Ana Andjelic is a strategist who works with modern luxury brands.
A lot of people today strive to be more present and connected to the natural world around them. They care about what their food and T-shirts are made of, they believe in humane working conditions, and they are firmly opposed to cruelty to animals. Yet, for many, their convictions have remained in the domain of the abstract. Making people not only care, but also do something, has been an ongoing psychological conundrum for everyone striving to build their businesses around positive action.
Ore may prove the exception. A company started by wife-and-husband duo Tess O’Leary and Daljit Singh, Ore is a modern jewelry brand that uses technology to link wearers of its jewelry to the movement of the stars and the migration of endangered species: A ring lights up when its wearer’s geographic coordinates align with the coordinates of the meteor it tracks. A piece of jewelry provides an alert when a herd of endangered elephants changes its feeding spot. A wrist-mounted piece tracks the discovery of supernovae and subsequent black holes. Each concept, the result of great imagination and expert craftsmanship, could have had come straight from Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook.
I sat down with O’Leary to discuss how Ore meshes beauty and functionality, how it’s prioritizing sustainability, and why it’s fine with taking things slow in 2018.
You don’t define Ore as a wearable technology brand. What shopper are you looking to appeal to?
Our subject matter has a wide appeal that crosses gender, cultural and age boundaries. This presents us with both a great and potentially overwhelming opportunity, but we believe our appeal will lie with those with interests in art, design, technology … and a bit of magic. Our starting point is the simple notion of colossal movements in the natural world, like planets in orbit, and, later, monumental migrations in the animal kingdom. From here, we crystalize the simplest experiences to play out across our pieces. Our end point is that we should go beyond surface appeal to forge a deeply personal connection to natural phenomena — a cinematic portal to the cosmos to embody experiences within our pieces.
Our aim is to connect with four customer groups: The first is the adventurer, a person with philanthropic interests, who actively engages with big world issues. The second group is the millennial, a hard-to-reach customer who prioritizes experiences and appreciates the depth and intangibility of Ore’s proposition. There is also the tech entrepreneur, who has amassed wealth swiftly and will identify with the digital intelligence of our brand. Finally there is the contemporary collector, who seeks out statement and iconic pieces: watches, jewelry, art and meteorites.
It isn’t easy to make something that’s both functional and beautiful. How do you think about beauty in your designs?
At our human scale, we are in awe of colossal movements in the natural world; beauty is all around us — so the design is a beauty challenge. We have to triangulate between our chosen natural event; a wearable, desirable form; and a simple experience. Design must have integrity to be able to evoke a kaleidoscope of wonder and desire at a momentary spectacle. We are chasing that kind of beauty. We are also playing in a strange space of the unseen. Vibrations, darkness and magnetic fields bring dynamism to our pieces. We are asking our customers to use imagination to construct their own notion of beauty, too.
Today’s ideas, experiences and objects seem to have an ever-shortening lifespan. In contrast, Ore takes the long view. As you see it, is that the new luxury?
In this climate of obsolescence and fast trends, Ore has defined how new luxury values can be imbued into materials and how technology can play a more sensitive role in luxury by introducing a layer of emotional intelligence into fine jewelry. We are creating a space that is truly differentiated from mass-market wearable technology. We believe that we offer a more profound notion of luxury.
The luxury sector feels rather ill at ease with itself, faced with the next generation. Brands are encapsulated in ever-more lavish and immersive experiences. Few are looking at how to further innovate by placing these magical, intangible experiences at the heart of their products. In creating these pieces, we want to provoke some debate about the direction of luxury. For example, our first piece of jewelry, a ring called Lucy, conjures an emotional connection that not only stretches millions of miles above us to the stars, but across generations into the future. Its path is traced over days, years and centuries. We envision it as a channel of memories, an archive of place and time on Earth, and a thrilling reminder of the allure and vastness of the universe.
How do you make sure that habituation doesn’t settle in? And how do you ensure that you are not just feeding the vanity and trendiness of the wearer?
We are pushing back against gratification that fuels the turnover of trends. We want customers to fall in step with more natural cycles. We want to offer them kind of reappraisal of pace. Our goal is to foster emotional intelligence that will make our customers feel slightly neglectful if they overlook their piece for too long. We like to think that our pieces have a Tamagotchi quality to them.
When it comes to the question of vanity, I think we are testing our experience design. We ask: What happens when our subject matter ceases to exist? Stars die, albeit over a long period of time, and animals meet their end. How will we handle this? We want our pieces to have integrity, without being cute. There should be melancholy at times. It is an interesting design contemplation because jewelry is already embodied with sentiment, so we don’t have to overload the experience.
Some of the most successful brands today in jewelry and beyond have figured out that, in order to stay culturally relevant, they have to put forward a set of values that will attract a community around them. What are Ore’s core values?
Our raison d’être is to connect people to natural phenomena. We want to exist in a parallel universe. Rather than use typical precious gems and pursue luxury cues, we see Ore as a conduit that goes beyond human scale to the greater animal and mineral world.
Integrity is paramount for Ore. We are going with the grain by using largely found objects that embody history or something truly groundbreaking, like Vantablack, that truly captures the imagination. We want to foster intelligent conversation around the brand that goes beyond the physical manifestation.
Social responsibility seems to be on the minds of everyone working in fashion, beauty, food or jewelry. What do you think are the biggest obstacles to more brands being socially responsible?
Other than operational structures that do take time to reorganize, we can only assume a lack of will, interest or vision from both sides. In the spirit of convenience, consumers forget their real power. We look forward to sustainability not being a badge of honor, but an industry standard. Exploitative goods should have a shame attached to them. They should be phased out by a generation, in order to live by a “less but better” motto. Perhaps Ore will have a halo effect on people. Hopefully we will tap into people’s subconsciousness, and they will change behavior to be more sympathetic to our environment.
Image via iamore.io