Signature Style

Introducing Skagen’s Latest Jewelry Collection, Designed in Collaboration with Helena Christensen and Camilla Stærk

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By Lisbeth Levine

Sitting side-by-side on a banquette at a restaurant in New York City, Christensen, the model and photographer, and Stærk, the designer, are discussing a new jewelry collection, inspired by swallows, that they’ve created for Skagen. They use the terms for cozy and sweet to describe their fellow Danes, but the women, friends and collaborators for 15 years, are their own best example.

In conversation, Christensen and Stærk are clearly very connected. As Christensen talks, she looks to Stærk and they break into Danish, seeming to share the same ideas spontaneously. When Stærk adds a thought, it is as if the same person is completing the sentence. With their dark hair, high cheekbones and movements that echo each other, they could be sisters. They are completely at ease. “We’ve never disagreed about anything,” adds Christensen. “Anything Camilla suggests, I immediately am on board.”

The women’s relationship and shared Danish sensibility are the reasons they were approached by Skagen last year to design a limited-edition jewelry collection. Friends since 2000, when Christensen photographed Stærk for Nylon, the magazine she co-founded in 1999, the two are known for their elegant and unexpected fashion sense. After they first met, they set off for Prague on an impromptu trip to photograph and create a look book for Stærk’s second collection. They recruited local models with distinctive Slavic features, and styled and photographed the quirky look book on the streets of the Czech capital.

Since then, they have made a short film together, “Good Tidings,” a silent black and white vignette made for a Visionaire magazine show titled “30Days 30Artists.” They also produced “A Look Inside,” a series of photographs that were exhibited during the Copenhagen Photo Festival. Currently, they are working on a fashion line.

To create the capsule jewelry collection for Skagen—called "Svale," the Danish word for swallow—Christensen and Stærk began as they always do, with a tableful of items that inspire them. Though their personal styles are distinct—Stærk, who always dresses in black, is a minimalist, while Christensen likes combining colors and patterns – they are attracted to similar types of objects. In this case, they shared mid-century glass, panels of lace, bits of string, fabric, lingerie and period film stills. The two friends assembled a collage to present to Skagen creative director Mariza Scotch.

They titled the resulting mood board, “The Swallows.” The opening image, of swallows on the beach at Skagen is grainy and black and white and evocative of an era gone by. It is juxtaposed with a drawing of an owl Christensen did after waking up from a dream one night. There is a series of black and white photos of Lee Miller, the model and photographer and war correspondent, where Stærk has superimposed sketches of a bracelet, ring and brooch, so it looks as if Miller is wearing the jewelry.  There are also images of smoky glass in organic shapes, of grey lacquered wood and stills of Christensen and Stærk from “Good Tidings,” the short film they produced.

“We are very much Danish girls, and I think Danish girls growing up are melancholy because of the long, dark winter,” says Christensen. “I think it is what instigates the creative flow.” In thinking about the jewelry, they wanted to capture the past, both personal and national, and sought to incorporate their grandmothers’ elegance, Danish creativity, the artistic heritage of Skagen and summers at the beach. 

The swallows, whose arrival in Denmark signals the arrival of summer, became a key theme. “The birds reminded us of growing up,” says Christensen, who is from Copenhagen. “They fly low when there is going to be a change in weather, so they can get the insects. When they dive, you can hear the specific screech. It's a high pitched note. “I hear it and it immediately gives me a warm feeling.”

From a design point of view, the birds as representation of flight, freedom and exploration also made sense. “We lovethe shape of them. It is very sensual and fluid. We were thinking of Scandinavian fluidity and sensuality. The jewelry was created with the idea of something timeless. We wanted it to have the feeling that it had been passed on from generations,” says Stærk.

The swallow theme immediately resonated with Scotch, who wanted to use the collaboration to show Skagen’s commitment to all things Danish as well as a celebration of personal style. “The mood board was very tender. I homed in on being inspired by swallows at the beach. I liked the free range concept—being free, traveling and having a bird’s eye view of the world.”

Stærk and Christensen came up with a number of ideas for pieces, and after meeting with Scotch, narrowed the selection to three -- a ring, a bracelet and a brooch. After deciding to make the items in brass, plated in Champagne-colored gold for its warm patina, the process unfolded quickly. Christensen, Stærk and Scotch, who all live in New York City, worked with a local team to make wax models, tweak the fit, choose hinges for the bracelet so it would clasp the arm. In six weeks the prototype was ready.

Skagen announced the collaboration with Christensen and Stærk in October. Now, seven months later, the three stunning pieces by the two designers are available at all our Skagen boutiques and here on skagen.com.