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Ellen Joncheere: I am launching a new initiative to support young designers globally

12 september 2022
ellen_joncheere_xx.pngEllen Joncheere, CEO of HRD Antwerp, in an exclusive interview with Rough&Polished told about the history of the HRD Design Awards and its new, 18th edition.

Please tell us about the history of the HRD Design Awards.

This will be the 18th edition of the HRD Design Awards. But the origin of the competition goes back to 1984. Then it was called “The Antwerp Diamond High Council awards”, aimed to promote diamonds in Belgium. It’s only from 2003 that they decided to lift the competition up to an international level. That was a smart decision, because suddenly it gave us a much bigger platform and the ability to build international connections. It also became the biggest design competition. We had more than 800 subscriptions in our latest competition and that number is continuously growing.

For what purpose the nominations of the contest have been expanded?

We wanted to give more opportunities to young designers. We really want to make an effort to give those designers that do not know the competition yet, to participate and to do so in more categories.

Who will be on the jury?

The jury will be announced on the 11th September at Vincenzaoro. But we have some great names that represent the jewelry industry.

How many applicants and from which countries have already submitted their works?

We certainly have a good reputation in Asia and Europe, but we have submissions coming in from more than 38 countries. But for this edition we really want to welcome more entries from the USA and Africa. They are underrepresented in the competition, this is why we are working very hard in including design schools, using local influencers and with our own clients and partners to reach/be the door openers for these young and innovative designers.

That’s why it’s so important that we get the message out that we have a fantastic opportunity for young people to design a jewel and see it come to life and showcase it to the top of the jewel industry in Italy and globally thanks to our community. At the moment, we have just passed a 1000 entries, so this is already a record year.

But we want to be more ambitious and reach at least 2500 entries.

Are there designers from post-Soviet countries, Africa and Latin America among them?

We have submission from South-Africa, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, …. We are very lucky to have such a diverse group of people and It’s my goal to expand that more and more. Jewelry design is often linked with culture and values. A Brazilian designer has a very different perception of the world as an Asian designer. The way they interpret a theme like “peace” will give/generate very different results and this is the strength of our initiative. The world is an eclectic place: designers translate their own experiences into their artistic view/interpretation. It gives you insight in different cultures and brings us together. It makes us understand each other better. That’s the true power of a young jewelry designers community.

How popular is the profession of a jeweler nowadays?

We live in times where creativity is the norm. Our younger generations know how to express themselves and they love to create. So we see a lot of young people, not necessarily with a formal design education, starting their own ateliers. But jewelry design is an expensive business.

Starting as a young designer makes it almost impossible to work with diamonds for example. The cost is simply too high for them to afford. That’s why I am launching on a new initiative to support young designers globally. It would be a big mistake for our sector if young minds would stop designing or need to limit themselves in their creativity. New blood is necessary to innovate our industry, so I want to embrace this challenge and support them. See it as my responsibility to support that.

What will be the reward for the winners and finalists of the contest?

The biggest reward, besides seeing your design come to life when you win in one of the categories, is that you present your creation to the top of the industry at Vicenzaoro in Italy. On top of this I strongly believe in creating a global community where we, at HRD Antwerp, become the platform to support these young minds in building their career and promoting jewellery designs like we will be doing at VO, all over the world.

What is the significance of participation and victory in the competition in the life of young designers?

This can be life changing. This is clearly a once in a lifetime opportunity to get launched in the industry or to build your own brand. The connections you will build at this event, the feedback you will get are priceless/paramount and will set you on your way to make a career profession out of your passion.

Alex Shishlo for Rough&Polished