Having only launched her eponymous label in 2015 with her signature geometric collection "Delta", Hong Kong jewelry designer Maya Yuen has already struck a chord amongst modern women looking for understated yet striking jewelry pieces they can wear to any occasion. MAYAYUEN JEWELLERY draws inspiration from architecture and Art Deco to create sophisticated pieces that are versatile, literally - earrings and rings are designed to be stackable and all the pieces complement each other for a fluid, clean look. In September, she even launched her first men's collection, which interprets her same love for geometric shapes into stars and arrows. Her collection is currently available in Hong Kong at S. Nine, The 9th Muse, and on her website mayayuen.com.
We spoke to the up-and-coming designer to learn all about how she founded her company, the challenges of running her own business, and where she draws her inspiration from:
What made you want to found MAYAYUEN JEWELLERY in 2015? What were your goals with the brand at the time?
My passion for jewelry began when I took up a position as a jewelry marketer at Lane Crawford, which exposed me to world-class jewelry designs. Later on, my desire to create my own jewelry was sparked from the design and production courses at Central Saint Martins and Hong Kong Baptist University, which helped to nurture my talent and strengthen my ambition and confidence to pursue jewelry design as a career.
In 2015, I launched my first collection of MAYAYUEN JEWELLERY called "Delta". Right now, the market is highly driven by either fine jewelry with an expensive price tag or fashion jewelry from high street brands that can only last a season or two. That's why I wanted to provide an alternative option for people looking for jewelry that will bring out their individual style for everyday wear and which is also at a friendly price point. My mission was to target customers who appreciate individuality, authentic design, quality and craftsmanship.
How much time did it take to launch your first collection "Delta" from start to finish?
I always wanted to start my own jewelry brand since I finished my course at Central Saint Martins. From sketching the designs to reviewing the product samples and finally mass production, it took me around half a year to put together the first collection.
What were the difficulties?
As a local jewelry designer, or any independent designer, the main issue we face is distribution. Whether we are working with independent retailers or luxury department stores, the cost and difficulty of liaising and finally doing business has become onerous. Most local designers have to provide their pieces on a consignment basis and deal with all marketing costs themselves.
On the other hand, the cost of quality gems, precious metal and equipment are also rising so designers have to learn to be more critical and resourceful when buying and producing products. What's more, what the city lacks is a vehicle that will help independent designers understand the business side of fashion.
What was the most exciting moment?
There were many exciting moments since the launch. However, the most exciting one has got to be the first soft launch at the S. Nine by Susanna Soo showroom. It was the first time I presented my collection to my customers and friends.
What role do you currently play in your company?
I am the founder and creative director while my business partners are responsible for finance, legal related matters and other business decisions.
What's your typical day like?
I start everyday by preparing breakfast for my little one, followed with a little play time. Then I start my work day by checking emails and following up with possible buyers and stockists.
During the first stages of a collection, the majority of my day will be taken up with design work - hand sketches, mood boards and sorting everything through. When the designs are all set, I'll get started on the CAD drawing. At this stage, my morning is spent working with gold smiths and studio artists. Occasionally I'll have an intern in to help me but most of the time I'm on my own so I'll put on some music - this could be anything from jazz to Amy Winehouse, but at the moment I’m listening to Florence and the Machine. On a busy day, I'll just grab a simple salad or sandwich then work through lunch.
I usually schedule my meetings after lunch. Especially meeting with buyers, shop owners, potential collaborators, press, etc. It allows me to have more time to introduce and explain my brand to them. After meetings, I'll usually take a quick trip to Hung Hom, where the heart of HK Jeweler is, to inspect the samples and production. After you've spent so long thinking about a collection, there is nothing more satisfying and uplifting than seeing a finished piece come together.
My day ends at around 7:30pm when I can head home to spend some quality time with family. On Fridays I'll head over to a whisky bar and have a nice glass of single malt with friends to wind down and prepare for the weekend.
Can you describe the typical MAYAYUEN JEWELLERY customer?
The MAYAYUEN JEWELLERY woman is independent, confident and takes control of her life. She has a positive mental attitude, the strength to overcome obstacles and unquestioning integrity.
What are your favorite pieces from all the "Delta" collections?
I also like the Delta Arrow Studs Set - one of the most versatile pieces in the "Delta" collection, it can be worn with or without the ear jackets and are guaranteed to make a unique jewelry statement. Perfect for edgy daywear and evening glamour.
What made you want to launch the men's line in September?
I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone to explore different markets and reach a different customer sector. It gave me the chance to be a little more experimental with my designs.
What other collections do you have in the works at the moment?
I am working on a few new collections: a Men’s collection, pearl collection and a fine jewelry collection. I also have a few commissions for fine bridal jewelry too!
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere. It’s all about absorbing the little details and really seeing the world. My collections always start with gathering ideas. I always have my sketchbook and iPhone with me to instantly capture ideas from traveling, visits to museums and art galleries, architectures, etc. Museums are the best places for me to gather ideas. My geometric designs are inspired by The Louvre in Paris. I also love to the British Museum in London, the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville in Paris and MOMA in New York.
Visit mayayuen.com to discover more.
Some answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.
All images courtesy of Voltage PR.