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Photo credits - Diogo Lopes (@ddddiogo)

loyle carner ertsul picture (1)_edited.jpg

9 September 2023

'Modern, Progressive, Genderless, and Sustainable': Meet ERTSUL, the experimental jewellery brand looking to make a mindful mark on the fashion industry

KICKI BOSTIC

Kicki Bostic speakers to ERTSUL founder, Charlie Bragg, about sustainability, his first collection, and Loyle Carner’s Glastonbury set.

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In the wake of Men’s Fashion Week and July being recorded as the hottest month in global history, luxury menswear and environmentalism have both been having their moment in popular news this summer. Considered to be the third most polluting industry (Earth.Org, 2022) the practices of the fashion industry require imminent reformation. In steps ERTSUL, a jewellery brand created by Charlie Bragg from his mum’s kitchen in Hampshire in 2021. Though still in its infancy, ERTSUL’s impact has been impressive: Bragg produces free flowing, organic silver pieces that have been beautifully crafted with care and precision following his belief that sustainability should not be an option or selling point, but rather an industry standard. All ERTSUL pieces are produced in house in a slow and conscious fashion, ensuring that the wonderfully unique pieces are created with minimal environmental impact. 

This year’s Glastonbury festival saw the likes of Elton John and Kendrick Lamar perform to thousands of festival goers, yet one performance garnered lots of attention - Loyle Carner’s. In his most important set to date, which received high praise from critics and fans alike, Carner sported a custom ‘LC’ signet ring by ERTSUL. From a kitchen to Glastonbury in the space of two years, ERTSUL has officially begun to carve its way into the jewellery scene. 

For those unfamiliar with the brand – what is ERTSUL and where does the name derive from? 

Hey, Kicki! ERTSUL is my baby. It is a modern progressive jewellery brand producing genderless, sustainably made pieces. My jewellery aims to challenge the conventions of the industry, whilst maintaining beautiful and mindful craftsmanship. As a brand I am trying to put more meaning and energy into the items we consume. 

The name is actually ‘lustre’ spelled backwards. ERSTUL. I like the way it sounds and looks. I also like that it kinda recalls ‘earth’s soul’, and yeah just has a unique ring to it. I like that it’s backwards, indicating a switching of view. I like how we can look at the same thing from a different angle or perspective, and it can give it a whole new meaning.

What is ERTSUL’s ethos? 

The brand currently has four core values – honesty, evolution, presence, and unity. Whilst they might not immediately relate to jewellery, they are values that I believe are incredibly important and show in both the pieces and the business. 

I think that we have lost honesty. It is almost a given that most businesses are not honest, but I strive to be honest with ERTSUL. As a society, we cannot fight evolution, but we have a responsibility to steer it. We must continue to evolve in a healthy, caring, and kind way and utilise our technology and advancements to think about the direction we are going. Master Oogway, the tortoise from Kung Fu Panda, summarises my thoughts on presence best: ‘The past is history, the future is a mystery, but the present is a gift.’ I try to instil as much of my presence into every piece of jewellery I create, and I think that’s where the power and magic to everything lies. I think that when an item is instilled with a person’s presence it gives it a magic that you can feel when you hold or wear the item. Finally, in terms of unity, I believe that we are already one, but we just need to act like it. Kindness, generosity, and altruism are signs of great strength and we would do well to recognise this more.

As the founder of a sustainable jewellery brand, would you consider sustainability as a defining characteristic of your brand or as an industry standard that all brands should aspire to? 

When I first started ERTSUL, it was largely out of frustration that it was the consumer’s responsibility to choose the sustainable option. Sustainability used to be a selling point for me, but now I try not to push it too hard. It’s not always easy but I believe it should be a given, so I do everything possible to operate sustainably, such as using lab grown gemstones to ensure the packaging is both recycled and recyclable. All of my pieces are vegan, and whilst it's common to use leather tools and polishing compounds with animal fat in the industry, it's important to me to use alternatives to ensure my pieces minimise cruelty and environmental damage. Footprints are inevitable, but I try not to make them too deeply.

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Your lack of formal training didn’t stop you from falling into the Jewellery industry – How did this happen? 

Honestly – I was making jewellery for an ex-girlfriend. She had lost a ring, so rather than buy a new one I thought I’d make one. Then I went to travel Germany, but got turned away at the airport due to Covid restrictions and thought fuck it I’ll make some more jewellery. I have always wanted to have my own business, but I never knew what in. So, I really did just fall into it. I was never really interested in jewellery, but as I’ve grown into it, I’ve come to really love and appreciate it; it means a lot to me now. I did a Chemistry degree at uni, so switching to a more creative pursuit was a big change. However, I am glad that I haven’t had any formal training, as I think it has allowed me to approach things with a fresh set of eyes. Truth be told, I don’t know how or why I fell into it. But I did and I’m still falling, flapping my arms like wings and occasionally managing to glide a little. 

What was the creative process behind DROP 1? 

Experimentation. Exploration. Play. I set aside a block of time, and played with ideas that I had, and saw what came out. I had ideas for how I wanted pieces to look, but I rarely drew them out or planned them. I think my lack of training allowed me to approach things naively and ignorantly, and this in a way was a strength. Having no ideas of the limitations allowed me to stumble into places that I didn’t know were there. However, sometimes it was hard to accept the signs that an idea wasn’t going to work. I found myself trying over and over and forcing it despite the first attempt clearly telling me to stop. Other times, you try something wild, and it works on the first try. Then you try to perfect it and try again and again to no avail. But you know that somehow, on that first attempt it worked. So, you know it’s possible. So, you keep going, and learn a lot on the way. You got everything right by accident somehow, and the more you try the process the more you realise how lucky you got. To me, that is a sign to continue.

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What is the most exciting thing that has happened since ERTSUL’s inception? 

The brand has come a long way. I used to sell simple rings on Etsy. Little things like creating a website and developing the brand in itself has therefore been exciting. Though the first time a stylist reached out to borrow some pieces felt like a real breakthrough. Brit Award Rising Star winners, FLO borrowed some pieces for their UK headline show in London, which was sick. But I think the most exciting thing for me was making a custom ring for Loyle Carner, and seeing him wear it on stage at Glastonbury. He didn’t ask for it, but I was going to see him perform in Manchester, so I decided I’d try to get a ring to him. I held it up towards the end of the set, and he asked for it, so I threw it to him from a few rows back. He wore it at another show the next day which was amazing, but I didn’t see him in it much after that. Until I watched his Glastonbury set live on TV and there it was. I love his music and think he is such a cool, good guy. So to think that he woke up on the day of his Glastonbury headline set, and put on that ring, felt really special. I like to think he could feel the love I poured into it, whilst listening to his music on repeat in the studio. It felt like another sign that I’m on the right track. 

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What or who is your biggest source of inspiration? 

I really like people who do lots. I like Action Bronson and often watch him whilst I eat my lunch. Chef, turned rapper, turned actor, exercise-crazy, food show creator – I just think he’s curious and interesting. People like him, who have their fingers in many pies, are just making a big dent in the universe and effortlessly squeezing every drop of juice from life’s lemons. 

Jewellery wise I find inspiration from loads of jewellers. When I was first starting out, The Ouze (@the_ouze) , was a jeweller I really looked up to. I loved that he incorporated uncut gems into lots of his pieces and made gems a little bit more masculine. At the moment I am loving Seb Brown (@sebbrown) and Bleue Burnham (@bleueburnham). Seb is based in Australia and is producing clean rings with a soft feel, and his pieces are just incredibly well made. Burnham is heavily inspired by nature, which is something we share, and I love seeing his interpretation of this in his pieces and campaigns. I also look to these two jewellers for inspiration in how I can grow ERTSUL, whilst keeping everything in house and avoiding large scale industry processes. I am super grateful that there are so many cool designers out there, all trying to carve their own path. The jewellery scene is really popping at the moment, and people are moving away from refined and traditional jewellery in favour of pieces crafted carefully by people doing something a bit different. Now there’s a lot of expression in it and different styles are coming through which are very abstract and original. For me, my jewellery is a way to explore and express the deeper, and harder to word aspects or parts of myself. So, I hope that it finds its way to people who can relate to it. 

What is next for ERTSUL? 

Who knows. There are so many avenues I want to explore. ERTSUL has been growing steadily since I started it two years ago, and developing the brand has taught me a lot. Right now I’m working on securing my first stockist, which will hopefully open the brand up to new people. I will be working on producing more one off pieces, which I am super excited for, as it has been a while since I created the bits for my first drop, DROP #1. I’ve also got a new jewellery project in the works, something a bit different to allow me to branch out from my current style – so keep your eye out for that. I would like to see it around more, and watch the brand continue to grow and evolve. I guess I want the brand to sow seeds of presence across the planet – little nuggets of optimistic, presence filled jewellery. At some point I am going to have to scale things. The truth is – I’m not sure. I’m still falling, occasionally gliding.

 ERTSUL DROP 1 is now available for purchase here: https://ertsul.com/SHOP-DROP-1 , and customs are available upon request - or otherwise give them a follow on instagram @ertsuljewellery

[All jewellery photographed by Kal Lawrence - @kallington_]

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