New York-based designer Wing Yau has only been in the jewelry business for five years but that hasn’t stopped her from turning her company, WWAKE, into one of the most attention-grabbing brands seen today. Her unexpected stone selection and delicate finishes have proven that bigger isn’t always better and that her signature dainty style warrants just as much praise as the flashy statement pieces we’re so familiar with.
Coming from an art background, Yau is able to implement what she’s learned in the past, especially when it comes to the construction aspect. “Working in jewelry design was completely unexpected. I studied sculpture at Rhode Island School of Design, so long before I discovered my love for design, I was familiar with basic metalsmithing and woodworking, but I thought I wanted to be a studio artist. After I finished there I dabbled with making wearable sculptures, and this quickly snowballed into making jewelry collections with a strong point of view.” For Yau, her success has really stemmed from making heirloom jewelry cool again and her ability to let the materials shine on their own without having to manipulate them too much. “The inherent value we give to jewelry is so special, and so personal. I’ve always loved collecting weird jewelry, so I’m not surprised I’m here.”
What makes WWAKE so different than other brands is that the jewelry and its intricacies are really designed for the wearer, rather than the onlooker. “WWAKE is all about experiencing the materials and experimenting with subtle, innovative shapes,” Yau explained. “The magic is in the little details that create our ethereal look, and also reveal how considered our designs are.” Yau creates this sense of balance by using a combination of non-traditional arrangements as well as modern silhouettes and geometric shapes. Whether it’s a subtle asymmetric line or a randomly set crystal, every individual feature is well-thought-out and discrete enough so that it’s only really noticeable up close.
Utilizing opals, a soft stone known for its light-refracting and color-changing capabilities, is a main focal point of WWAKE’s aesthetic and has increasingly become a distinguishable feature amongst the minimalist jewelry trend. “We pick stones that are not only ethically sourced, but also have mesmerizing color variations. For me, my focus has always been on the natural beauty of a material and how to make it feel new again.” Depending on the angle or the amount of light, each opal-studded piece will look different, surprising the wearer each time and offering a different experience with every use.
Since their start in 2012, the brand has come a long way, this is largely due to Yau’s devotion to accepting the materials for what they are. “When WWAKE started, I tried to bring newness to jewelry through experimental materials. I used hand-dyed textiles and a lot of organic shapes. Since then, I’ve embraced the inherent value of traditional materials like gold and precious stones. I’ve learned that sometimes you can say more if you embrace traditional means of communication.” WWAKE’s understated perspective has become popular amongst celebrities as well, seen on everyone from Emma Watson and Jennifer Lawrence to Rihanna. The true beauty of the jewelry, however, lies not just within the glistening diamonds and sleek curvatures, but in WWAKE’s dedication to the quality of preservation.