When Corine Anestopoulos was in her early 20s and studying Image Arts at Ryerson University in Toronto, she started making jewellery for her friends and became a woman obsessed. It quickly became a regular hobby and when she graduated in 2005 started BIKO (for her childhood nickname), a line of innovative and conceptual jewellery. Her success comes from being able to blend different materials to create delicate, beautiful pieces like the Athena necklace, with oxidized brass and pyrite stone, or more eccentric items like pendant necklaces that feature compasses and hour glasses (or boy-friendly vintage bullet pendants). Through trial and error, Anestopoulos says she developed some sort of modern-meets-nostalgic aesthetic that runs through every new collection; there’s always a nod to the past mixed en masse with a modern sensibility. Always a self-taught superstar, the young designer continues to learn different processes that help inform her work and grow her craftsmanship. But her work and name didn’t take off until just over a year ago, when the motivated Anestopoulos undertook a complete re-branding of her business, ordering up a new logo, and overhauling website and e-commerce efforts. “I needed help,” she says, “ and the company was able to begin growing larger, which, in turn, has made it accessible to more people.”
What inspires you?
A mix of street style and high-end style inspires me, and my friends and family inspire me in my daily life when I’m not working. I’m also in love with old photographs, modern-industrial furniture design and lighting, and quirky collectables. I have a series of original photographs from the Barnum & Bailey Circus in the ’50s that I bought on eBay that’s part of a huge inspiration wall in my studio.
Why did you decided to launch the brand?
I was having so much fun making jewellery for my friends and myself. At the beginning, I couldn’t believe complete strangers were willing to buy my pieces, but I quickly realized that I had a product that they liked and wanted to support. I dove in because I had nothing to lose and I figured that taking a risk was something I could afford to do while being a student.
How has business shifted since you started?
It’s changed from being a one woman DIY operation to a full-fledged brand with an international conscience. The first few years consisted of much experimentation with processes, materials, events, and brand positioning. Once I understood where Biko stood in the grand scheme of jewellery design and fashion, the next couple years were spent rethinking the brand’s message and matured aesthetic.
What have you become more aware of as I businesswoman?
When I became a jewellery designer I figured everything would be straightforward: I make a necklace, somebody buys it, I can now afford to buy more supplies. Not the case! Once I decided to take the business side seriously, I was thrown into the world of accounting and taxes and had to push myself to learn quickly. Keeping up with seasons, linesheets, supplies, production, and still attempting to be creative at the same time can also be stressful.
Who do you design for?
The collection has got quite a range of pieces, so any woman can find the right Biko piece to accentuate her personal style. I would say the typical Biko woman is fashionable, but not a slave to fashion. She’s confident and put-together, with a bit of a wild side.
Where do you want to take the brand in the future?
With my new website and online store, I’m excited to be soon expanding to the US market with other representation over there now. The goal is to plow through these existing growing pains and eventually establish Biko as a world-wide indie jewellery brand.
Any dream collaborations?
I would like to first collaborate with a Canadian designer and then eventually a designer elsewhere. To star, I’d love to work with local designers Rita Liefhebber, Ken Chow of Krane, and Christina Remenyi of Fortnight Lingerie.
Your fashion dinner date, past or present, would be…
My fashion dinner date past or present would be a young Coco Chanel. Although she lived her life in a way I wouldn’t have, I’m very inspired by her message of women’s liberation through fashion. She put her heart and soul into a business that others believed would fail.
Advice to aspiring designers:
Do a lot of research in your particular area of interest before starting own brand. It is important to look at the current market and understand your competitors and their potential customers. My personal regret in my own business is not having interned before starting my company. I feel that if I had, tips and tricks would have been learned that would have propelled me along much further in a shorter time.