Rachel Hawkes Cameron (A Designer to Watch)

Rachel Hawkes Cameron is a Canadian Architect turned Jewelry Designer.  She made her mark at New York's Fashion Week with a simple acrylic feather adorned by fashion insiders. Her line Bonfire features lasercut acrylic icons inspired by the wild: a tee pee, a feather, a wolf and a campfire. We chat about what it takes to make it in the fashion biz. Rachel is a definite trendsetter with impeccable taste. Check her out! 
How did you get into jewelry design?            

It came about very organically. I already had an interest and passion for design, having studied and worked in Architecture. I started making my own jewelry and people started commenting and complimenting it, so that was kind of an easy sign that it was something I could pursue!

You began your career as an Architect. How is that different from jewelry design? Do you pull inspiration from your work as an Architect?

Architecture looks at design on a much larger scale; the beauty is in small details that one may only notice if they take the time – function comes first. Jewelry has some origin in function – it was used as currency, weaponry, to show status or class – but really, is mostly aesthetic. Although recently I’ve started to learn to work with metals, which really makes me appreciate the technicality behind it.

When I started getting into jewelry, I had just finished working for an Architect who designed closely with First Nations communities in Canada. He studied and deeply respected their history of craft, and his buildings reflected their unique history of design. I think I’m inspired by the Canadian history of craft; there’s so much to learn from!

As an Architect and a Designer what makes good design.

I had a professor in Architecture school who said that the best designs could be easy traced back to that first initial sketch or gestural drawing. If you have a great idea, and make all your design decisions true to that, I think that’s good design.

I love the idea of an acrylic feather. Feathers are really in this season in such a strong way. You seem to be great at combining the natural with the artificial. You took the idea of a feather and made it modern and ethereal by creating the image in acrylic. Was this on purpose? How did you come up with this idea?

I needed to produce a large number of lasercuts to fill a venue; we wanted to hang these acrylic pieces from the ceiling during a friend’s show. My friend and I had come up with this forest theme, so I think that’s where the idea of a feather came from. The CNC machine we had at school during the time was just the best way to quickly produce a bunch of little beautiful things that would fill a space. Originally, the concept of the feathers wasn’t as jewelry, although a lot of people took them home and wore them.

You are a native Canadian. How has Canada influenced your work as a designer?

I’m definitely inspired by Canada’s natural beauty, and how quickly you can jump on your bike and get to an incredible forest with a hidden lake – more so when I was living on the east coast. Having studied architecture and design in Canada, I came to appreciate all of our natural resources.

You had a short stay here in New York where you launched your line Bonfire and had fashion industry insiders like Lynn Yaeger, Robert Verdi, and J. Alexander wearing your pieces. How did this come about?

Well, YOU, my beautiful friend, were kind enough to be modeling one of my pieces when Robert noticed it. He asked to meet with me and was super supportive and encouraging of my design. I learned a lot from that experience, and felt so lucky to be in a city where everyone was so positive and helpful. Any ideas I had about New York being competitive and cut throat were sort of thrown out the window. Because Robert liked my work and has such a huge influence in the fashion world, I was suddenly afforded some pretty amazing experiences. I mean, hello, Miss J? He’s the coolest!

Ok, Rachel since you are living in Canada now what are some of the fashion trends that are happening in Toronto now?

First of all, almost every girl I know has a Canadian Army jacket. Tons of jewelry - especially friendship bracelets, talisman and big rings. Long, soft flowy skirts with short, cropped t-shirts, dark lipstick and nails and long hair. Kind of an ethereal look but you kind of have to have that goth element in there somewhere, too. My little brother’s friends are definitely channeling the 90s.

How is Toronto different from New York style wise?

I think people in Toronto take more chances, and don’t necessarily fit into one particular category. It’s less distinctive and more pragmatic, maybe because it doesn’t have that pressure of being a fashion capital. Vintage is really big here, whereas it’s way hard to find and super expensive in New York. We JUST got Top Shop in Canada, and there’s no Uniqlo. Those were my staples in New York. Here, I’ll just go to Value Village instead.

What are some great Canadian Style Blogs or Magazines we should take note of?

I love http://jakandjil.com/blog/ and http://dressedfordinner.wordpress.com/. Dudes in Toronto are very stylish, and have that well-tailored woodsman thing pretty down. Bad Day Magazine (www.baddaymagazine.com) is always on point, and keeps up with some of Toronto’s amazing young designers like Rita Liefhebber, Jeremy Laing and Mark Fast.

You are such a creative person Rachel. What's next for you?

I’m in school right now, working towards my diploma in Jewelry. I’m working with silver and gold and just trying to expand my knowledge as much as possible. I just went traveling – surfing in Central America, met my boyfriend’s family in Mauritius and finally got to explore Paris. Travelling is the most inspiring for me. I’m coming to see you in New York soon.

I know you have great taste. Who are some of the designers that you are watching these days?

I love what Jeremy Laing is doing. Chloe Comme Paris has some awesome jewelry based on weaponry – I just saw an interview with them, they’re super young!

I always get great music advice from you. You fill my ipod with great music. What are you listening to?

Austra! It’s my friend Katie’s band, and she’s amazing. She’s going to be a legend. I think you met her when she came to New York! I love the new Bon Iver, obviously. I’m also listening to The Weeknd and Jennifer Castle, both whom are from Toronto! And you should add Diamond Rings, Handsome Furs and Grimes to your iPod, since I can’t be there to do it.

Where can we find a Rachel Hawkes Cameron piece?           

In Toronto, they are at The Narwhal, The Design Exchange Shop, and Robber. In BC, you can find BONFIRE at Rebel Rebel Boutique. Also on my etsy, which you can get to through my website, www.rachelhawkescameron.com. Hopefully in New York soon, too!!

Anything you want to add?

I miss you!