A VITALY piece is instantly recognisable, yet difficult to define. The elegant stainless steel craftsmanship of every piece is unmistakable; each selection from the label looks as though it has been captured from another dimension and brought seamlessly into our own. But even though it’s easy to see why VITALY has made a name for itself, it’s difficult to predict where it will go next — and that’s one of the reasons the label is endlessly exciting to watch.
Launched in 2011, the label has grown into a powerhouse in the world of experimental jewellery. Crafting most of their pieces from stainless steel, selected for its beauty, versatility and recyclability, the label creates both casual and statement pieces that elevate the wearer and capture the attention of the viewer. Schön! finally got a chance to speak with the brains behind the brand just in time for its new Spring 2021 collection, entitled G3N3S1S.
VITALY was established in 2011. What has changed about the brand and its ethos in the time since?
Over the last decade we’ve taken a lot of time to experiment with different materials, different design approaches and different guiding principles. When we first started out, we had no experience in the industry, and we were still learning about ourselves and what we wanted to say as designers. We’ve grown so much as a team since then, and today, we have a clear vision of what we want to accomplish with the brand. Focusing our attention on future-looking accessories that are completely genderless has allowed us to develop our own design language and carve out a lane for ourselves. And we’ve been incredibly fortunate to have the most loyal supporters who have come along for the ride with us.
Much of your designs are now made from stainless steel. Why do you opt to use this material over others?
Stainless steel is really the perfect metal for making jewellery. It’s incredibly strong, doesn’t rust, doesn’t tarnish, doesn’t turn your skin green, is hypoallergenic — the list goes on. But what we like most about it is that it’s the most recycled material on the planet. We use 100% recycled steel in our pieces, and we like to think that each VITALY piece may contain leftover steel from bridges or car parts or skyscrapers. And with this in mind, we’re always thinking about jewellery design as it relates to industrial manufacturing processes. This approach ends up having a massive influence on our experimental design practice and, ultimately, the pieces that we release.
You emphasise that your pieces are genderless. Why is this important to the brand?
We believe that jewellery (and fashion in general) should be inclusive. We want our pieces to be a tool for self-expression, whatever that expression may look like. So we never want to say ‘this is a men’s ring’ or ‘this is a chain for women.’ No matter how you identify, we want to create pieces that make you feel strong and empowered. For example, our Riot chain is a huge, chunky piece of steel — no matter who you are, you’re going to feel powerful when you put it on. We want to offer that same sense of empowerment to everyone.
Are there any pieces you’ve created that stand out to you as best representative of VITALY‘s design and spirit? Which pieces and why?
We release new products every single week, so it’s very difficult to pick favourites! But right now the two that come to mind are the Feedback ear cuff and Proxy hinging ring. Both are heavily influenced by research done into cybernetics and bionic enhancements, so they have a very alien, almost dystopian, appearance. But both of them also have a very playful energy. And that’s sort of the sweet spot for us — we can be just as influenced by the engineering drawings for a robotic arm as we are by a cheesy 90s sci-fi movie.
You’ve had some interesting collaborations in the past. What do you look for in a collaborator?
In the past, we’ve really made an effort to collaborate with local brands and artists from our hometown of Toronto. Using our growing platform to shine light on talent from our city has been incredibly important to us. But as we continue to expand our reach on a global scale, we have had the opportunity to connect with amazing like-minded individuals from all over, and we have some incredible new collaborations lined up for 2021!
What does it mean to you to be experimental?
We use the term ‘experimental’ to describe any design that ultimately asks our audience to reconsider what a piece of jewellery can be. We often approach these designs without immediately thinking about the commercial viability, instead placing emphasis on aesthetics and craft. But the interesting thing is that the more experimental pieces we release, the more our audience connects with our designs and the brand overall.
What’s been inspiring you recently?
Lately our moodboard has been filled with engineering drawings for advanced robotics, schematics from spaceships, the architecture of Zaha Hadid, evil villains from old movies and research on molecular biology. And perhaps without consciously acknowledging it, we’re probably pretty influenced by the somewhat dystopian state of the world these days.
Finally, what’s next for VITALY?
Our plans for this year are of course to continue pushing boundaries with some wild new accessory designs and our first eyewear collection. But more importantly, we are also working on some big steps to improve our sustainability and reduce our carbon footprint.
photography. Steph Verschuren
creative direction. Zack Vitiello
fashion. Steph Major
models. Amber @ Next, Chris @ Spot 6 + Ethan and Julia @ Want
hair + make up. Steph George
art direction. Jay Nugent + Primera Ng
production. Scott Mc Donald
editorial film. Joe Cornfield
nails. Lisa Kolmakova
design lead. Shane Vitaly Foran
fashion assistant. Bulgun Bulia Puteeva
photography assistant. Dexter Da Silva
hair + make up assistant. Maria Hatzis