John Hardy's Creative Director Talks Female Empowerment

Adwoa Aboah and Julianne Moore John Hardy Campaign - Split - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of John Hardy

Themes of power and grace are embodied by Julianne Moore and Adwoa Aboah in the brand's new advertising campaign.

Hollie Bonneville Barden, formerly head designer at storied diamond jewelry house De Beers, was appointed the first female creative director of upscale artisan jewelry line John Hardy in April 2016. (Kate Hudson, Julianne Moore, Mandy Moore, Zendaya, Joan Smalls and Laverne Cox have all recently donned John Hardy jewelry, crafted by artisans in Ubud, Bali). While in Los Angeles on Thursday to visit the first West Coast John Hardy boutique, which opened at Westfield Century City in September, the 31-year-old Barden sat down in the lobby of the Sunset Tower Hotel to talk to The Hollywood Reporter exclusively about her vision for the brand.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

My aesthetic has always been about powerful contrasts, incorporating femininity into something that feels very bold and raw. As the first female creative director for John Hardy, the biggest feedback I’ve had is about my recognition of more elegant touches, while still retaining the heritage of the brand. I enjoy that juxtaposition of tradition and craftsmanship with innovation and a modern, graphic look.

At Central Saint Martins, I studied jewelry design and also trained in making jewelry, so I enjoy every part of the process from the big concept and vision to the technique and craft. John Hardy started out as a silver-based brand, predominantly focused on traditional woven chains, and has evolved into gemstones and gold. I’m really pushing the collections into more elevated materials, diamonds and gold, keeping that bold, effortless attitude of John Hardy but with some more refined detailing.

What was the inspiration behind your first collections?

Power and grace. Fall really pivoted around reimagining our Naga dragon concept. You think of a dragon as something quite aggressive, but I tried to bring an elegance to it. The overarching theme for the season embodies the Naga spirit, so this idea of raw power became my muse that comes up in the materials like black lava sapphires. I’ve added playful silhouettes such as scarf necklaces and lariats. 

Spring ‘18 is a softer evolution of fall with carved lapis and really interesting, unique stones like silver-sheen and ruby-sheen sapphires and horn and alternative materials that feel effortless and a bit bohemian. There’s a light-weight feeling with a play of light and movement that runs through everything I do, capturing these organic, sculpted shapes that are a juxtaposition of man and nature. In the Dot collection, we’re doing a theme based on moon phases with hammered, blackened silver and high-shine gold that’s a really new combination for us. I’m working on spring 2019 right now and I just finished fall 2018, which was a big emotional journey of reimagining our chain collections.


A post shared by John Hardy (@johnhardyjewelry) on

Tell us about the new “Made for Legends” ad campaign that launched last month, which features Julianne Moore and Adwoa Aboah wearing some of their favorite pieces.

The campaign is focused on two powerful and legendary women, who wear the jewelry in their own unique way. Julianne and Adwoa are both masters in their craft, and they use their platform for change. They have strong self-identity and work to help empower others [Adwoa has Gurls Talk], which is something that runs through the John Hardy spirit. 

They also appeal to two very different audiences. Adwoa is bringing new attitude to the catwalk with her look and sensibility. We have done video content with them as well, to capture their mind and personality, not just use them as a canvas. The campaign echoes everything I’m doing in terms of creative direction for the brand and is a huge step forward. It goes back to our wild roots and a more daring attitude.

The jewelry is styled in big stacks of layered chain, maximalist statement pieces. I’ve seen the archives in Bali, that date back to the ‘70s, and there was a daring spirit back then. John’s wife Cynthia, his muse, wore chain as belts and had a fun artistic way of styling the jewelry. The campaign embodies this idea of stylization and self-expression. It is slated for another two years, so there will be more legendary women to come.


#MadeForLegends starring @adwoaaboah

A post shared by John Hardy (@johnhardyjewelry) on

You also design one-of-a-kind rare gemstone pieces for John Hardy’s Cinta collection. I imagine many of them have graced the red carpet?

Yes, well, I’m bad at names. But obviously high jewelry is my original passion. I love the artistic expression that allows me to find those unique stones and design around them. There are 150 Cinta pieces in our retail stores that also travel in a trunk to show celebrities, VIP clients and collectors who love these unusual pieces they can’t find anywhere else.

I want to transition that aspect of the business to work in a jewelry house way, having Cinta come first and cascade down, rather than running side by side with the main line. I’m trying to use materials you don’t expect in high jewelry; we are showcasing amazing earrings made with petrified wood that has been under a magnificent amount of pressure over thousands of years, much like a diamond, and fossilized. It’s been used in furniture, but using it in jewelry is new and exciting. Then I offset it with diamonds or pearls. I love that juxtaposition of raw and refined.

Any more stores in the works?

I feel like Miami’s coming up next. Within a year, we’ve launched our first three stores in the U.S. [in Houston, New York City and Los Angeles], and the level of detail is phenomenal. We import beautiful artifacts from Bali and have a workshop set up in each location, so our artisans can travel from the Bali studio to do sessions. On Dec. 10  and 11, we will have a chain weaver, wax carver and someone from the design team on site to do demonstrations at Westfield Century City.