Designer Insider: East Fourth Street
East Fourth Street is the ultimate in exclusive hand-made jewelry. Using sustainably-sourced metals and gemstones, the pieces are all designed and produced by brand founder Susan Crow. After her appearance at NYFW’s GreenShows, I wanted to get the scoop on her style of sustainable design.
What inspired you to design sustainably?
I grew up in a place that appreciated liberal and artistic perspectives – it introduced me to controversial environmental opinions from an early age. In design school we studied Bucky Fuller, but the program didn’t focus on the role design plays in damaging the environment. Then, in 2008, I stumbled upon a fabulous accredited Sustainable Design program at MCAD. It challenged me to design with the entire product life cycle at the forefront of the process — from raw materials to waste disposal.
How do you define sustainable jewelry?
Sustainable jewelry is more than just using recycled metals and gemstones, it means creating a closed loop system in the beginning of the design phase – analyzing everything from raw materials to waste disposal. Traditional metalsmithing uses toxic chemicals/processes, and conventional mining operations that come with high environmental impacts.
Sustainable jewelry also addresses the ethical issues surrounding working conditions experienced by gold and gemstone miners in the product’s supply chain.
All products have some sort of impact, but my goal is to create jewellery with a socially responsible conscience. East Fourth Street is the sustainable launch of my jewelry line.
Where do you source your materials from?
I use mostly gold and silver, which come from refineries that exclusively sell recycled precious metal, but I also use gold provided by my clients for custom-made recycled pieces. Next year, when ethical gold becomes available in the US, I will introduce it into my work. My gemstones are either reused or fairmined, and I only use pre-owned diamonds. I have always been a scrounger and love the hunt for used goods. Over the years I have stockpiled pretty interesting items, some of which end up in my jewelry.
The industry is still very shrouded, and finding suppliers that link up with my ethics takes much more time. I can’t design a collection with anything I want in gemstone/metal combinations. I have to first source out what is available and design sustainably around what I can get.
Tell me about your time at the NYFW Green Shows.
It was thrilling to meet other committed designers that believe in the importance of sustainable design in fashion. Many fashion consumers are ready to embrace this new reality – there was a lot of support from buyers and press. The experience was a definite confirmation that sustainable design is the correct direction for me.
Favourite material of the moment?
I recently discovered reclaimed copper, not traditionally used in luxury jewelry. It’s rough, it’s earthy, and very enjoyable to experiment with. Texture and presence are important for me in my design. Presence doesn’t correlate to size or weight, but to the essence of the piece.Tweet