SEB BROWN has changed the way men wear jewellery. Albeit a bold statement, before guys were wearing Seb’s handcrafted bejewelled creations, really, they weren’t wearing jewellery at all.
Growing up on Victoria’s surf coast, it might seem like a far stretch for the now Melbourne-based jeweller and designer to have a name and career that’s internationally recognised. “It has a primal and very raw feeling and is constantly being buffeted by wind, rain and fog,” he says of his Apollo Bay upbringing. But now, there’s hardly a jewellery corner in the world that hasn’t been inspired by Seb Brown’s whimsical designs, including collections of handcrafted rings, necklaces, bracelets and more.
Here, Seb discusses with Esquire growing up in the “surf world”, what a day in the life of a jeweller looks like and the one statement accessory every guy should own.
Hi Seb! Thanks for joining us for another week of ‘Five Fits With’. As we do, can you start off by telling us a little bit about your childhood and where you grew up?
I grew up in Apollo Bay, Victoria. It has a primal and very raw feeling and is constantly being buffeted by wind, rain and fog. Sometimes growing up, a tree would fall on the power lines and we would have to play board games by candlelight – its all sounding very 18th Century…
So you’re a surf kid!? What was considered stylish back in Apollo Bay growing up?
Yes, surf surf surf! Think O’Neill, Billabong, Rip Curl, Quicksilver and Etnies were the height of cool in coastal Victoria in the late 90’s early 00’s. I had lots of baggy ripped jeans, cords, fat skate shoes, a mid part and some gross hoodies. Fluoro and reflective material were considered very avant-garde at the time.
And how about today — where do you call home?
I live in Brunswick, Melbourne. I love Mediterranean Wholesalers and the overall crusty vibe of the suburb. Brunswick used to have a lot of manufacturing and wholesale and it’s still a very diverse area with a lot of Greek and Italian influences.
So most of our readers would know that you’re a jewellery designer. Can you remember a time growing up where you first fell in love with jewellery?
I have always loved history, even as a small child, I was obsessed with Egyptian tombs and Greek mythology and artefacts. My favourite pastime was to clip all my grandmother’s clip-on earrings all over me; on my ears, face, clothes, wherever. I loved the click of the fastenings and the silky sound of plastic beads rubbing together.
Do you think your love for jewellery informs your fashion choices today? Surely the two go hand in hand?
I like how jewellery unfolds and reveals itself as you spend more time with the wearer — there’s always a story. You might notice someone’s outfit straightaway but there might be a little gold ring or a jewel in there somewhere which unravels a story over time. Jewellery is very personal and emotional, more so for me, than clothing. A crappy outfit can really be amped up by a great ring or a necklace — I’ll often wear Kappa shorts, an old business shirt and a diamond ring.
Who would you say is the most stylish person in your life right now?
I have a neighbour who is a really old guy who sits on his front step smoking cigarettes all day. He has the best monotone beige/brown/grey outfits. He often wears zip offs and the shorts section is faded but the zipped on pants sections are the original colour. I’m also obsessed with people who wear all one colour (usually purple).
What does a typical day in the life of a jeweller look like?
I have a strong coffee and a piece of toast at home. I take the tram into the studio (Designed by Sean Godsell, in the Melbourne CBD) around 9:30 once the staff have settled in. We run through the days tasks and they assign me a list of bench jobs I need to do. Emails, invoicing – I have a salad for lunch. We have clients come through the studio throughout the day, and I spend a lot time drawing, designing layouts and carving new shapes in wax. The days at Seb Brown HQ can be quite varied, but always interesting as we normally have around 50 bespoke custom jobs on at any one time. We make everything in house from scratch, so if we have a few big wholesale orders it can be quite chaotic.
Is there a career highlight that makes you most proud, Seb?
Being stocked at Liberty London in 2018. This really legitimised my practice as a jeweller and introduced me to the world stage. The orders are big, so we needed to ramp up production while maintaining the quality and essence of the work. I also get a lot of joy from a satisfied customer or a really successful re-model.
What does your “work uniform” look like? Function over style (or vice versa)?
Jeans and wool. I need clothes which are comfortable, breathe well and are hard wearing. Studio clothes get treated quite poorly and it can be sweaty work – I need clothing which is loose fitting and comfortable. I also road test my jewels by wearing them while I’m working, the best way to check for durability!
Where in the world can one find the coolest jewellery pieces right now?
www.seb-brown.com, of course! Our most recent stockist Dover Street Market also has an incredible range of unique jewels – we just visited them in store and it is a serious treasure trove.
Do you have a favourite fashion brand right now?
Sacai. I love the way they splice garments together and mess with archetypes. It’s very Frankenstein and the quality is great; it feels like you’re getting two or three garments in one. I’m constantly collecting vintage Maison Margiela and Comme des Garçons and I’m an admirer of Martine Rose, too.
And your favourite jewellery brand?
Obviously my own (laughs), but I’m also a big fan of David Neale!
Okay, and in one sentence, how would you describe your style?
Any piece of clothing or accessory you’re currently on the lookout for?
I’m on the hunt for the perfect bomber, the perfect Levis 501’s and the perfect white business shirt. I’m constantly buying vintage CDG from Grailed with various outcomes…
I’ve had these vintage 501’s (pictured below) for many years – I used to buy all my vintage denim from a store in Sydney which has since closed down. I like to mix a dress shirt with a busted outfit, I’m a big fan of high/low.
What’s the most over-hyped trend right now in your opinion?
Celebrity designers, and the fashion as entertainment circus.
What’s one jewellery piece that every man should own?
A thin gold chain.
In your collection, what’s the most sentimental piece of clothing or accessory that you own and how did you come to possess it?
I have a gold and lapis lazuli ring from my grandfather – he had no attachment to it and was about to throw it out, but thought I might like it because I ‘like jewellery’. He was a farmer with gnarled ginger root hands and jewellery was definitely not his thing, but to me it’s very special.
Check back for another edition of ‘Five Fits With’ next week.
See more of Esquire Australia’s style coverage here.