Sabi is the Australian jewellery label inspired by nostalgia and the beauty of tradition
“With a strong nod to nostalgia and the patina of age, Sabi is timeless in design and functionality.”
While it’s easy enough to make a new material object appear beautiful, graceful ageing is an art form. With clothing and accessories being manufactured faster than ever, it’s difficult to find pieces that will stand the test of time. For Melbourne model and creative Mon Barton, it was her mum’s vintage jewellery – worn well with a beautiful ‘patina of age’ – that served as the inspiration for her own accessory label, Sabi.
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“It gives so much testament to the way timeless, quality designs can age so beautifully and stay so relevant,” Mon says of her mum’s cherished pieces. Working between Bali and Melbourne, Mon crafted – in collaboration with some creative friends – a debut collection of thoughtful, nostalgic sterling silver pieces, designed to be worn anywhere on the body. Below, she reflects on the Sabi journey so far.
Tell us about you. What’s your creative background?
My name’s Mon. Although I dropped out of high school and never studied, I’ve developed a solid background in marketing, content creation, shoot production and styling. At the moment I’m a part-time model and content creator, and I work on my brand full time.
How did the label get started? Talk us through the process and the challenges.
I’ve never tried my hand at design, so having an idea (like jewellery pieces) and bringing it into creation felt overwhelming for me. I honestly had no idea where to start and that made me feel a little incompetent. The biggest push was the girlfriends around me who founded their own businesses and run them entirely on their own.
They helped me realise I can do anything – I just need to take the first step and remember the journey might be hard. There will be a lot to learn, but [the journey] is better than doing nothing with your ideas. The process began with gathering my favourite secondhand pieces I already owned, along with some of the jewellery my mum used to wear in the ’90s.
Once I found a jeweller in Bali, we started having IRL meetings; sitting in his little shop, drinking tea and sketching little designs on the back of paper invoices. It’s all been very lo-fi and honestly, that’s what I’ve loved about it the most. His super small production team is actually [also] his family… it’s been nice to visit them, take them the designs and watch them make samples.
From there, I confirmed the designs [that would] make up the first collection and spent days driving around, sampling materials for the straps, ties, etc. The biggest challenge was just doing it all alone. I was living in Bali and had no idea what I was doing or where I was going. It was a lot of Googling, conversations (in broken English) and driving around on my scooter to find certain shops!
What was the inspiration behind this first collection?
Nostalgia and the influence of the women around me. I designed the pieces in honour of my mother’s style and the pieces that have come before me. I named each piece after the influential women in my life right now. [It] feels really important to give air and credit to that, because it’s a huge reason why Sabi even became a brand.
How would you describe Sabi to someone who’s never seen it before?
Ooo, I like this question! I’d say that Sabi is a jewellery brand selling handmade, bold and versatile pieces you can wear anywhere on the body. With a strong nod to nostalgia and the patina of age, Sabi is timeless in design and functionality.
Sabi came from the other half of the ancient Japanese philosophy ‘wabi-sabi’, where sabi means “whose beauty stems from the patina of age”. Because the inspiration for our designs has come from pieces my mother used to wear and vintage finds, it gives so much testament to the way timeless, quality designs can age so beautifully and stay so relevant.
What are you most proud of in your work on your label?
Honestly, [I’m proudest] of the amount of drive and determination I’ve had since the idea first popped into my mind. I’ve surprised myself a lot with this. In the past, I’ve had so many business ideas and all these dreams, I’ve just never done anything with them.
I’m so so proud of how I’ve taken the steps, not given up when it’s hard and shared something so personal and important to me with the world. It’s one thing to work for brands and contribute to their success and another thing to create your own brand all on your own, being the driving force behind its success.
Who do you think is most exciting in the local creative industry right now?
I’m loving the Posmo store at the moment (big shoutout to my gorgy friends Laura and Liam). I love how inclusive, honest and educational their brand and platform are. To me, Posmo isn’t just a sex toy store. It’s a place where you can learn so much about yourself and your intimate preferences, with absolutely zero shame!
What about the local creative industry needs to change?
I want to say honesty towards each other. There are so many people in the industry who gatekeep skills, advice and contacts out of fear their ideas and product/business model will be copied. I totally get that. For me, I think it’s about being honest with one another.
If you love someone’s design, brand or business model, instead of just copying or doing something super similar and not saying anything, shoot them a message, suss if they want to collab on skills or just work together to find a common ground. Otherwise, people just get pissed off and that’s when competition brews.
Go-to dinner party playlist?
Love, love, love all the playlists my friend Tim Koren makes for us. He’s one of the best DJs in Melbourne (in my opinion) and he’s always sending our group the freshest playlists. They’re full of fun, dancey, house music; super vibey but also with hints of sing-along/floor fillers to get the crowd going!
Who is in your wardrobe right now?
Karlaidlaw, Krystal Deans, Sabi the label, LOTS of vintage from Goodbyes, Swop and Karameleon, and of course some Givenchy, Prada and Burberry (because we love a bit of bouj).
How can we buy one of your pieces?
Via our fresh new website (I built it myself, it’s a labour of love and please tell me if you find any spelling errors!). We also have Afterpay, because we know what it likes to live in this world right now!