Whether she’s riding her Ducati or looking after her one-year-old daughter (and South African mastiff), self-taught jewelry designer Jeanette Lai Thomas exudes dedication. Her brand Moratorium favors sleek, structural lines and geometric shapes with a distinctive gothic edge, while avoiding harsh or clunky pieces. Sold around the world in retailers including Opening Ceremony and Hong Kong’s WOAW store, Moratorium is gaining an audience of people who like clean lines and gender non-specific styles. We recently met with Thomas to discuss her latest collection, inspirations and her insatiable need for speed.
Tell us a little about your approach to designing?
From the very beginning, I’ve designed what I wanted to. There has never been a formula based on what retailers want, or what will make the most money. Moratorium is my creative freedom, the one thing in my life where there are no rules. I learned silversmithing when my husband and I moved to Amsterdam from Portland, OR. I instantly fell in love with it. We spent the first few years of our marriage moving a lot because of his work, so out of necessity to be creative and to do something for myself, I made jewelry. This is where the name “Moratorium” came from. It was a moratorium from all the moving, packing, planning and a moment which I owned.
What were your initial influences? Have they changed?
I’m influenced by the same things I’ve always been interested in: architecture, geometric shapes and industrial design. I’ve always been fascinated by designs and concepts that push boundaries—objects that fight the sea of averageness that surround us; buildings, clothes, cars, bikes, fighter jets and so much more. In 2008 I stood in front of Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren’s CCTV Headquarters in Beijing. It was awesome and I still think about it today. I’m deeply inspired by Iris Van Herpen. She’s a visionary who creates new space for other safer fashion designers to explore.
You ride a Ducati Monster that has a very distinct geometric frame—do vehicles and industrial design influence your jewelry designs?
I see the Ducati Monster as an idea constantly evolved over time, while simultaneously remaining true to the original vision. Porsche’s 911 is the same. The performance of today’s 911’s is drastically enhanced compared to 1963’s car, but the design integrity remains true to the original idea. Design that’s impervious to superficial influence is a guiding star for my creative process. I chose to work exclusively with precious metals because I insist on integrity within my designs. Jewelry to me is precious. It’s a luxury; something timeless and coveted that retains value, both financially and culturally over time. Moratorium is not seasonal or trend-based; it’s a body of work that evolves and expands over time. I perpetually refine existing designs, adding to them and taking away when needed. Maybe I’m an archetypal perfectionist.
What is next for Moratorium?
I’m going to continue to perfect the ideas that have inspired me since I started. I’m a true believer that the design process never finishes. I’ve been experimenting with diamonds recently, and after many months of refinement, I’m getting ready to present some of the first Moratorium Pavé collection in 2015. Because of the diamond embellishments, it will be considered a foray into fine jewelry, but I promise as with everything Moratorium, it’s definitely going to push some boundaries within this category.
Images courtesy of Moratorium