Working between Barcelona and Bangkok, Jose Luis Fettolini has worked for nearly two decades in jewelry and fashion as a designer and creative director. He is the founder of Workshop R2, an educational platform for jewelry designers and entrepreneurs aimed at cultivating creativity and offering training in brand building, commercial strategies, and ethical and sustainable practices. Fettolini turned his focus to sustainability in the industry after finding a lack of reliable data and readily-accessible information on the subject. He has since collected his extensive research and case studies into his new book “Sustainable Jewellery: Principles and Processes for Creating an Ethical Brand,” featuring the Article22 story. Below he shares with us his personal journey from designer to sustainability and ethical jewelry advocate.
JOSE LUIS FETTOLINI: ON SUSTAINABLE JEWELRY
Where do you live now? Where were you born?
I was born in Barcelona, a beautiful Mediterranean city full of history, creativity and design. Because of my job as a jewelry designer, I started to travel to Thailand in 2006 to better understand design and manufacturing in the factories where my clients were doing their production. Since then, I have spent many years in Thailand, but I can say that it was in 2016 that I started living between Barcelona and Bangkok.
What is your background?
I was studying and making jewelry in Barcelona, and after a few years of running my own brand, I decide to join two friends in a new project: a creative studio where we offer jewelry design services to the industry. For more than ten years we were working for the most important Spanish jewelry and fashion brands like Adolfo Dominguez and Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, indeed a great professional experience where I could learn from the big ones. After that period, I decided to share my acquired knowledge. Therefore, I founded Workshop R2, a learning platform for jewelry designers and entrepreneurs, where they can cultivate their creativity and design skills, and learn about brand building, commercial strategies, ethical and sustainable solutions, etc., We try to be a resource for jewelers and designers with our online courses and in-person workshops offered in Barcelona and Bangkok.
"My aim in writing the Sustainable Jewellery book is to bring the necessary information and knowledge to everybody: jewelers, designers and consumers."
What led you to write a book about sustainable jewelry?
I have to admit that after so many years of working in the jewelry field, I didn’t realize the social abuse and the negative impact on the environment that we cause.
Just by talking to a few professionals like Lia Terni, I understood that we have to change many things within our profession to bring solutions and reduce negative impact, but where to start? It was not easy to find clear information, that’s why I started to investigate for a long period, searching for more information, contacting experts and jewelers around the world to get precise data on what exactly sustainable jewelry was. After collecting all the information, including problems and solutions, I took the decision to add sustainability and ethics practices to our learning platform, because I understood how important and arduous it was to get correct information in just one place. From this point came the idea: why not compile all that data into a book? That was when I contacted the publisher Promopress and tried to sell the idea. After one year the answer was yes, “we will print it out." During the book process, I got the privilege to go even deeper into the issue, interviewing different brands and designers who gave me a bigger perspective.
What is your goal with the book?
My aim in writing the Sustainable Jewellery book is to bring the necessary information and knowledge to everybody: jewelers, designers and consumers.
Normally jewelry is a very opaque industry if we compare with another like textile fashion. The customer normally doesn’t know how the product is made, the real value of the materials or where the materials come from. This lack of knowledge about sustainability extends to the jewelers and designers. Of course everybody knows what “sustainability” means, but not exactly what steps to follow.
"The customer normally doesn’t know how the product is made, the real value of the materials or where the materials come from. This lack of knowledge about sustainability extends to the jewelers and designers. Of course everybody knows what 'sustainability' means but not exactly what steps to follow."
What is the greatest challenge consumers face in leading a more sustainable lifestyle - particularly when it comes to purchase jewelry and other fashion?
I think the greatest challenge for the consumers is to be properly informed about what sustainability means in terms of jewelry. Unfortunately, small brands and designers have begun to use the term “sustainable jewelry” in their communications and media, because they think that they are doing the right thing regarding ethics and responsibility, when in reality they are not. To work with “love” and with suppliers from your city doesn’t mean anything, first because they don’t have a clear supply chain for raw materials, and second, they don’t bring any solution to any community with their activities.
I guess this mistake happens because many of them are over-enthusiastic and lack knowledge. Others just use the term because it sounds cool. It’s a pity, right?
What is the most meaningful piece of jewelry or other thing that you have? And why?
I’m not a jewelry collector, but of course I keep samples of my own work as a designer from the last two decades, and a few pieces from peers in the same field.
Maybe I can say that my weaknesses are watches. I have an Omega SpeedMaster Mark III and Omega Seamaster 1040, both from 1974. My father was a watchmaker for Omega in Lausanne, Switzerland for twenty years. I guess I got his passion and admiration for the brand, and also for his job.
"It was not easy to find clear information, that’s why I started to investigate for a long period, searching for more information, contacting experts and jewelers around the world to get precise data on what exactly sustainable jewelry was."
In addition to the sustainability and positive impact of our jewelry, many people identify with how the collection represents the idea of transforming negative into positive. Is there a pivotal moment in your life/ career that resonates with this notion of transformation?
I don’t think it was an essential moment of transformation; I mostly believe in the idea of evolution and lifelong learning. In time, you get more conscious about your own environment, realize that good and bad matters, learn that transforming any negative issue into a positive must be a daily task, and work on innovative projects that can bring new solutions. Article22 is a great example of this kind of project. I guess that your pivotal moment began before the brand; it was a seed in you until you found the way to bring a positive solution.
Do you believe your accomplishments have been a matter of luck or hard work?
Of course luck can help you reach any goal in life, but without hard work it will just be an illusion. I always try to work hard, with passion, with professionalism, with enthusiasm, and always collaboratively with the team and clients around me.
*Edited for length and clarity
"In time, you get more conscious about your own environment, realize that good and bad matters, learn that transforming any negative issue into a positive must be a daily task, and work on innovative projects that can bring new solutions."
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