In Conversation: Sarah & Sebastian And Their Latest Brisbane Venture
Elevating BrisbaneBy Astrid Taemets | 26th April 2023
Equipped with four hands and a drive to develop a new form of fine jewellery, Sarah Munro and Robert Sebastian Grynkofki launched their eponymous fine jewellery label, SARAH & SEBASTIAN in 2011.
Since then, the brand has grown and evolved, elevating their techniques and luxury offerings to new heights, increasing their unique services all while delving deep into their philanthropic passion for the ocean.
And, with the arrival of their biggest store opening yet on Edward Street in Brisbane City, we took five to chat all things jewellery, inspiration, and design with Sarah and Robert….
Take us back to the start. When did you start the brand, and how did your backgrounds feed into it?
Sarah Munro: After graduating with an honour degree in Design, I worked full-time before co-founding SARAH & SEBASTIAN with Robert in 2011. We were both passionate about creating something together, so we started designing jewellery in our spare time. In the early days, it was just the two of us designing and creating, and we worked long hours – often up to 80 hours a week. It took a couple of years before we felt confident enough to dedicate ourselves to the brand full-time. It was a leap of faith that we have never looked back on.
Robert Grynkofki: My background is industrial design. I studied jewellery design and goldsmithing in Germany before moving to Australia. When Sarah and I met, we realised we shared a passion for design and craftsmanship, and decided to start our own brand. With our combined experience, SARAH & SEBASTIAN has since become renowned for unique, handcrafted designs. Over time we’ve been able to introduce lots of new technologies, giving us unlimited freedom to create and achieve what we want, and really explore different concepts.
Explain your roles within the business, and how your partnership works:
SM: Robert and I have different areas of expertise. As Creative Director, I focus on the design and conceptual development of new collections, and the brand’s overall visual aesthetic direction. Robert and I collaborate closely throughout the design process – from the initial sketches to the final product, combining our respective skills in design to create unique and high-quality pieces. Our partnership is built on shared commitment, trust, and complementary skills.
RG: I oversee the manufacturing process, new technology, and technical aspects of our design. I also enjoy working closely with our skilled team of jewellers to bring SARAH & SEBASTIAN designs to life through high standards of craftsmanship and quality.
In your own words, how would you describe the brand?
SM: SARAH & SEBASTIAN is an influential jewellery studio that values concept-led design and quality craftsmanship. We’re committed to providing responsibly handcrafted pieces that embody a modern lifestyle and cultivate a deeper appreciation for the environment, especially our oceans.
RG: We put a lot of effort and careful consideration into everything we do. From our approach to each collection, including concept, design, and materials, to our impact on the planet, and the full customer experience. We value innovation and quality, and are dedicated to upholding these values in everything we do. We’re not afraid to push the boundaries of possibility and test the limits of our ideas as well as what we can create and achieve.
How has your approach to design and style evolved?
SM: In the beginning, we made everything with our own hands, which meant we were limited in our creations. We didn’t use computer-aided design at the time, which is a big part of our design process today, so it was about experimenting, finding objects, and casting them, or handcrafting completely from wire and sheet metal – a totally different approach to jewellery making.
What materials do you work with?
RG: We work with precious metals, both 10ct and 18ct gold and platinum, as well as responsibly sourced gemstones. As a member of the Responsible Jewellery Council, we’re committed to responsible jewellery production, and only work with a handful of ethical suppliers who share our like-minded values.
What are your biggest inspirations?
SM: As a recreational diver, the ocean is a constant source of inspiration. I go diving regularly in Australia, and whenever I get a chance to travel internationally, it’s almost always centred around diving. I often translate these experiences into a creative visual language, feeling inspired to create jewellery that celebrates organic shapes and textures, such as the delicate curves of seashells or intricate patterns of coral.
What is your most popular piece and why?
SM: At SARAH & SEBASTIAN, we know that our jewellery holds a special significance for each of our clients, in the form of a gift or self-gifting, our jewellery often becomes a reflection of their personal connection to the ocean, an occasion, or a loved one. We take pride in creating pieces that transcend trends and are imbued with meaning and sentimentality.
What are your biggest career highlights?
RG: It’s difficult to choose the biggest career highlight from the past 11 years, but I would definitely say that our 10-year anniversary was a major milestone for us. It’s a testament to the hard work and dedication of our team and our commitment to creating beautiful jewellery that stands the test of time. In 2021, we were also thrilled to introduce Platinum to our piercing service, becoming the first in the world to do so. This was a major innovation for us and it has helped elevate our piercing service to a new level of luxury and sophistication.
SM: One of our biggest career highlights has been the launch of The Xanthe Project. Our mission has always been rooted in ocean conservation, and this project is our pledge to donate over one million dollars towards this cause within the next decade. We are proud to support four independent Australian not-for-profit organisations that align with our values and focus on education, activism, political change, and commercial impact. We believe that this project is a significant step towards creating a sustainable and responsible future, and we are excited to continue our efforts in making a positive impact on our planet.
Ok, let’s talk about the new Brisbane store. What was the deciding factor in choosing the Edward Street location?
RG: The decision to open our first flagship store on Edward Street in Brisbane’s Central Business District was driven by several factors. In a prime location alongside talented local artisans and renowned international retailers, the location was chosen because it aligned with our commitment to showcasing speciality pieces in a setting that exudes luxury and sophistication.
Additionally, the size of the space was a crucial factor. The Edward Street store is our largest to date, with five times the footprint of our first store in Sydney’s Paddington, which opened in 2017. This allowed us to fully showcase our entire suite of services: SOLDERED™, piercing, fine jewellery, and wedding and engagement consultations.
Finally, the historical significance of the building also played a role in our decision-making process. The 1886 heritage-listed building provided the perfect canvas for a contemporary restoration, allowing us to mix heritage features against contemporary design details; a blend of timeless and innovative elements.
The design of the store is so modern, pared-back, and beautiful. Talk us through the design process…
RG: Thank you, we are thrilled with the end result! The process behind the design of our Brisbane store was a collaborative effort with critically acclaimed architect George Livissianis. Our combined vision was to create a space that reflected SARAH & SEBASTIAN’s unique identity while seamlessly blending the historic and modern elements.
As part of the design process, we considered the overall layout and flow of the space, carefully selecting materials and finishes to create a unique and immersive retail experience. One of the highlights of the store’s design is the ribbon wall, which separates the retail and services areas within the store. Weaving in and out of the chrome-wrapped heritage pillars, the design is reminiscent of ocean waves and is another example of our distinctive design DNA.
Throughout the design process, we also placed a strong emphasis on natural light, with a colour palette that embraces a lighter mood. We wanted to create a space that felt welcoming and open, while also reflecting our brand’s commitment to luxury and sophistication.
Overall, we wanted to focus on creating a visually impressive space that celebrates exceptional craftsmanship and reflects our identity. We are thrilled with the end result and are excited to share it with our clients.
Not only is this your biggest store to date, but it’s the debut store for your Ear Alchemy™ Styling service. Tell us about this new offering…
SM: Our Ear Alchemy™ Styling service is a new offering we’re very excited about. Centred around a sculptural and custom-build earring display, our expert piercers guide and assist our clients in finding the perfect combination of earrings suited to their individual anatomy. A truly personalised experience, this service is perfect for styling how-to and embracing ‘ear alchemy’. With the debut of this service at our Brisbane flagship, our mission is to be a pioneer of luxury jewellery-centris services in Australia, and we are proud to offer these services to our Brisbane audience.
Your SOLDERED™ service has been incredibly popular. What do you love about the idea of permanent jewellery pieces?
SM: SOLDERED™ is a hit with our clients! Its uniqueness lies in the experience, as they get to connect directly with the traditional jewellery-making process of a jeweller’s soldering torch. We see this in action every day with our clients, and I love being able to share this experience with them. It’s a great way for them to create something meaningful and permanent without the commitment of a tattoo! I’ve really enjoyed designing exclusive chains and SLIDERS™ for our clients, giving them the opportunity to wear a permanent design exclusively available at SARAH & SEBASTIAN.
How do you help your clients find their perfect permanent piece?
SM: We take a personalised approach when assisting clients to decide on their permanent SOLDERED™. We like to start by getting to know the client and understanding their individual style and preferences. We also ask about any sentimental connections they may have to certain designs like our Petite Letter Sliders or gemstones found in our Birthstone offering. We believe that jewellery should be meaningful and personal, and we’re always inspired by the unique combinations our clients come up with.
What are your everyday-wear pieces?
SM: I’m constantly surrounded by beautiful pieces, but when it comes to my everyday, there are a few favourites I always reach for. I’m all about layering my wrists with diamonds and bracelets, mixing and matching different styles to create a unique look.
First and foremost, I love wearing my tennis bracelet. It’s a classic piece that goes with everything and adds a touch of elegance to any outfit. I also wear the Petite Tennis Bracelet which was launched as part of the Suspense collection. It’s delicate and perfect for layering.
Another piece I wear frequently is the Coralline Diamond Chain Bracelet. It’s intricate and feminine, and I love the sparkle it adds to my wrist. The Heart Bracelet is another favourite – it’s a sentimental piece that holds a lot of meaning for me.
All of my jewellery has sentimental value, but my engagement ring is especially meaningful. My husband actually learned about diamonds, handpicked each stone, and designed the ring himself as a complete surprise to me. It’s absolutely perfect.
RG: I usually don’t leave home without my atelier-made signet ring. It’s a piece I designed myself, and it holds a lot of personal meaning to me. I also love to wear our Shark Earring. It’s a playful yet elegant piece that adds a touch of personality to any outfit. As a designer, I also love to experiment with different combinations and layering, so I often mix and match pieces depending on my mood and the occasion.
What does the future hold for SARAH & SEBASTIAN?
RG: The brand has always been a creative outlet and lifestyle for us. The future holds endless opportunities to innovate and push the boundaries of design and creativity. We’re always looking at expanding our products and services beyond traditional jewellery making and reaching new markets to further establish ourselves as leaders in the jewellery industry.
SM: We’re incredibly proud of the success that SARAH & SEBASTIAN has achieved and we look forward to continuing to create beautiful and meaningful jewellery for our clients for many years to come.
SARAH & SEBASTIAN is now open at 41 Edward Street, Brisbane City.