Women Who Inspire: Melissa Curry, Jewellery Designer & Activist

Melissa Curry has been a designer for over twenty years. This dream turned reality when she became Liberty of London’s Millennium Designer, which quite literally put her name on the map. She started appearing on billboards all over the world. Curry was based in Paris with the people she describes as the great artists and thinkers. They inspired her in a city complete with a melting pot of culture. Her excitement for the fashion industry, working with brilliant minds and inspirational brands never wavered whilst in Paris.

During Melissa’s ongoing success, she became a mother to a very sick baby boy. Later, she lost her husband in unexpected and tragic circumstances. Each object has a story but for Melissa, her personal story of loss is what drives her new range, the BYOS collection which stands for Be Your Own Success. Curry has channeled her pain into something that can inspire and encourage those who find themselves in the face of adversity today.

What inspired you to create the BYOS collection?

It started with one piece, it was probably the most personal piece that I built as a designer. It came from very much inside, it was an organic idea during a very challenging time in my life and I obviously express myself through the medium of jewellery. It was during a time that I felt alone and very much removed from what I love doing the most. I was disconnected from life itself. I was challenged emotionally, so at the time I envisaged a little gold bar and it kept on reappearing in my head that I felt compelled to design it. That took a considerable amount of time. To develop the drawing and then the model and then eventually the bar itself but it was forever on my mind at the time.

What does the little gold bar mean to you?

I didn’t know what it was at the time but later on when you put words, and when you put feelings to an object, you realise what it means. For me, that little gold bar meant economic independence and it was something that I lost and it was something that I found very difficult to overcome. I was so used to running my own show and having my own brand that was dotted all over the world. I was used to my freedom but suddenly I was looking after someone much smaller. As I had originally been my own boss and my own earner, there wasn’t a lot of freedom when I had my baby. I wasn’t earning for a long period of time.

What did this lack of financial independence mean at the time?

My son was very ill, we were based in Paris and I had done everything to remain there because that’s where the heart of my business was. I had built my brand from Paris and I was a recognised name there. All of my contacts were there. Everything of mine was built in Paris. My little man arrived and he became incredibly ill. He struggled for two years and during that time I did everything but come home to Ireland. We went to South Africa, we went to West Africa, we went everywhere we could but I just didn’t want to come home because I knew building my vision again from Ireland was going to be something tedious and difficult. Eventually we did come home, we had to come home. Keto just got so sick. We were in need of refuge, we had hit every wall. He was in hospital most of the time and his father wasn’t around because he died tragically in 2017. So I was faced with a struggle and like many millions of people around the world, I became disempowered.

How did you overcome this?

 I am a great believer in finding a solution to everything and staying positive and staying strong when you’re in adversity. However, there was a calling and it was telling me to pack my bags and follow this little man’s life. He had his own spirit and he had his own path. I became the carer. When the little gold bar came into my mind, I knew I could make a change.

What inspires you when you’re designing?

People inspire me the most but it can be anything, it can be a feeling, which BYOS is very much built on. It’s on human feelings. Jewellery is an emotional product. I have transferred feelings to my jewellery pieces which has been a challenge but has also been quite fun in expressing myself.

I used to travel an awful lot, so a lot of my inspiration would have come from walking through China and Africa. Paris was glamorous and it was fun and it was wild. It was rewarding because I was with my own crew and it was multi-cultural, there’s a myriad of cultures and thinkers and it’s inspiring to be in that world, of artists.

Politics inspire me. I’m not a big politician but I listen and I observe and I do adapt my surroundings to what I’m doing.

Your jewellery is so diverse; some pieces are big and bold and would suit the likes of Lady Gaga while others are more subtle. Do you think your designs reflect your mood?

I think my designs showcase different parts of my life and different parts of me. I guess I have lots of different pockets and lots of different interests but I guess we all swing with moods, all of us. I think my designs will adapt to all these different moods and personalities and us as people. I can go very big or very small.

What kind of friend do you buy this jewellery for? The extrovert friend? The introvert friend? The somewhere in between friend?

It’s for all your friends, I have very much embraced people, especially the younger generation. I have looked at their strengths and I’ve looked at their challenges and I would hope that I have responded to them. I would like them to use the product in ways that suit their lifestyle, I’m very much about honing in on how we feel.

Do you think we need to focus more on how we feel?

I think we are hugely pressurised as people, I think the younger generation has a massive job to do and I’m hugely aware of that.

They may be digitally savvy but emotionally there will be huge issues. We’re spending less time noticing our feelings and more time engaging with things digitally.

I have tried to adapt to that and that is why I have introduced feelings and needs into my collections rather than topics. Obama said that he could perceive an empathy deficit in the future and that stuck with me. This is not ordinary jewellery, it’s jewellery that should resonate.

So, you are not only trying to motivate but you are also trying to shine a light on emotional health issues?

We all go through little challenges and big challenges. Each piece is highly flexible but if you have someone in your life who is going through an emotional challenge you can buy it for her. If you have somebody in your life who is experiencing great achievement you can buy it for her. We are experiencing a human crisis. We are removed from our emotions. Worldwide there are 300 million people who are suffering from depression. 280 million suffer from anxiety. The highest percentage of male death is caused by suicide. We have a human issue and I want people to feel better.

Do you think your personal challenge directed the development of the brand?

I guess I have come through it. it’s not easy to verbalise it when you’re in it, it’s easier to sit in pain and bare it and hide behind the curtain. I never wallowed because I was always busy but I was removed. I lost my self-esteem and I lost myself as I knew her. I had to reinvent me and that took an awful lot of work and I’m still on the journey. Based on my experience, my brand has had two demands from the beginning and that was to give back and to inspire people.

I’m always trying to push the line and see where we can go and see how we can innovate.

You’re not only trying to raise awareness around emotional health but you’re also trying to give back to those less fortunate internationally, tell me about that…

Yes, we are collaborating with the Give Work campaign for the Kisany Living Linens. This organisation is about empowering females in Kenya, the Congo and Rwanda. It gives them the necessary skills to become tailors and retailers. It gives them the skill set to become independent. The organisation realized that without nourishing the mothers, the children could not thrive. They decided to focus on the mothers. They had to make them feel good. They had to empower them, to stabilize them.

It’s a beautiful campaign. I also would love to work with Unicef in the hope of contributing to the independence of those less fortunate and creating a more sustainable environment for their families.

As the BYOS collection continues to grow, what would future success mean to you?

It’s for me to be happy and it’s for my son to be totally fulfilled and for him to have a progressive path which will bring him to self-realisation.

For a list of stockists see www.melissacurry.com or email Melissa on studio@melissacurry.com.

Hannah Kingston

This blog is a collection of ramblings from a girl who is trying to remain both emotionally and economically stable during her first year in the big smoke

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