Shamballa Jewels is by far the most successful luxury export coming out of Denmark in the last decade. The bespoke jewellery brand by brothers Mads and Mikkel Kornerup gained a cult following shortly after their launch in 2005, adorning the wrists of Jay-Z, Carine Roitfeld, and Giorgio Armani, not to brag. Fusing Eastern spiritualism with a Nordic design ethos, their unique vision for mens and womens jewellery have continued to attract clients from across the world. Entering their next chapter with the launch of a flagship store in New York, we sit down with the Kornerup brothers to discuss how it all started, and how we can expect to be “Shamballized” in many years to come.
What initially led the two of you to the world of fine jewellery? How did the stars align in 2005?
Mads: We have both enjoyed wearing jewellery ourselves for ages – long time before we started Shamballa Jewels. I had been wearing and selling jewellery since the early 1990’s, and actually also had my own jewellery store at Thompson Street in New York City back then, which Mikkel would often fly out to, to help me out at the store. With the whole yoga evolution happening at the time, the inspiration for what was later to become Shamballa Jewels – this progression of how to make jewellery – came very naturally. When 9/11 happened in 2001, I was unfortunately forced to close the space down and move back to Copenhagen with my family. After some years, Mikkel and I then decided to re-start the jewellery adventure, using all the inspiration we had gathered in New York, as well as from travels in the far East, to create Shamballa Jewels.
You quickly established yourself in a fiercely competitive luxury market in the Nordic region and beyond. What was your strategy and vision?
Mikkel: Our vision back in 2005 was to create a fine jewellery brand devoted to man. Men have adorned themselves for ages if you think of ancient kings, maharajas, and tribe leaders – to show their accomplishments, victories or memories – and we wanted to bring that back. We did that at a time where fine jewellery brands primarily focused on women, and the man’s uniform was dominated by the suit and a beautiful watch on the wrist. But I think we arrived at a time where men were ready for it. Our starting point was ourselves – making jewellery that we actually wanted to wear ourselves. When we later introduced the pavé bead, the women came naturally as well, and our target group became bigger and wider as the years went by.
Can you describe the journey the last 12 years have been?
Mads: It has been a complete series of wonderful coincidences that have made Shamballa Jewels what it is today.
Why was it time to do an expansion in your retail?
Mikkel: It has been 12 years since we created Shamballa Jewels, and we felt that the brand was ready to enter this new chapter. The opening of this NYC Flagship Store is the first step in a larger retail expansion strategy aimed towards growing the business and securing Shamballa Jewels’ strong position within the fine jewellery industry – worldwide. It is an important milestone for Shamballa Jewels, and will hopefully be a great platform to show our brand universe; help us communicate our brand to our many collectors out there, and give them the opportunity to customize their own precious pieces of jewellery.
You have many devoted clients in New York. Why this city?
Mads: Obviously, the majority of inspiration for Shamballa Jewels has been found in ancient Eastern philosophies, which is fused with Nordic design traditions. But as mentioned before, a great deal has also been found here in New York City – so it made sense for us to “come back”. Also, our US retailers and collectors here have been crucial in the development of Shamballa Jewels throughout the years, so altogether, it made sense to look at New York City, when looking at the first metropolitan city to open up our very first flagship store.
Tell me about the store design, which the two of you oversaw. What was your aesthetic starting-point?
Mikkel: We wanted the New York Flagship Store to be a natural prolongation of Shamballa Jewels; the characteristic fusion of the Far East and the North, which we have aimed towards implementing in this new space. It is characterized by an overall juxtaposition of rough versus the refined materials – a palette of signature smoked oak, brass elements, and untreated brick walls – to create a luxurious and impactful first impression, nodding to the fine combination of Nordic and Asian sensibilities. I think the ambiance of the space evokes the feeling of a temple – a serene atmosphere, playing with the contrasts between the dark and delicate furnishings, and the light reflected from the jewellery shrines. Our favourite is when you look up at the ceiling and the centerpiece of the store is revealed – a floating golden mandala with a hanging lingam – two ancient Eastern elements that symbolize the universe and the energy of creation.
What kind of space do you hope the Shamballa Store will be, for you and for your clients?
Mads: We have created a space where we wish to invite new and existing collectors into experience the true Shamballa Jewels universe; a place where they can learn about the values behind the brand, and its story – to be truly Shamballized. But we also wanted it to go deeper than that, and let it be a representation of Shamballa Jewels’ vision; to create experiences beyond what is simply luxury. We wish to reinforce this vision in everything we do, including our new flagship store. We wanted to create a space that is much more than just a jewellery store – exactly like we do with our jewellery, as they also carry a personal interpretation of ones’ values and experiences in life. Unlike classical retail stores, the ambition of Shamballa Jewels’ new flagship store is to create a space that is in motion. In addition to showcasing the jewellery brand’s own designs, the new store will also open its doors to collaborations with upcoming designers or artists, and host intimate and exclusive events. By creating a space that is open and varying in its look and feel, we hope to pass on the vision of Shamballa Jewels, and to Shamballize new and existing collectors with extraordinary, yet highly personal experiences.
Where to next?
Mikkel: This is just the beginning of Shamballa Jewels’ new adventure around the world, and we are already having our eyes on other metropolitan cities.
For more information, see Shamballa Jewels