Creating pieces that last a lifetime with Sofia Maria Tomasella of her namesake jewellery label.
Sofia Maria Tomasella of her namesake jewellery label Sofia Maria was destined to forge her own creative path, but it wasn't until she saw the ugly side of fashion that she decided recycled jewellery was the answer. We spoke to Sofia Maria about competing with Instagram brands that portray a sustainable brand image and why, if you have a dream, you should 'just start'.
Sofia Maria Tomasella of her namesake jewellery label Sofia Maria was destined to forge her own creative path, but it wasn’t until she saw the ugly side of fashion that she decided recycled jewellery was the answer. We spoke to Sofia Maria about competing with Instagram brands that portray a sustainable brand image and why, if you have a dream, you should ‘just start’.
What made you start Sofia Maria?
I’ve always been attracted to aesthetics, design and beautiful objects. Coming from a family of freelance architects, working on my own creative business felt like the most natural thing.
I wanted to create something that would be meaningful to someone. To design objects that would be appreciated and hold onto for decades, passed down through generations. Pieces that would bring joy to the person wearing it. Jewellery was the answer. A few signs along the way led me to where I am today.
I have a degree in fashion and textile design. While studying, I felt very attracted to the bridal industry due to its slow and intimate design process so I set up a boutique studio and started making bespoke dresses to order, closely working with each bride. At the same time, I was working for a fast-fashion label and I felt truly disappointed and overwhelmed by that side of fashion. There was hardly any design involved, it was very trend-focused and massive quantities were made with low-quality materials. I quickly knew that that world wasn’t for me.
I eventually left that job to focus on my own project. During that time, lots of brides were asking me for accessories so I decided to take a jewellery class. There, I discovered the world of metalsmithing and felt deeply connected to it. The idea of being able to create delicate pieces with my own hands, pieces that could be worn forever (not just one night) made very happy.
In 2016, I moved to Australia and started working as a bridal stylist in a studio in Sydney. I continued to be intrigued by jewellery so I decided to continue developing my skills. But the moment I became entirely committed to making this happen was during a trip to Japan: the local makers looked so passionate and patient with their craft, their wabi-sabi philosophy sparked something inside of me. This Japanese way of seeing life is all about simplicity, the use of natural materials and finding the beauty in imperfection. I was deeply excited, with a sense of infinite possibilities so when I came back to Sydney I started to slowly build this business from my apartment’s sunroom.
Making a bride feel beautiful and happy on her wedding day was one of the main reasons I started SOFIA MARIA. The same idea goes into making fine jewellery – whether it is a wedding band, an engagement ring or a special gift for a loved one, jewellery makes people happy. It is a very emotional process. It is not something you purchase everyday – it is an investment that can be worn daily and marks special events in life. A long-lasting and deeply personal object. I am truly passionate about fine jewellery and I am committed to keep my business slow, local, handmade and as ethical as possible.
Do you have a morning routine? If so what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
I think early mornings should be all about connecting with yourself and checking in. I try to avoid all screens, sit outside, sip my tea and read something inspiring. I usually get the best ideas during this quiet time so I write them down and I also make a list of the day’s priorities.
Then I take Antonio (my pug puppy) for a walk. We are so lucky to live surrounded by water in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. I also like to use that time to catch up with loved ones. Especially my mum who lives back home in Argentina, I miss her terribly.
After that, I come back to the studio and start replying to emails. Most of the living space in our Freshwater apartment is outside. I spend a lot of time on our sunny courtyard surrounded by greenery – I do all the crafting out there, listening to podcasts and drinking tea.
What’s the biggest barrier you’ve found to succeeding as a socially conscious business?
At the beginning, I was concerned with the fact that I couldn’t compete with the pricing of low-quality jewellery made overseas. There are lots of brands on Instagram that show a beautiful and ‘sustainable’ brand image when in reality they are not. I had to find the people that could see the difference and value my work. Making every piece by hand takes time and sourcing all materials locally and ethically is more expensive than other alternatives.
I kept focusing on my work, collaborating, making connections and eventually those like-minded people found me. They were interested in my work and were willing to invest in it – this was obviously one of the best things that has happened to me during this journey.
Within the ethical fashion community, there’s a big question that we ask which is ‘who made my clothes?’. In the scope of Sofia Maria, who made the things you sell? Can you tell us a bit about them?
I make every piece by hand and I make them to order – I keep no stock. Some pieces are completely hand-forged out of the recycled metals I get from my local supplier. Others are hand carved in wax and then sent to my local foundry to be casted in the final metal. The technique I choose depends entirely on the design and the end result I’m looking for. Different styles need different processes.
I have a wonderful helper, my stone setter. He’s a master jeweller and has been doing this intricate work for decades. I have a long term working relationship with him and it feels really good to support his small business.
Why did you pick the materials you have chosen to work with?
Sustainability has always been one of my main concerns. As creatives, we are already making new stuff so the least we can do is search for the most ethical way to do it. As soon as I stepped into the jewellery industry in Australia, I started researching for recycled metal suppliers.
What matters to me is to create the most beautiful pieces I can with the least impact on our surroundings. I want people to value their special piece and wear it forever, pass it down to their daughters and tell the story behind it.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
‘Just start!’ If you wait until every single thing looks perfect to put your work out into the world, it may never happen…
What’s next for you and your company?
More collaborations with like-minded creatives and a strong focus on engagement rings and wedding bands.
One book and/or documentary everyone should read/watch? Why?
I think everyone is creative and a great book to explore this side of you is ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron. It has a series of exercises to connect with your innate creativity no matter what field you are in.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think people should know about?
If you are into ethical design, you’ve probably heard of Danni Duncan but she’s absolutely awesome, transparent and fun and I cannot think of anyone better to write about here. She is extremely passionate about slow fashion and has an online store called ‘Slow Muse Store’ where you can shop from different ethical creators based in NZ and Australia.