Words by Daniel Jacob Delove
All pictures courtesy of Charlotte Mielko
Charlotte Mielko is a pleased woman, who has worked in the fashion industry and associated areas of business for many years.
She was educated as a fashion designer, graduating in Copenhagen in 1986, and has worked as a stylist for Berlingske Tidende for 13 years, doing many fashion editorials and design features every month, while also writing several articles for Danish, English and
Swedish medias, doing shows as well as styling for TV, with the shows Pop stars, X-Factor and Stilfinder.
Besides styling and trend speeches, she is mainly working with her jewelry brand MIELKO and works on branding wristbands and merchandise in DK and SE with Nordic Wristbands, carving out a niche in the marketplace for her decidedly personal and easy recognizable products – some of which are also sustainable. The festivals are some of the customers. Whatever little free time she does have, she prefers spending with creative, positive, loyal and happy people, who shares her love for good quality, great music, traveling, beautiful vintage stuff and last, but not least, her passion for the environment!
Who is Charlotte Mielko?
Charlotte Mielko is first and foremost a jewelry designer and has designed jewelry for 18 years now, starting with perhaps my most famous creation, the Saturn Ring, where the original and first version in silver was introduced way back in 1998.
From then on I became more and more interested in jewelry and suddenly people wanted my rings. Soon some of the best shops wanted them and I started to sell quite a lot. I sold rings to Le Grand Bazar in Cannes and some other shops, and it worked fine along with my styling and other jobs, while I gradually learned more about the different stones, materials, gold, silver, etc.
I am originally educated as a fashion designer and in the beginning of my career I designed clothing for artists and for people, who wanted a special style of their own and something a little bit out of the ordinary, like particular thin leather clothing, etc.
I started very young and my first job was working with a silk designer, doing silk clothing in the mid-80’s and after a year I went to Paris, where I lived for 6 months, making clothing and going out a lot, while I was studying. I’ve been traveling a lot working with fashion abroad, especially in Stockholm where I used to work for a weekly Swedish fashion magazine by the name of Damernas Värld.
Before that I worked with the Royal Dramatic Theatre, Kungliga Dramaten in Stockholm for approx. half a year.
It was a valuable work experience, but focusing very narrowly on one thing only and doing handmade clothing every day, year in and year out, wasn’t really me, even though working with different choreographers and famous scripts was great fun.
But sitting and doing the stitches by hand, eventually became too boring. When I moved back, I continued studying for three years and started my own company shortly after that. It was fun and easy work and I traveled a lot, doing editorial and music videos mainly in US,
but also in London, Paris, Cannes, Sweden, Israel and many other places. Actually I have been working with my boyfriend Michael Quvang with music productions, videos, covers etc. for 25 years. He ran a big indie label up to about 6 years ago and today we do some smaller productions together.
Where do you get your inspiration from, when you are in the process of designing a
I get my inspiration from a variety of things, but my collections are almost always inspired by the universe. I can find inspiration in the moon, the stars or especially the sun, which is the prerequisite for all life on earth. So it’s very much right now about bling and shine, a reflection of the force of the sun, and you can see that, in the deliberate way I use a lot of gold in my jewelry.
But I also get my inspiration from many other things, especially earlier fashion periods like the 80’s, trends and styles you haven’t seen for some years. I love original patterns, new expressions or just combining things in a new and interesting way, f.ex. emphasizing use of surfaces and metals for a new and different expression.
What is the best style tip you ever gotten and do you have a style tip for me?
Your fashion options are limitless, so in actuality, everyone can have their own style and trend.
Fashion also tends to be circular, so when you now see things like wide shoulders, boot cut, flared jeans, etc. – all these things were also there 15 years ago and fashion frequently goes back in time. So those who say, that if you keep your old clothing long enough, they will eventually be in style again, has a point.
But first and foremost be true to yourself, remember to be comfortable in what you’re wearing and wear outstanding accessories that you like. It can be new, old or a mix, but you need to have a good time, whatever you wear, because it’s instantly apparent if you are at ease with yourself and your choice of style, whether you “shine” or not!
And always go after how you feel, notice what kind of mood you are in, and compose your outfit accordingly.
Remember to be true to yourself and don’t wear anything you don’t feel great and relaxed in. And irrespectively of gender, it’s always nice to add some cool accessories to your outfit.
You worked as a stylist for many years, so what led you to begin working with jewelry?
I always had a crush on beautiful rings, so it was natural for me to start with that, then follow up with earrings and bracelets and my next thing is going to be a necklace. I’ve done so much clothing before, in quite a few different and very special jobs, so I really wanted to start doing my own rings, after all these years of focusing narrowly on clothing.
I had previously, and several times, been in contact with different goldsmiths, because I used to write about them and their work. So I started to talk to those I knew best, about my ideas and during that time I started to create my first design and drew the sketches for what would eventually be my first jewelry product. The concept of a three-in-one ring appealed to me, but it had to be different, it had to be my own personal style. So I started to refine and narrow down the design ideas I had, while constantly keeping in mind that, it had to have lasting quality and not merely be a short lived flavor of the month design, as you so often see.
I wanted it to be something timeless, that you could always use and even if I, for some reason, decided not to wear it anymore, I wanted to be able to give it to my daughter, feeling confident, that it would look equally good on her and serve her as well as it had served me.
Another thing is that my father worked with stones and would always find stones when we went to a beach, to another country or anywhere really. And maybe it’s one of the reasons That I continue with this, because he had the same feelings about metals and stone and also shared my mum’s passion for good quality. So here I am and it’s a little bit my destiny.
I love your Saturn rings, are there any new pieces you are working on?
I am working on a gold chain with diamonds. I really love to mix classical metals with diamonds and other stones, especially rubies, which are highly popular at the moment, but generally red stones. You are seeing a lot of red in the fashion industry at the moment, very often combined with black materials, so it’s a challenge to work within the same color schemes, but still design something new and fresh. As I said, I am going to add a chain to my existing line of jewelry, but I am not sure when I’m finished. It’s not something, that I am going to be all stressed out about and generally I don’t work very fast with my jewelry.
Perhaps it will be ready in January for the fashion fair, but only if I know the design is mature, finished and all I want it to. If you do something you really love, then there is no point in rushing the creative process and launch something, that’s only 95% finished, so I take my time and make sure I am happy with even the tiniest details before a new product is shown to the public. Besides the chain we just talked about, I am also working on a necklace and as you know, I just introduced a narrow shiny gold ring, which has been very well received.
What are the plans for your brand MIELKO?
My plans are to continue working on developing my brand, allowing the company to organically grow, while maintaining total artistic control. I want to expand my company, but not into a huge conglomerate or empire, where I have to make compromises in terms of quality. Above all I want to maintain my artistic integrity, so perhaps a few stores in the right places, but let’s see how things play out. I’m a very patient person and it’s far more important to me, that I do things thoughtfully, right and true to myself, instead of merely doing them fast and big. You will see that these principles are at the core of everything I do and I would never want to sacrifice my love for my work or compromise the quality of my products for the sake of money, fame or the creation of a huge business empire. I also want to keep producing my designs in Denmark, in spite of the much higher cost involved, because only by working with skilled craftsmen locally, can I control everything to my satisfaction and maintain the strict standard of quality, that I demand. You will never see me launch cheap gold plated jewelry. I only wish to produce exclusive designs, using the absolute best materials, solid gold, silver, etc. Remember, organic products takes time to develop and produce.
How do you decide, what you want to create next?
My work is my passion, so it really depends on what I feel for and what I am exited about at the particular moment, but of course the feedback from my customers and what they need and what they would like me to design, is also very important to me, when I have to decide what to focus on, design and introduce to the world next. It’s important to me, that every item is a small masterpiece.
Right now sustainability is a big topic in the fashion industry and everywhere else. Is this a matter of concern for you too and how does that affect your choices and products?
Yes, I think it is extremely important to me and that is yet another reason for my philosophy about producing my products locally. So I can control not only the quality, but also make sure, that the people working for me do so in a safe environment, only using environmentally friendly materials and production methods. That would of course be next to impossible to control, if I chose to have my products manufactured far away from Denmark. I find the craftsmen and goldsmiths, I work with, second to none and producing everything locally to the highest possible standard has the added advantage, that we can fix any problem a customer might have with a product in a matter of days and have repairs done by the very same people, who created the product in the first place. That of course would be impossible, if I had chosen to produce my stuff f. ex. in India. So to sum it up, working locally means a short supply chain, access to the very best craftsmen and assuring the best working conditions and environmentally friendly production standards possible. I suppose I am a control freak, but control is not a negative term, when you use it to make sure workers are not exploited and that the environment is not damaged by the production and choice of materials. So the end result is not only a beautiful high quality product, but also a product manufactured with respect for the environment, sustainability and the wonderfully skilled people, who makes my dream come true!
If I wanted to start my own jewelry line, what kind of advice would you give me?
You really have to decide what your target price range is. Do you want to sell cheap stuff or exclusive jewelry?
If you’re a goldsmith you can do everything by yourself, but I’m not a goldsmith, I’m a fashion designer. I can draw my jewelry designs because of my many years of experience in the fashion design industry, but I can’t actually produce the stuff by myself, so you have to establish your role. Decide how much you can do by yourself and then surround yourself with handpicked talented people, who can help you bring your ideas from the earliest sketches to the final product ready to be sold to the customer. You also really need to take a brutally honest look at yourself and determine your strengths and weaknesses, what are you really good at and what should you always leave to others. There are so many details to think about, when you want to start your own brand, f.ex. a great easy recognizable brand name. I think my company name; ‘Mielko’ is a good choice and a lot of people have commented, that is was a very creative choice too. But really, it´s simply my East-European family name, because my grandfather came from Belarus, so I suppose I was a bit lucky in terms of company name and did not have to think too hard or long about that one!
Do you think that jewelry is just a piece of accessory?
No, jewelry can be much more than that. A ring can be a symbol of eternal love between two people and jewelry can have religious significance whether it is a cross, a Star Of David or a medallion with the Virgin Mary.
I suppose that would be true for fashion in a broader sense as well, which also can be used as a political message or a symbol of religious affiliation. Dolce & Gabbana has many designs where they use images based on medieval catholic church painting and United Colors Of Benetton are famous – or perhaps infamous – for the often controversial messages, that their products communicates.
Is there a little bit of Rock’n’Roll in MIELKO?
There is a tremendous amount of that and my life has been deeply impacted by rock’n’roll since I was 16!
Remember, I was a young outgoing designer and I spent a lot of time hanging out with people from the music industry, so all that wonderful music and the whole atmosphere influenced me a great deal. And in 6 weeks I am going to the Music Festivals once again and I can barely wait! There’s a lot of rock’n’roll in my jewelry too, they are chunky, self-aware, stylish and some of my earrings, especially Cassini, has 54 white diamonds, 10 black diamonds and the base is shiny gold. Black diamonds in my Saturn rings are quite rock’n’roll as well. For men it’s the same – some really nice diamonds and it rocks. A lot of very interesting and talented people in the music- and fashion business wear. or have been wearing, my jewelry. So I like to think that’s precisely because they have rock’n’roll written all over them – with bold invisible letters!