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Cape Town meets Copenhagen style in By Malene Birger x Pichulik collection

A collaboration between a homegrown jewellery label and an iconic Danish fashion house is a story about women, by women and for women

11 April 2021 - 00:00 By Bambina Olivares
There is a sculptural element to both the Kathlin belt and the Patriccia earrings.
There is a sculptural element to both the Kathlin belt and the Patriccia earrings.
Image: Supplied

Lockdowns can lead to, to borrow from Casablanca's Rick Blaine, "the start of a beautiful friendship".

So it was for a homegrown South African jewellery label, Pichulik, and an iconic Danish fashion house, By Malene Birger (BMB), when they collaborated during lockdown to create a belt and a pair of earrings in two colourways.

By Malene Birger x Pichulik was unveiled a few weeks ago in By Malene Birger stores and online, in time for International Women's Day.

"We were introduced to one another by a mutual friend of the brands, and BMB reached out to Pichulik to design an accessories collection to complement their new seasonal clothing collection," recounts Tracey Chiappini-Young, Pichulik's joint CEO.

Then ensued an eight-month process from conceptualisation to retail, beginning in May last year. The collection was finalised in December, and hit the stores in March.

At first glance, the partnership between the two brands might seem unlikely — one is quintessential Copenhagen style, spare, sober, with a touch of eccentricity, and the other is Capetonian to the core, colourful, playful, at times talismanic.

In fact, they share a lot in common; BMB CEO Ellen Dixdotter feels there is a seamless fit between the Pichulik pieces and the By Malene Birger wardrobe.

"We are quite aligned, actually. We speak to the same woman," says Dixdotter.

"We are both drawn to a raw, minimalist design aesthetic that embraces natural textures, sculptural lines and enduring colour palettes," says Chiappini-Young.

There is indeed a sculptural element to both the Kathlin belt (€195/R3,381), available in black and a neutral shade called chanterelle, and the Patriccia earrings (€80/R1,387), one in a black, grey and taupe combination, and one in chanterelle and rust orange, which reflect Pichulik's signature use of rope and metal. The forms are at once organic and sinuous, bohemian yet restrained; a perfect evocation, in short, of both labels.

"For this collaboration, Katherine-Mary Pichulik and I wanted an organic feeling — both in the materials used and design. It was important also that the pieces can fit seamlessly into our woman's wardrobe, either as an earthy element to an otherwise clean look, or to tie in a silhouette," says Dixdotter.

The BMB and Pichulik collaboration is, at its essence, a story about women, by women and for women. Creative director Pichulik founded her eponymous atelier in 2013, and set about creating jewellery that drew on "the language of African artistry and ornamentation to honour the bravery and beauty innate to all women, everywhere". Her team is a pan-African one consisting of women, save for one man.

BMB, on the other hand, was founded in 2003 by the Danish designer who was one half of the fashion label Day Birger et Mikkelsen, before she left to set up her own label. BMB describes itself as "an eclectic vision of Scandinavian minimalism, finding a niche where refined and elevated style meets free-spirited ease".

Like Pichulik, BMB is committed to ethical sourcing. And female empowerment figures strongly in both brands' ethos in a way that goes beyond paying lip service.

By Malene Birger x Pichulik Kathlin belt.
By Malene Birger x Pichulik Kathlin belt.
Image: Supplied
By Malene Birger x Pichulik Patriccia earrings.
By Malene Birger x Pichulik Patriccia earrings.
Image: Supplied

Pichulik, according to Chiappini-Young, "embraces sustainability from a human perspective. Our designs are intentionally handcrafted to build the social equity
of our crafters and preserve their skills. All pieces are assembled and showcased in our studio in the east city of Cape Town in order to promote the development of our local economy."

For Pichulik, the collaboration has been one of the highlights in what has been a challenging year. She loves "this cross-continental dialogue between creatives and labels at the moment. This collaboration speaks to this global connection."

South Africans can purchase pieces from this collaboration at the website pichulik.com from 14 April.

BMB will donate a percentage of sales to Women for Women International, a charity that helps women survivors of war rebuild their lives.