Following up from our first meeting at LFW’s pop up event, Local Goes Global, where we subsequently became OBSESSED with Pilar do Rio’s eye popping jewellery, fashion co-conspirator, Bo Nguyen, invited Pilar for an interview/ chat over Zoom. She is currently based in Lisbon, where she digitally runs her creative platform pilarpi from home- pilarpi is mainly a showcase of her jewellery and garment designs, but it also provides a channel for collaboration and other art-related projects. More details on this exciting, multidisciplinary designer, doing it all on her stylish, sweet-hearted own in the conversation below.
B: Hi Pilar, it’s great to have met you at London Fashion Week! It seems like big things are happening for you right now, so would you like to take us back to how you got started with Pilar Do Rio?
P: I did my bachelor undergrad in Lisbon and my masters in Florence- both in Fashion Design. After my graduation, I worked in Lisbon for Constança Entrudo for a while and then I moved to London for my internship at Faustine Steinmetz, who then offered me a job there. But then, unfortunately, with COVID, I had to come back to Portugal and that's when I started creating a bit of jewellery, and I was posting on Instagram like really chill and just for myself. And people started showing a bit of interest and began reaching out to me. So I think that's when I started thinking, okay, maybe I can do something, you know, nice and relaxed with this.
B: It sounds like that has been a very organic process for you. Have you always been interested in jewellery making?
P: When I was a kid, like really, really young, I used to make a lot of jewellery. I was always drawing and I had a lot of beads at home. I always did a bit of jewellery while I was younger and, when I was a teenager, I even did some macramé. I loved to create stuff. So, during quarantine, because I was at home and I couldn’t leave, I thought: ‘Well, I still have so many beads at home. So why not make jewellery again?’
B: Is jewellery design something you want to pursue long-term for Pilar Do Rio?
P: I actually was always focused on clothing. But the good thing about jewellery is that you can create something with less resources and I just wanted to have fun. I think what I really like about jewellery is that you have a really immediate result, whereas compared to clothing, it is a really long process. And with jewellery, the result is pretty instant. I enjoy that because I'm quite impatient. I think I would definitely like to define my brand as a creative platform. I don’t like to define myself as a jewellery designer or a fashion designer, I’d rather think of myself as a creative. I also do photography and that's something that I really want to explore at the moment. Even though I love fashion, I think we are all more than our clothes, we have so many talents and interests and I would love to explore all of them. That’s why I enjoy doing collaborations with brands, artists, musicians and other creatives.
B: What collaborations do you have coming up? Is there anyone you would love to collaborate with in the future?
P: I have some collaborations coming soon. There's this musician she's called Mariana, she's Yazzie on Instagram, and she is actually based in London. I’m very excited for that collaboration. There are so many talented people that I don't have specific targets, I have always had this thing, where I don't like to create too many expectations and too many plans. You know, I never say I would love to collaborate with a specific person or brand because you never know how the work dynamic is going to be. So I like to be open to what comes my way. It might be someone I had never thought I would like to work with, but it turns out to be a great opportunity. So whoever wants to collaborate just come meet me, I'm always open to this.
B: Your dedication to creative collaboration is admirable. I would love to know what else you would like your brand to be and what’s important to you as a small designer.
P: I really love when brands don’t hire the average model to market their products. I love seeing people of all shapes, genders and ethnicities on my feed. I love how nowadays, a lot of big brands source their models from Instagram and other social media rather than through the traditional way through model agencies. I think people want to see more diversity and they want to see themselves reflected. At the moment I don’t have the budget to do big campaigns but I would love to work with different people from different places.
B: Each piece of your jewellery is unique and handcrafted. Where do you source your materials from?
P: I started with only old beads that I already had. Now I’ve used a lot of them already and I don't have as many. I try to go to flea markets and buy all kinds of jewellery and whatever I can find. For collaborations, I need to do bigger quantities, so I often mix new and old stuff. I would love to only do it with old beads, but it’s hard when you have to make larger quantities. For most of my jewellery I always try to balance between old materials and new materials. A lot of the beads from my new collection were donated by my friends. I’m so happy they trusted me with them so now I have a very nostalgic, colourful new collection.
B: Could you walk us through your work process when you are making jewellery?
P: A lot of the time, I just put different beads together and see which ones I like. I always have a messy table and people ask me: ‘How can you work like this?’. I just love seeing all the mess while I’m working so I can pick different ones up and make combinations I would’t have thought of, if it was tidy. I do a lot at the same time, so, when I'm creating, it can take a few days because I leave a piece and I start a new piece and then come back to it. I'm super messy but organized. So everything is messy, but I know where everything is and what I'm doing here.
B: As a small business owner and upcoming designer, have you faced any challenges you would like to share with us?
P: I think my biggest challenge is myself and my own insecurities, to be honest. I'm always doubting if I'm on the right path. There's like guilt that I carry, you know, because I always think: ‘should I have a real job? Is this not legit enough?’. And then you have the daily challenges that you have when you work for yourself and by yourself. I need to organize my time because I don't really have a stable routine. When I was working for Faustine Steinmetz in London, I could leave my work at work and relax at home. Now it's harder because I have my studio at home. Sometimes I work until until 4am and sometimes I can’t sleep because I’m worried about not doing enough and things I still have to finish. It also has its benefits because I can just work in my pajamas or I can be working for as long as I like. Today I can work like 13 or 14 hours and then tomorrow maybe I can have a break. Like with everything you have good and bad stuff. So I'm mainly grateful that I have this opportunity.
Edited by Isabela Palancean, fashion editor