Creative director and jeweller Fei He of FEIHEFEIHEFEIHE has always been obsessed with ancient Greek culture. The eternal aesthetics of aged marble and bronze statues — and the lightness of muscles as they move under thin fabric — have enchanted him since his visit to Parthenon. With this calling echoing in his heart, he created a series of body ornaments in the form of jewellery and teamed up with photographer Amanda Yang to capture a fantasy of past glory. Fei He provided this interview to go along with the series.
Could you give us some information about your origin and background?
I, Fei He, trained as a jeweller at the Gemological Institute of China, and then advanced as a silversmith at Birmingham School of Jewellery. I am now a jewellery and eyewear designer, founder of FEIHEFEIHEFEIHE, and am frequently traveling between continents for exhibitions and fashion weeks. The four key elements within my design are multi-function, edgy-chicness, gender-fluidity and sustainability.
Your jewels are perfectly shaped, geometric and stylish, yet they look so impalpable and romantic. Do you think this matches your vision?
Of course. I built up a solid foundation for my aesthetics with an eleven-year academic hand-drawing training before turning into a designer. Deeply influenced by classic art, especially ancient Greek sculptures, I believe equipoise is the key to everything, with which I manage to achieve a delicate harmony between formal and functional beauty in my ebullient creativity.
It’s rather rare to see a designer personally make the products in a brand. Why do you do so?
FEIHEFEIHEFEIHE is more of an artist brand than a designer brand. Over my decade-long study, I constantly highlight high-level standards in my craftsmanship, and now it’s engraved in my mind that art lies in details. Besides, I absolutely love the process of making; it’s so fulfilling to bring those beauties in my mind into reality with my irreplaceable skills.
You put “multi-functional” in one of your four FEIHEFEIHEFEIHE key elements. What do you think is the relationship between the function design of jewellery and their wearers?
I believe only when a piece of jewellery connects with the human body, the essence of its design is being shown. The relationship between jewellery and the human body has been a long-lasting subject for contemporary designers, while I like my jewellery to be worn in multiple ways. For example, in this editorial you may see a rose gold diadem also being worn as a choker or body chains entwined with the model in changeable ways. It would be a huge success to me already if my jewellery is playful and interactive beyond decorative to people.
How much has gender fluidity, another key element, influenced your creativity?
Quite a lot. In my vision, it would be a world of androgyny had there been a utopia; therefore, my jewellery is suitable for everybody in a non-degendering way (instead of minimalism or normcore). A very proud piece I made for this editorial is a bra from rose gold with pearls. The intense contrast I made between muscularity and femininity, just as my choice of materials, is an appeal for de-constructing gender stereotypes.
Sustainability didn’t come to your mind at the beginning, right?
To confess, I only started to think about it after I saw how much pollution the jewellery factories constantly make. I now make everything out of recycled metal. We jewellers share a responsibility to speak up through our works regarding the mistakes in our industry and even the society.
From the birth of inspiration to the execution of ideas, how do you put your thoughts into physical works?
I think one of the biggest misunderstandings people have over design is that inspiration comes first. In many circumstances, designers actually come up with sparkling ideas alongside their actual process of designing, researching, brainstorming, drawing, etc. Experience and professional skills always play a vital role in designing.
What do you do apart from FEIHEFEIHEFEIHE?
I keep on creating. I take private bespoke commissions; I make metal sculptures with my silversmithing craft; I produce and direct editorial photo shoots for fashion magazines. Also, most importantly, I do drag! Isn’t it fun? The world’s such a massive playground, and we shouldn’t be bound by one identity.
How much has COVID affected you so far?
Quite a bit. We’ve been forced to temporarily close down our studio. I’ve now turned my desk at home into a bench and continued to work on the next collection. Luckily, I hand make everything in person, and it turns out to be an advantage at this moment to not rely on outsources.
all jewellery + chains. FEIHEFEIHEFEIHE
all garments. Janis Yang
photography. Amanda Yang
styling. Janis Yang
creative direction + production. Fei He
model. Murillo Ritton
hair. Jay Yang
make up + body paint. Cindy Dee
words. Kaiwen Hou