Holly Marbeck is an AUT fashion graduate who last year found herself straying from clothing into a slightly different line of designing: jewellery making.
Her venture into earrings initially begun as a creative outlet on the side of completing her university assignments and working at New Zealand fashion house Georgia Alice, but it has since blossomed into something much bigger.
Dubbed Mars, the earrings unique galaxy-like, out-of-this-world look have attracted the attention of fashion influencers worldwide.
Notable names donning the designs include Nadia Fairfax, British designer Henry Holland and none other than Solange Knowles, the singer behind the critically acclaimed A Seat At The Table.
They’ve also featured in UK magazine Grazia, which is how they caught Knowles’ eye.
Though Marbeck envisioned herself working in fashion, Mars’ success has meant she is being drawn more and more towards pursuing jewellery making as a full-time gig.
Check out our Q&A with her below.
You studied fashion at AUT, but Mars – your jewellery line – is what’s propelled you into the public eye. How did this come about? Did you fall into jewellery accidentally?
I initially started off just making earrings for myself and then a few friends asked me to make some for them, It was kind of just a hobby and a bit of a creative outlet while on university break in second year. Looking back on it, starting a jewellery line while in my final year probably wasn’t the most practical idea, it definitely made things challenging.
What was the turning point that made you go, ‘Maybe I should turn this into a proper business?’
The girls at Georgia Alice kind of encouraged me to start an Instagram page. It took me a while to do it and I had the page just sitting there on private for a while and then one day I just decided to go for it, I kind of only expected a few friends to follow it and never anticipated it to become an actual business and grow as fast as it did!
How do you choose what materials to use for the earrings?
So far it’s kind of happened quite randomly, the use of clay came about kind of by accident. I wanted to experiment with resin and was naively trying to make moulds out of clay and then I just kind of thought maybe I should make the earrings out of clay instead. The decision to start using resin came about as part of my graduate collection, but it was something I’d always wanted to try.
Where do you get inspiration for the earrings’ look and feel?
A lot of the time it’s just through playing around, I’ll always make a clay prototype before deciding on an earring shape which allows me to kind of design as I go. I’m a very kinesthetic person and so a lot of it comes through experimenting, rather than actually designing. But then sometimes I’ll just have an idea for something that I would want to wear and it will happen that way.
What is the design process like for each set – is no pair ever the same as the ones that have come before it?
Yes, as they are all handmade, no two will ever be the same! The latest collection is slightly more uniform as each earring is made in a mould and so the shapes are replicas, but the actual earrings will always differ. Whereas my first collection was entirely made by hand and so the process is very organic.
What have you learnt from working in the design room of Georgia Alice? Did you pick up any skills from her along the way that helped develop Mars?
I started working at GA at the end of my first year of University so it’s kind of all I’ve ever really known design wise and my experience there has been completely invaluable. I guess the most important thing I’ve picked up would be the importance of brand identity. Having a strong sense of who you’re designing for and what you want your brand to be about is so essential.
Can you explain what happened with Solange’s stylist getting in touch with you this year and what that felt like?
It was about two weeks before my graduate collection was due and I was at University late on a Saturday night when I got the Instagram message. It was Solange’s stylist and she mentioned that Solange loved the earrings and would love to purchase some. At first, I thought it was just some random girl who was trying to get a sneaky pair of free earrings. I was always kind of skeptical, until I actually saw a photo of Solange in the earrings. She’s recently ordered three more pairs from the new collection too which is amazing!
You’ve taken Mars from being an unknown product to being nationally and internationallyrecognised in Grazia. What’s the secret to your success, do you think? Does social media play a key part?
Definitely, social media in my eyes is kind of the most important marketing tool for brands these days. It allows you to not only sell a product but to project a brand identity.
Can you ever see Mars becoming a full-time gig, or do you still want to pursue a career in fashion?
Yes, definitely, and the need to start doing it full-time is becoming more and more imminent. I never saw myself pursuing jewellery, but it’s a natural extension of fashion and so, for now, I’m putting all of my energy into Mars.
How would you describe where the New Zealand fashion industry is at currently? Is it challenging for new talent coming through to find a place within it?
I think it's definitely becoming more accepting of new talent. There are so many young designers who are doing really well both locally and internationally at the moment. The look of New Zealand fashion is shifting, and so with that it feels like there’s a welcoming of new talent. I guess social media makes it a lot easier to break into the industry too with platforms like Instagram being so prevalent with people my age reaching a target market is way more accessible.
Are there any other young New Zealand designers (in any field) out there who’s work you admire?
Rose Ackland of Beach Knickers, we both studied fashion at AUT and both started our little business ventures at the same time coincidentally.