Staerk & Christensen Create Swallows for Skagen


Last week, creative duo Staerk & Christensen, comprised of fashion designer Camilla Staerk and supermodel and photographer Helena Christensen, launched their highly anticipated jewelry collaboration with the Danish design house Skagen.  The collection, a three-piece edit of sculpturally abstract jewels, consists of a cuff, a ring, and a pendant suspended on thin black twine, which also doubles as a brooch.

We met the ladies for tea in Manahattan’s West Village and discussed their Danish roots, matters of the heart, social media, and their enduring friendship, which is more like sisterhood. 

TEDDY TINSON: So tell me, are either of you wearing any of the pieces from the collection?  Camilla, I see your signature woven handbag…

CAMILLA STAERK: [laughs] We can’t get a hold of any pieces ourselves. Luckily, we’ve just come from a shoot, so we have some pieces.

CHRISTENSEN: I guess we could go to the stand and buy them ourselves…

STAERK: It’s going to come to that!

CHRISTENSEN: We could put them on for you.

TINSON: Yes, please.

[In the above photo, Camilla wears a Staerk & Christensen x Skagen brooch on her black strapless top; Helena wears a S&C x Skagen cuff and ring.]

TINSON: The two of you have been friends for many years, yes?

CHRISTENSEN: We’ve known each other for many years, but it started with work and collaborations. It organically evolved into more collaborations, and eventually a friendship. Usually it’s the other way around. You’ll know a girlfriend for many years and then you’ll say, “Maybe we should do something together.” But with us, it was an instant “We should do something together.” And then it was, “Oh, hey, why aren’t we also hanging out together besides working…having white wine?” We met 15 years ago, but it’s nice to develop friendships later in life. Most of the friends I have I met in my teens. I went to school with the three girlfriends that I still have, and then whomever you meet later in life…not a lot of them stick. It’s not that you’re more demanding, but it’s that you know yourself more, you know who you want to hang with, and you have to feel something special to give time to somebody because everyone’s so busy. 

STAERK: You become very selective.

TINSON: What was the very first project you collaborated on?

STAERK: It was the summer of 2000. I was living in London and [Helena] was living everywhere. We were both in Denmark, and I had just graduated and started my brand.

TINSON: A ready-to-wear label for men and women, yes?

STAERK: Yes, women’s and then we added men’s as well. That was literally my graduate collection. Helena had just co-founded Nylon and was going to do a portrait of me at a beach house. And that was it. We had this connection. Four or five months later, we went to Prague together with a suitcase of my first designs and did a look book.

CHRISTENSEN: We cast the girls ourselves, we did the hair and makeup—those were the days when you just went and did it. We got some models from Prague and shot them everywhere. So nice.

STAERK: We did this magical first look book of mine. And there have been tons of projects over the years. Films, photography…

TINSON: And now the jewelry. How did these three pieces come about?

CHRISTENSEN: They’re [all in the shape of] a swallow. It’s a symbol for the two of us. It symbolizes freedom, memories from our childhoods. It represents freedom of flying, and being free-spirited…and the shape of it, it’s an organic shape that we love.

STAERK: We’ve both always lived abroad, so the swallow connects us to Denmark.

CHRISTENSEN: You know how a scent brings back memories? The swallow is that for us: being in the north, the forest, a young teenager coming home early morning and the swallow flying low on the back streets of Copenhagen with the sun almost rising.  When the thunder comes, they fly low, warning of changes in weather. It’s so symbolic, so powerful.

STAERK: All of our designs incorporate the swallow in different ways.

CHRISTENSEN: It’s the female form, the way it moves in a circular motion. There’s also the way it wraps around the body, this infinite quality…

TINSON: Infinity…as in the evolution of man?  

CHRISTENSEN: Yes, more, more, keep going…

TINSON: What’s the material?

STAERK: This is gold plated brass. We wanted to maintain a certain weight. The gold finish is called champagne gold.

CHRISTENSEN: The specific gold color has a touch of our grandmothers—how antique it looks and feels. We both wear our grandmother’s pieces a lot. We wanted our designs to have that personal and historical feeling. So a bit of our grandmothers are in these pieces as well.

STAERK: It’s all a part of doing something that we really love and want to wear ourselves.

TINSON: Camilla, is this the ideal way to wear this brooch?

STAERK: There are lots of ways. It also comes a pendant with a skinny black string.

CHRISTENSEN: I would wear this as an earring.

STAERK: I’d wear this in my headscarf, which I’m not wearing today.

CHRISTENSEN: There’s something so nice about brooches—[they are] not a typical piece of jewelry a young woman would wear. It maybe seems a little old fashion, but on a modern woman, it gives the look a sophisticated touch.

STAERK: It can go on the lapel of a jacket…

CHRISTENSEN: On a belt, on a t-shirt…a scarf. I want to use jewelry more. You collect it your entire life, look at it, and it’s so beautiful. But when you wear it, which we do rarely, you can feel overdressed or over-decorated. We had that in mind when designing. Keep it simple.

TINSON: Is that streamlined approach something you’ll continue?

STAERK: Of us collaborating together? Yes.

CHRISTENSEN: Forever! They should make a Tinder for creative people who need some creative collaborations. The Skagen collaboration, which just launched, is great and they’ve been great partners. We’re constantly working on things, so who knows what’s next…but we, Camilla and I, will keep working together.

I want to create a newer version of Instagram for adults and serious creative professionals with no “likes,” no “comments.” I want to remove the popularity factor and concentrate on the work. And there would be no food pictures!

TINSON: If you each had one piece to add to the collection, what would it be?

CHRISTENSEN: We were in total agreement with Skagen of which three designs were the strongest, but…

STAERK: I want a clip-on earring.

CHRISTENSEN: Because your ears aren’t pierced!

 TINSON: What’s the process? Is it sketches? Is it mood boards?

STAERK: We come together—we’ve each already prepared inspirations individually—and over a single afternoon, I sketch, Helena takes photos, [and we] compose things together. Fortunately, there is a clear process. We have our roles, and whatever comes out of the pencil is the first session and then we refine it.