Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the regions of Italy. Whoever visits the island, a highly coveted place for tourists, notices the overwhelming power of nature and the rough beauty of the mountains, which is often mirrored in the crystal-like water of the sea. Even the tastes of the local food are very strong, still reminiscent of a rural and pastoral heritage. Sardinia is archaic, and everything there seems to reflect a sense of coarse rather than gentle beauty. Everything, that is, but jewellery.
Historians and anthropologists have noted that the Sardinian jewels, still in use today, are directly derived from the Roman, Grecian and even Egyptian ones; similar in their shape and in their symbolic and pagan meanings. Sardinian filigree’s tradition is one of the oldest in the world and this is detectable in the sophistication that reached the practice, refined throughout many centuries. Lavish, elaborate and mysterious are the first adjectives that come to mind when looking to the filigree brooches encrusted with red and black stones, which are meant to drive away any evil eye. The question here is what happens when the thousands of years old tradition of Sardinia meets the innovations offered by one of the most renowned universities in the world, namely Central Saint Martins? The answer is Giovanni Pisu and his business Soha Sardinia.
Giovanni Pisu worked in fashion for 25 years as brand manager for Bottega Veneta and Alexander McQueen amongst others. It was while working with McQueen that Pisu disclosed the secrets of how to create a high quality and successful product, but also how to sell it. It was with McQueen that Pisu started working with the best up-and-coming designers from Central Saint Martins. When Pisu and his partner, Andre Baradat, decided to set up a brand they immediately employed the expertise of young international talents from UAL.
Soha Sardinia follows four main inspirations, all linked with the Sardinian tradition at various degrees. The Figurative collection looks to the remains of pagan tradition that has been embedded in current culture; consisting mainly of masks of bulls and ancient symbols of fertility still in use on the island during carnival. The Lace collection replicates lace embroideries with the ancient insular art of filigree, and can only be replicated entirely by hand, with the expertise of local artisans. The Wedding collection looks back to the traditional wedding rings made with a technique called granulated filigree. The Floral collection, probably the most sophisticated, is a miracle of past and present merged together. This collection is inspired by the local flowers that are reproduced with the so called “ragnetti” technique, a highly sophisticated and precious way to replicate the harmony of nature with silver and gold.
Silver and gold (yellow, white, and rose) are indeed the only materials that Soha Sardinia uses. This precise choice of precious materials seems coherent with the fact that all of the pieces are made by hand. Modernity in the design, indeed, does not mean a “mechanised” production. When working with filigree, “ragnetti” and the granulated technique mentioned above the mechanised production is not an option. “Ragnetti” and granulated filigree, both consisting of little granules of gold, are omnipresent in Sardinian jewellery. Being the symbols of wheat seeds, they are refined and disguised relics of an agricultural past. This is Sardinian heritage. Indeed, the island during the Roman Empire used to be called Rome’s granary.
Going global, as Soha Sardinia are doing, is not in contradiction to traditions, on the contrary. Tradition, to avoid becoming simply folklore, needs to be perpetuated and actualised to the present moment. Soha Sardinia gets part of its strength from the past, but in return reinforces the past by being so contemporary, and opening a fertile dialogue with artists from Central Saint Martins.