Things of Beauty: Pichulik Jewellery

Made of memories: A Pichulik necklace tells a story.

Made of memories: A Pichulik necklace tells a story.

René Gruau, a French fashion illustrator famous for drawing symbols in a single pencil stroke for the advertising campaigns of Givenchy and Dior, and Katherine Mary Pichulik, the designer behind the eponymous South African jewellery brand, share the same dedication to the line. Gruau called it “a concentration of knowledge” and Pichulik says: “I can use a line to form a shape; I can make anything with a line.”

She is not your usual born-to-be fashion designer. With a love for all things beautiful, she studied fine art before training as a pâtissière and then travelling the world. While journeying by train through India, Pichulik noticed how women would collect coins and hand-dyed strings — bits and pieces of their stories, faith and beliefs, soon to be turned into necklaces, bracelets and other ornate pieces. Back home, she started to play with ropes from her boyfriend’s dad’s shop and elements she collected during her travels. They became linear assemblages enhanced with corals, pompons or bells. And the brand Pichulik was born.

She creates her pieces by hand, helped only by two other women. Her Algerian grandmother inspires her: the washed colours of her house and images of tropical birds instilled in her childhood memories. Her summer 2012 collection, made of bright neon yellows, pinks, deep hues of reds and lemon greens, was a perfect reference to this influence. It was also very much an extension of the designer’s experiences and origins — a patchwork of Ndebele paints and the mystical tones of India woven into the ropes.

Moving into winter, Pichulik imagined her woman in a more intimate space, in moments of calm and introspection. The pieces are darker, luxurious, and the silky ropes adorn the neck like an opulent choker.

Just like the Proenza Schouler Resort 2012 by the American duo Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, which included accessories made of macramé, knotted cords, patina brass and intricate photo collages, Pichulik enthused the world of fashion with her creations. But more than contemporary ornaments, her jewellery is a gift to women, treasured pieces to be kept for a lifetime and passed on to their daughters. Like the jewellery of the Ottoman Empire, the ropes — tied, twisted — surrounded by crystals or beads and woven by hand are protective pieces.

“Women would have statement jewellery pieces as a gift from their family and they would be imbued with the smell of cloves or cinnamon,” says Pichulik.

“They would add coins, dangling on strings, symbols of prosperity and prayers, [hidden] in small cases, for protection. They were a defence against the world, placed straight on your heart.”

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