I’ve been making jewellery for 25 years. I started in my bedroom when I was 18, then a friend and I built a tiny ramshackle shed out the back of my flat for me to work in. I was selling at weekend markets and not making much money at all. It was very humble beginnings!
My first big milestone was meeting the designer of Ricochet clothing in 1999 and her taking me on as their freelance jewellery designer and producer. We worked together for 10 years, it was very successful and I learned a lot about the fashion industry, and about quality and style. I also learned about numbers, costs, retail prices, events, deadlines - so much. It was all extremely valuable; like doing a business degree in marketing and design, but just in the real world.
Then Ricochet was sold at the end of 2009 which put me at a crossroads, and that was the moment I decided to start my own brand - calling it Nick Von K. The name is in memory of my grandfather Peter Von Klarwill. He was a Baron in Austria, but also a Jew so he fled to NZ when the Nazis’ invaded. For me he encapsulated a fabled air of old European aristocratic art and culture that has always inspired me.
I spent the first eight months of 2010 designing and producing my inaugural collection, investing all the capital I had and travelling to Bali to find production partners. I started making jewellery in sterling silver for the first time rather than in costume materials as I did for Ricochet, and I ended up producing a whopping 80 designs in all. It was a huge offering and you could see I’d poured my heart and soul into it.
I launched the collection at NZ Fashion Week in September that year and I was picked up by the headlining international designer Nicole Miller to supply her American stores, she is hugely famous in New York and all over USA and I couldn’t believe my luck.
This PR coup hit the headlines and launched the brand all over NZ. It was a great start and all my hard work and investment was paying off. People were like 'where did this guy come from?' Little did they know I’d been quietly working behind the scenes for a long time.
I did a couple more events with NZ Fashion Week in the following years, including two runway shows which were a highlight. In 2011, I moved into the current studio premises in the La Gonda Arcade on K Road in Auckland, with a retail showroom as a part of the studio space. We have been here ever since!
We have a team of in-house jewellers and other collaborators and some custom pieces we create from start to finish here in New Zealand. However we produce most of the seasonal collections in one boutique production house in Bali where they cast their own metal and also fabricate and finish. When I first travelled to Bali more than 15 years ago, I developed connections with this production house and also with a handful of local artisans who I still work with to this day. These relationships are the lifeblood of the Nick Von K brand, evolving over time from creative partnerships into lasting friendships.
In recent years I’ve been exploring the world of gold jewellery and precious stones. Working with Sapphires and Diamonds and creating custom wedding and engagement rings that will last a lifetime is incredibly special. People come to me when they’re looking for something a little bit different to the norm, and I thoroughly enjoy creating one of a kind unique pieces that tell a personal story.
It’s been an amazing journey so far, but I’m always most interested in where we are going next! The future is filled with possibilities.
From left : Sin Mae (Customer Services), Cindy (Jeweller), Nick, Anja (Workshop Manager) and Jess (Jeweller).