Former Chanel accessories designer, Tif, heads up her own jewellery brand, URiBE, with her husband Sion. They live with their dog Bowie, in their Stoke Newington roof-top flat in north-west London.
What was it like to work at Chanel?
I was working in the studio at Chanel in Paris. I worked as a designer with the director of accessories at the time, along with Chanel’s studio director, and of course, Karl himself. It was a crazy job full of amazing moments and a true test of craft, patience, knowledge and working under pressure. As a studio team, we worked on eight collections a year, with ready to wear, couture and special pre-collections. Within the tiny accessories team, we were also working on Maison Michel (hats and hair accessories) two collections a year. It was so much fun and so crazy.
What influences the URiBE designs?
Our heritage mainly. I grew up in Florida, but I was born in Chile and Sion is from Wales. My Mom is from Chile and my Dad is American, she met him in Chile, when he was studying. My whole family is still in Chile, we go back twice a year. We try to combine this, with 10-15 years of being designers – but we do look to other experiences too, places we go, things that we love: modern art, architecture, design from the 80s and 90s, and post modern stuff: Gropius and Bauhaus.
Lapis lazuli is a semi precious stone that we use a lot in our collection. It is originally from Chile, Afghanistan and China. Although you can’t really mine it in Chile anymore, you can still find chunks though. For over 1,000 years lapis lazuli has been used to enhance creativity and to induce calmness – it is great for mediating. Also in Egyptian times, the Cleopatra’s of the day would crush it up and use it as make-up. It was used in the funeral mask of Tutankhamun, and in the painting: Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Where does the name URiBE come from?
It was my mother’s maiden name, and a part of my name as well. In Chile, you are given your father’s and mother’s surnames as tradition. When I married Sion, I took his name, Phillips. So it was getting out of hand to have all these names. Dropping URiBE felt natural, and to use it in a sentimental way was appropriate. From Sion’s point of view, the symmetry was perfect for branding. For both of us, it was familiar, timeless and an obvious choice.
Do both you and Sion design the collection?
Sion works in the advertising and branding sector as an art director. He handles all of the URiBE brand imagery. Together we research and develop each collection. He and I start a mood board, brainstorm ideas, and then go forward with him developing the look and feel of the campaign and imagery, while I design the pieces and manage production and development.
What inspires the names for your collection pieces?
The first collection we named after the founding members and entourage of the Velvet Underground – Edie, Patti, and of course, Lou and John. The second collection is named after all the characters from On the Road by Jack Kerouac. We also have a collection named after cosmonauts and astronauts – we tried to keep to an astronaut from each country. The current collection is named after migrating birds – willow, robin etc. And Architects is the next one.
What does your bedroom mean to you?
Sleep, rest, and get dressed.
Tell me about something special in your bedroom?
A lot of the stuff is special. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is my favourite film, and I have the book, I love tin toys, having fresh flowers around, my eye mask at the weekends – otherwise I can’t sleep in – when I worked at Chanel I developed lots of these on purpose.
The frame with the wine label is a bottle of wine from Chile, from the year I was born and drank at our wedding. My Dad is really into wine – he’s always been keen to keep significant bottles. The corks in the frame are all from significant bottles of Champagne, the first one on the left is when Sion and I moved in together, the one in the middle is from our engagement, and the third from our wedding.
The paper ring in the frame is my first engagement ring Sion made for me out of an old receipt from a pub or restaurant we had been to. He always said that if we got married, that I should design my own ring. This type of ring was something I had originally seen in Greys Antiques, it is called a stirrup ring and dates back to the 12th and 13th century. The stone is an uncut sapphire set in a bezel setting – medieval time style. We didn’t want to mess with the gold too much, because it is so old – you can’t really get gold like this anymore. They have this type of ring in a lot of museum displays.
The portrait of me is by Welsh artist, Seren Morgan Jones – Sion and I found her through Instagram – about one year ago. We wanted to save and buy one of her works, we like the surreal and photo real, cool mix of styles. But I secretly got in touch with her and asked her to make a commission of me for Sion for our wedding anniversary. Apparently the man is supposed to give the woman a portrait of him, traditionally, but whatever, we don’t follow too many traditions. Seren did it all from photos, but we met at several stages whilst she was painting the portrait, we enjoyed each others company and have since become friends.
My Sister gave me this his photography book for my birthday: Where the Heaven Flowers Grow. Photographer Aaron Huey documented Leonard Night at a place called Salvation Mountain. In 1980 Leonard went to the desert in California to paint a little shrine to God and he ended up staying there for 28 years. He painted an entire community, but really it was just him that lived there. A monument to God. He wasn’t a fine artist, but just seeing how much devotion can come from someone is inspiring. His use of colours. All of it came to him intuitively. I think you don’t always have to know what you are doing, or be on the perfect track, you can study one thing, that can lead to another. Listening to your intuition is the best way to go in research, design and in life.
Are you spiritual?
I don’t really believe in organised spirituality or when it becomes a business. I believe in the lapis, good luck charms, if that makes you spiritual, then maybe. I feel like everybody can have their own sense of spirituality. Right now I believe in Bowie, I am devoted to her – through an adoption process, she came to use. I think spirituality should be independent and should come from within. If you believe in the trees and the sun, then that’s amazing, and if you believe in god, then that’s OK too.
What makes you happy?
Sion, our dog Bowie, the sun, sand in my toes, swimming in the sea, cheese, traveling, seeing family and friends.
What makes you sad?
A lot of social situations and cultures in the world with injustice and cruelty of all sorts. Abandoned children and animals. Hunger, poverty, unnecessary suffering when we could all help a little. The list goes on but I also try to focus on the positive and try not to bring myself down.
If your bedroom was on fire what would you save?
Photographs, journals, my wedding dress, favourite shoes, Bowie.
Do you have a reoccurring dream?
There is one I haven’t had in a while, but when I was younger I shared a recurring nightmare with my Mom. I don’t know if it was because we are so close and I was so frightened by hearing about her dream that I had the same one, or if it is because we truly had the same dream. But it involved a needle, knife, stick or any sharp object going directly into our eyes. It’s horrible.
How do you sleep naked or bedclothes?
Depends on the night.
Life is about connections and it is thanks to Kate Pollard that Tif and I met. I photographed Kate in her bedroom and she was wearing a URiBE Andy ring – I photographed her hands and posted the bedroom on the URiBE Facebook page. Tif then kindly contacted me to say thank you, after a little chat over email, I find myself in the bedroom of the lady behind the ring.