Harboring a strange and lifelong fascination with French military jets, Balinese-born Heaven Tanudiredja took off to study fashion design in France, but landed in neighboring Belgium. Close enough. After graduating from the Royal Academy of Antwerp with a degree in menswear, he held stints with John Galliano, Dior Couture and Dries Van Noten, with whom he often collaborates. In 2007, taking a detour from fashion, he launched a jewelry label, known for its high-end beadwork and, of course, a recurring jet motif.
More recently, South Korean men's designer Juun J asked Heaven to create the jewelry for his spring '11 collection in Paris—a mere month and half before the show. The result: giant, hyper-masculine, highly sculptural, altogether mind-blowing pieces...
Tell us about the collaboration. What's the concept?
I started with a basic color scheme of black and white. While I was looking at old images, I came across a series of tattoos. I wanted to emulate this in my jewelry, so that the wearer has a very decadent tattoo which they can put on and take off.
How did you and Juun J meet?
Juun contacted me initially and it has been a very happy pairing.
How did it go working on the collection together?
He asked me quite late in the day, less that two months before the show! I got to work straight away, making samples according to his brief and then we continued to swap ideas until we were both happy with the finished pieces.
How did you first become interested in jewelry?
It's so often overlooked in fashion, but it's incredible. The level of work and quality of materials that go into these tiny pieces is incomparable to anything else in fashion.
Where do you normally look for inspiration?
My main source of inspiration is always the body. When you are designing something worn next to the skin, it becomes a very intimate object. I am always so conscious of that.
Why have you switched from designing menswear to jewelry?
I guess it started from my fascination with craft and detail, things which are also important with menswear, but it seemed to be a natural progression for me.
What are your plans for the future?
Plans are in the works for my womenswear line. It's so exciting! I'm just about to expand my studio so everyone will be in the same building. I'd also like to be doing more jewelry collaborations. I would love to work applying my beadwork to bags, etc. Maybe some of that will transfer into my womenswear, too.
Who would you like to collaborate with next?
I'd love to work with Azzadine Alaïa. I think it would be a wonderful combination of textures. Textures are suprisingly important in jewelry design. I would also like to do some sort of collaboration with someone like Topshop, just for fun.
What are the difficulties facing designers today?
People are so used to buying items made in factories that they often won't see the merits in buying a handmade item. In terms of quality, individuality and value, a handmade item will win every time. That is why I am so passionate about it. All of my pieces are made painstakingly by hand, but when I see the end result, it is always worth it.
What keeps you going?
Coffee, cigarettes, my daylight lamp for beadwork, and seeing Heaven Tanudriuredja pieces tucked into boxes and ready for shipping.
Heaven Tanudiredja is available at Barneys New York, Liberty of London, Maria Luisa in Paris, RA in Antwerp, or by visiting his website.