Bold and beautiful ethnic jewellery is making the transition to street style.
MANY years ago, during a visit to a night market in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I came across some women from a hill tribe selling ethnic jewellery and souvenirs.
There are many things about that trip which I have long forgotten but what I still recall are the elaborate jewellery worn by the women.
They were huge, chunky pieces made of silver and the women wore them with pride. It made them stand out in the crowded market in a way nothing else would.
Tribal jewellery is not for the shrinking violets out there. They are designed to draw attention. Many pieces have special meaning to the communities, which make and wear them.
They appeal to the trendsetting consumer as well given their uniqueness. Despite the bold designs, they can be cleverly matched with everyday ensembles.
For Tiffany Teoh, what began as a fondness for tribal jewellery seven years ago finally turned into a career choice when she chose to leave the corporate world to launch her jewellery brand, Hill to Street.
Ignited by her passion for tribal jewellery during her travels, Teoh started her brand in the belief that such jewellery could easily blend in with street style.
Hill to Street, which was launched in 2018, offers handmade silver jewellery for women (and men too) who prefer unique pieces to reflect their personal style.
“I have always been intrigued by tribal jewellery and love silver. I used to travel a lot across Southeast Asia and each time, I would buy tribal jewellery. Surprisingly, I could style them with anything I wore,” says Teoh, who used to work in the F&B and hospitality industry.
She adds that tribal jewellery has so much more character than modern pieces. More importantly, each one has a story behind it.
For example, one of the designs she offers through her brand is an amulet used by the Hmong tribe in Thailand, which is worn to ward off evil spirits.
CHARMING AND TRENDY
Initially, Teoh sourced for these unique pieces and offered them through her brand but she has since expanded her range to include jewellery which she designs herself and is crafted in a small factory in Indonesia.
Currently, Hill to Street has collections which fall into four categories — Tribal Silver, Classic Weave & Braid, Minimalist and Nature — with pieces ranging from rings, earrings and necklaces to bracelets and anklets.
Tribal Silver offers high quality, handmade pieces from the hill tribes in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, with skillfully applied traditional techniques, styles and patterns.
Classic Weave & Braid merges traditional craftsmanship with contemporary styles.
A key feature of this line is the technique of weaving and braiding silver threads.
Minimalist offers quiet, simple, clean and chic designs for everyday wear.
“The Minimalist range is easier to style and appealing to those who don’t always want to wear chunky pieces,” says Teoh.
The jewellery in the Nature collection, on the other hand, pairs perfectly with casual or boho-chic ensembles and appeals to trendsetters.
Many of the brand’s designs have been beautifully crafted to show the shape of leaves and flowers while others stand out in striking geometrical forms.
Teoh explains that with tribal jewellery, most of the pieces are usually made of pure silver because they include a lot of weaving and intricate details, which are only achievable if one uses pure silver which is easier to mould and shape.
“Silver is more suited for everyday wear and it’s ever-lasting.Silver, to me, is very fashionable. Gold can be a little flashy and you have to dress up a bit to carry off gold. Silver is best for street style or anything you are wearing.”
She adds that many people with sensitive skin can’t even wear sterling silver and that’s why Hill to Street also offers pieces made of pure silver.
Pure silver has a very high silver content, up to 98 per cent while sterling silver has 92.5 per cent content of silver, with the remaining being other alloys, usually copper.
Teoh stresses that this does not mean sterling silver is not good.
It’s just a different kind of silver and in jewellery making, one uses different types of silver for different designs, she adds.
Hill to Street is based in Kuala Lumpur but ships to all parts of Malaysia and worldwide. Prices start from RM50.
For more information, visit hilltostreet.com or instagram: @hilltostreet