There are nose piercings and then there is facial jewellery, and Malaysian-born, London-based designer Joanne Tan expertly offers the latter. The Central Saint Martins graduate is reimagining the nose through her decorative and delicate pieces that locate the centre of the face as a place of beauty. For her first project, ‘Not Your Average Beauty’ the designer looked to combat ideas around plastic surgery by offering a different, yet equally transformative, means of approaching surface identity. The idea was drawn from studies of tribal jewellery and the collection, featuring cuffs and clips made from 18-carat yellow gold, diamonds and pearls, invites the wearer to celebrate their natural features through enhancement, rather than change. As she prepares to launch her own line, we caught up with Tan to find out more.
Culture Trip: How did you come to jewellery?
Joanne Tan: I have always been interested in objects that interact with the human body, and I believe that art and design are one of the ways that I can express myself without any restriction. During my year in Foundation studies, I was allowed to try out different design pathways, and jewellery design was among one of the subjects that I tried out. In the process, I found out that I enjoy craftsmanship and decided to pursue this field further.
CT: What was it about the nose that interested you?
JT: Beauty and plastic surgery were the topic focus when I was working on the ‘Not Your Average Beauty’ collection. During the research and design development, I found out that nose was one of the most common facial parts for plastic surgery, so I started to focus on creating nose pieces.
CT: Are there other body parts you’d like to create for, or to do you think it will always be around the face?
JT: As my current interest is on facial parts I think the focus, for now, will be on the face. However, my works focus on topical approaches, and are always concept driven, so my future designs and collections probably won’t be limited to just the face.
CT: If feels like nose piercings have a certain reputation as being punk and grunge-y rather than elegant, do you feel that perception is a challenge?
JT: Reaching out to the audience about my nose accessories is a challenge, as the public would associate them with the punky style of nose piercing, and would not see wearing my nose accessories as beautiful in the traditional sense. My design focus is on beautifying people and at the market on nose piercings is currently very constrained, with most of the designs focus on punk and gothic style. I believe that perceptions can be changed as more people are exposed to the different sides of nose accessories, rather than just nose piercings. It’s an exciting challenge.
CT: What are your design references when making pieces?
JT: ‘Not Your Average Beauty’ is a collection inspired by radical tribal jewellery that aims to combat the media’s idealisation of beauty and the modern obsession with plastic surgery that pervades the Asian community. Thus, the design references focused on both tribal jewellery and its history and plastic surgery procedures of the facial parts.
CT: And what are you particularly interested in at the moment?
JT: I am interested in human identity, and my current topic of research is in the area of minimal interaction in human beings.
CT: What are you currently working on?
JT: I am working on launching my own brand, JOANNE . T Jewellery. My team and I are in the midst of setting up the brand and business by resourcing for potential employees and collaborations opportunities with both local and overseas industries. Meanwhile, a new collection is in the process of model-making and we are hoping to launch it soon.