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how jewellery designer Matthew Harris created Mateo

How Matthew Harris Created Mateo

Founder of Mateo, Matthew Harris explains what goes into the making of a cult jewellery brand
By: George Elliot

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How Matthew Harris Created Mateo

How Matthew Harris Created Mateo

Founder of Mateo, Matthew Harris explains what goes into the making of a cult jewellery brand

By: George Elliot

Before rising to stardom, and building up a cult following and celebrity fanbase along the way, Jamaican-born, self-taught designer Matthew Harris could be found in New York’s jewellery district, observing master jewellers, honing his craft and immersing himself in books and YouTube tutorials. Having absorbed all he could and driven by an instinctive need to handmake his very own pieces of art (he is the son of a dressmaker, after all), it was in 2009 when he first decided to go it alone, to take the world of fine jewellery in his own distinct direction. Mateo was born. Today, fluid forms, understated elegance and a minimalist mindset are all signature hallmarks of his, modernist house codes that make his gem-set rings, earrings and pearl pendants effortless and utterly ageless. Here, he shares his process, the poignancy behind his designs and his advice for aspiring, go-it-alone creatives…

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The Man Behind Mateo

How Did You First Get into Jewellery Design?

Well, I really got into jewellery making with the selfish need to make jewellery for myself. When I started in 2009, I wanted chic, elevated men’s jewellery. So I went directly to the jewellery district in New York and literally just asked questions and learnt along the way.

Describe Your Brand in an Elevator Pitch…

Mateo is a brand that makes great personal fine jewellery with an aesthetic of simplicity.

When Are You at Your Most Creative?

I am most creative very early in the morning or really late at night when I am often alone and at peace. My creative juice overflows then. I get more of my inspiration from contemporary and modern art.

What’s Your Biggest Distraction?

Cooking shows or documentaries. And maybe TikTok! Yikes.

What Advice Would You Give Someone Starting Their Own Brand?

Do loads of research, master your craft, and form relationships with people in your industry.

What Does Success Look Like to You?

This is always a hard question for me as I don’t know how to equate success. Success for me is as simple as finishing my work and being able to fly home to Jamaica and sit on the beach eating a beef patty and drinking a Red Stripe beer.

What Are Your Three Best Tips for Creativity?

1. Research

2. Discipline

3. Completion (always finish what you start)

How Do Your Designs Take Inspiration from Your Jamaican Heritage?

Yes, Jamaica is always hidden in my work. The colours of the flag are always present in my work. We mostly use warm yellow gold which represents the beautiful sunshine of Jamaica. The green is always represented in the form of malachite which represents the lush tropical vegetation. Black onyx appears often in my work. The black represents the strength and resilience of the people.

How Did Growing Up as the Son of a Dressmaker Influence the Designer You Are Today?

I grew up watching my mother create incredible garments for clients. So, it was only natural that I got into designing. My Mom is a huge inspiration to this day, and she plays a very active role in the business, often consulting or giving advice.

How Does New York Inspire Your Designs?

It all started in New York. The effervescent energy of the city is astounding. Inspiration is everywhere. From the architecture, to the streets, even on the subway. I love to just sit and people watch. I often imagine how a necklace or earring would look on a passer-by. New York as a city has just been a tremendous foundation for the brand.

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