GOOD TALKS Kiki Dieterle
Kiki Dieterle redefines elegant minimalism with her hand-crafted jewellery, embracing a unique versatility that precisely accents any ensemble. The Berlin-based brand exists at the nexus between subtle and iconic design, presenting pieces born from expert craftsmanship. The Good Store founder Gerda Jünemann, Kiki herself and writer Eliza Edwards sat down together (from a distance) to dive deeper into the world of Dieterle.
Eliza: How was your passion for jewellery ignited?
Kiki: I went to high school in California, I had the opportunity to take a lot of different creative courses. I really liked working with my hands, that was the main thing. I took the jewellery class, which was in the same space as the auto shop class. It was noisy, busy and I loved it. Working with metal, especially silver and gold, was love at first sight. I don’t have a classic type of education, it all started more seriously with jewellery when I was 19, 20. Then I went to work for a German jeweller living in California, I learned most of my craft from her.
Eliza: To someone who isn’t familiar with your jewellery, how would you describe your unique aesthetic? Particularly in terms of being a brand that doesn’t react to trends.
Kiki: Clean lines but the pieces are not just simple. There’s always something about them, nothing loud or garish but something that makes them a little different. There’s a twist around my pieces – an organic twist. My approach to making jewellery is that I want it to be part of your everyday. It's something that you carry with you, like a talisman. It’s a defining element rather than an add-on...
Gerda: I sense with your pieces that you have a real relationship with them, your jewellery is recognizable because of the diligence invested. It’s a very different process to reacting to trends - for example, it wasn’t interesting for you to follow the pearl trend.
Kiki: Yeah – I want my customers to feel the same way about jewellery as I do. And I do love pearls, but I would like to work with them on my terms and not just because it’s a trend.
Gerda: You’ve been producing the Memphis Ring for almost 5 years. We are not tired of looking at it, unlike the jewellery that’s emerged from these various trends.
Eliza: It feels as though your jewellery is meant to be at one with the body as opposed to being a separate element to yourself. The shape is integrated with the shape of the body – streamlined somehow. How do you achieve that?
Kiki: When I work on a piece, I wear it. I sense how it feels, what it looks like and how it moves. It’s a gradual process; it could take 5 days, it could take 5 months. It has to be exactly right.
Gerda: I can vouch for this - I’ve been wearing your jewellery for years - each piece is a staple. There is no expiry date.
Eliza: Where do you draw inspiration from, especially when it’s away from the mainstream?
Kiki: I can find influence anywhere; whether finding a weird piece of glass at the flea market or the Lee Krasner exhibition at the Barbican, even the Barbican itself. Or an older woman walking down the street wearing a bangle she’s had since she was 16. I draw inspiration from architecture, paintings, photography or it could even be the flower arrangements in the Good Store. They are moods that evoke something else.
Eliza: You’re drawing inspiration from those different places which make the jewellery you design true to your experience.
A key element of your jewellery is that each piece is handcrafted in Berlin. How does that process work?
Kiki: I make a piece from beginning to end. That’s a vital element of the brand, I sit at the workbench, making your piece for you.
Gerda: It’s a special moment when customers at The Good Store find out that their Kiki Dieterle ring is custom made to fit their ring size.
Kiki: It’s interesting when a customer expects a delivery within 2-3 days but instead, it might take 2-3 weeks. Its depends on whether I have to order the metal or it’s something that needs to be sent to the gold platers. But once I’ve explained all that their attitude completely shifts.
Eliza: That seems representative of the inherent disconnect that's developed between designer, creator and customer. That resonates with the conversations I’ve been having with Gerda recently - that people are really slowing down and adjusting to a different pace of life.
How are you finding creating in this current situation, or is this a natural pace for you?
Kiki: I hope people will start consuming in a more conscious way, and that also goes for jewellery, You see a lot of people supporting small businesses, that’s exciting of course. We do have a chance to consume less now, and more consciously.
Eliza: The sourcing of gold is a widely discussed issue within the jewellery world, how do you ensure that the gold you source is ethically produced?
Kiki: There is a responsibility to be careful and conscious regarding the origins of gold. It is a bit frustrating that you can’t completely track where the gold comes from but I recently read that now over 99% of gold purchased for producing is recycled. At least in Germany, and I buy my metal either from Berlin or Hamburg. That feels good.
Eliza: And how important was it for you to offer accessibly priced products to your customers?
Kiki: So important. I appreciate that not everyone is able to buy solid gold jewellery, so it was really vital that I could also offer some gold-plated pieces. I must say though, there is no compromise in quality here – I’m so proud to be able to offer very high-quality, gold-plated pieces to my customers.
Eliza: Is there a movement of sustainability within the jewellery industry at the moment? How much are people talking about their sourcing for example?
Kiki: It’s not so easy to find fair-trade silver and fair-trade gold. It's much more expensive, you have to know if a consumer is willing to pay for that. It's kind of tricky...
Gerda: I think sustainability has always been a core aspect of your business. When someone buys one of your rings, they buy it and wear it regularly. One naturally consumes less. So many luxury brands mass-produce in low-quality brass. The quality is honestly terrible - I think there needs to be more conversation around luxury brands working with low-quality brass just because they can...
Eliza: It’s like luxury brands working with polyester...
Gerda: Exactly. It’s interesting that we are talking about luxury brands getting away with those materials because they are big names. Kiki, your branding is very reduced but the essence in your pieces is so strong that people recognise it. I think that’s beautiful, it’s in the identity of the piece.
Kiki: A customer of mine who's from Portland, was in Berlin once and she bought a necklace. Years later, she has a meeting with one of my friends. She says: “are you wearing a Kiki Dieterle?”. And they were in a meeting wearing the same necklace... that was surreal to be told.
Eliza: How did the collaboration between The Good Store and Kiki Dieterle come to be?
Gerda: We have known each other 10 years and it felt like a natural move to have Kiki's jewellery in The Good Store, both in terms of quality and aesthetic. The selection of brands in the store must be ones that I stand behind 100% and there was no doubt in my mind that Kiki’s jewellery would be the perfect fit.
Kiki: You’re so right, it felt completely natural. Later on, we developed the bangle with the slogan together. That was really exciting.
Gerda: It was important for us that the slogan “Good things will happen soon” was subtly printed on the inside of the bangle and only viewable from the perspective of the wearer. Women often buy the bracelet for themselves as a gift; I love that.
Eliza: I have one final question. What are your plans for the future?
Kiki: I haven’t worked with wax cast pieces in years, so I’d like to do that again. The metal flows and can look much more organic.
Also, I want to work with mountain crystals and jade - but I have to find someone who can cut it - to make it exactly the way I envision. Luckily, I have a friend in California who might be able to do this for me. I want to use this time to play around. It’s giving me the opportunity to think about different ways of creating. I have the freedom now to be more playful and take it from there.
Gerda: Your new pieces always spark my interest. We trust your quality - so we know something good will come. As someone who owns a store, there are always millions of opportunities presented to me, but with Kiki I always know it’s going to be good.