtime, when you sit in your own thoughts, that's when all this stuff comes up.


This interview has been edited and condensed.