At the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards Gala on April 7, Jenny Bird walked the red carpet in a muted canary-yellow gown, accompanied by her mom, whom she affectionately refers to as the original birdgirl. That night the designer took home some new hardware: the prestigious Accessory Designer of the Year Award.
We’re not surprised. Jenny Bird’s beautifully proportioned hoops, slender bangles and chokers are bold yet simple. They master the art of the slender line and weave in streetwear-influenced details like pebbled leather and fringed chains.
This kind of aesthetic balancing act leads to pieces full of personality, capable of versatility and promising longevity. You can wear them in heavy rotation, yet they easily hold their own when worn solo.
We caught up with Jenny Bird to talk about her artsy hometown, memories of childhood crafting and her growing flock of birdgirls.
Jenny Bird on set of her spring 2017 shoot
You grew up in Elora, Ontario, a small town known for its art scene. You also had seamstresses in your family. How did those influences inform your perspective as a designer?
At a young age, it taught me the value of being resourceful, as well as the satisfaction of craft, and of making something yourself. The town of Elora, itself, is so beautiful; I’m sure that it trained my eye to see beauty. The fact that art was valued and nurtured meant that I spent a lot of time in extracurricular art classes, and saw that it was possible for adult painters, photographers, sculptors and jewelers to make a living in their trade.
Do you remember the first thing you made?
Bookmarks. I painted pictures on them, cut them out, and then would pop up to a table in our living room and declare to my family that “the store was open.” I think they went for 50 cents.
When you find yourself with a free morning, what do you do to creatively recharge?
First, I put my phone away. Then yoga, a bath, and a solo walk on the nature trail by our house. The yoga has to involve meditation time. Water, trees, yoga and solitude = my recharge.
Jenny’s desk in her studio
You got your start as a handbag designer. How did you pivot to making jewelry?
I was casting vintage jewelry for my handbag hardware; I was very into collecting and wearing vintage jewelry. It had found me before I had realized! Once I started designing jewelry, it flowed out of me like a natural language. I am a born creator; I knew I was meant to create something but at the beginning hadn’t realized it was jewelry.
There wasn’t a moment that made it clear, exactly; it was after the first year of designing jewelry that I knew. After I got into a flow with a few collections, I was hooked, and so were my customers! I realized that I had a natural gift for the category, and a keen sense of knowing what my birdgirls would want to wear in their tomorrows.
Metals in Jenny’s studio
We have to ask you about birdgirls. It’s a community where women can share pictures on Instagram of how they layer and wear your jewelry. What’s it like to see your jewelry worn by people who love it? Do their styling tips ever inspire new designs?
My birdgirls are the best. The ones that I know are as young as 16 and as old as 86! It is not an age, but an attitude—a fearlessness toward fashion and an appreciation of beauty that they share. They inspire me in how they wear my creations. To me, the most fascinating women are feminine and kind, yet strong and powerful; my designs aim to strike that same balance.
See how her beautiful birdgirls style the collection:
SHOP: Jenny Bird jewelry