Pomellato's Vincenzo Castaldo on finding creative inspiration and his jewellery journey

“We like the attitude Milanese women have, one of radical chic,” says Vincenzo Castaldo, creative director of Italian jewellery house Pomellato.

He is discussing the ways that the brand is shaped by the stylish women of Milan. During a visit to Dubai to launch the Pom Pom Dot collection, the latest offering from the house founded in 1967, Castaldo is explaining the brand’s position within its home city’s singular style.

“Jewellery is traditionally very conservative, but Pomellato doesn’t work like that,” he says. “Our jewels are for women who like to express themselves and create their own combinations of rings or maybe wear the necklace a different way.”

Pom Pom Dot is the latest example. Inspired by a 1974 necklace from the Pomellato archives, it features golden buttons on a long chain. “It was a sautoir in gold with many buttons. Buttons can be decorative, and we wanted to transform it into something more poetic, more meaningful,” he explains.

Castaldo and his team have reworked the archival piece in materials such as malachite, mother-of-pearl and white rhodium-plated rose gold. The result is a single-button pendant hanging on a delicate chain that can be worn as a necklace, a bracelet or earrings. It has two sides for versatility, and a metallic “thread” looping through the holes in gold or dusted with diamonds. The design is charming, fresh, simple and highly wearable.

pomellato's vincenzo castaldo on finding creative inspiration and his jewellery journey

The button functions as a symbol of connection in Pomellato's Pom Pom Dot collection. Photo: Pomellato

“When you find a button, you never throw it away,” Castaldo explains. “We wanted something that you want to touch, to remind you of something useful and as a symbol of connection. We wanted to create something with a touch of colour and a touch of diamonds, but with a sentimental approach. It is a very cool mix.”

Innovative, modern jewellery is in the DNA of the Milanese jeweller, as it speaks to women who crave the unconventional and those with a sense of style. It is in fact, Milan’s quest for originality that, in part, attracted Castaldo to the city.

Born in Tuscany, he was still a teenager when he realised that, while beautiful, the place he grew up in was too quiet for his grand plans. “It didn’t fit with my ambition, so I moved to Milan,” he says.

He arrived just as the industrial city’s fledgling fashion scene was taking off. “It was very exciting. I remember going to the disco, and there was Franco Moschino, Gianni Versace and Jean Paul Gaultier. Fashion was growing.”

He landed a job assisting fashion designer Romeo Gigli, just as the global chatter around him exploded. “Everybody was crazy about him. He has been a strong influence. He is very clever, and his vision was very clear. I learnt a lot.”

In the days before marketing, forecasting and strategy came to dominate the fashion industry, creating a collection was a much more intuitive, hands-on process, Castaldo explains.

“We had 1,000 different colours to make the palette of the season, and I would have maybe 15 different blues in front of me. Romeo would say: ‘Give me the one that I will love,’” he laughs. He credits this experience for teaching him the importance of strong working relationships. “You had to be really connected.”

After five years, he joined Dolce & Gabbana. “It was the total opposite, but it was very meaningful because I saw them grow from a niche brand into something international, ” he says.

The time spent at both houses was formative, he says. “Being around these kinds of people obligates you to put yourself into every moment, without staying in your comfort zone. But it was a very fun time – it was magic, for my life and for fashion.”

His next role at Pomellato came about by coincidence. “Sergio Silvestris [then creative director of Pomellato] was a good friend of Romeo. He was looking for a right hand and told me: ‘Pomellato is not conservative jewellery, so I am looking for someone who has an open mind.’”

pomellato's vincenzo castaldo on finding creative inspiration and his jewellery journey

The Pom Pom Dot collection is inspired by a 1974 necklace from the Pomellato archives, featuring golden buttons on a long chain. Photo: Pomellato

While Castaldo’s fashion background landed him the role, he knew next to nothing about designing or making jewellery. “For the first two years, I was totally silent,” Castaldo laughs.

“I needed to understand and explore, and Sergio was a very good teacher. I never thought I would become a jewellery designer – but sometimes things come along, and you have to be open.”

He was appointed creative director in 2014, the same year the company was bought by Kering. Today, Castaldo has a strong portfolio of collections to explore and share. The Nudo collection is known for its coloured gemstones cut with 57 irregular facets, while Iconica riffs around chunky chains with masculine overtones.

I never thought I would become a jewellery designer – but sometimes things come along, and you have to be open

Vincenzo Castaldo

Sabbia, meanwhile, smothers flowing shapes in pavé brown diamonds, while Catene focuses on Milanese goldsmith craftsmanship. What unites these very differing styles, Castaldo explains, is a tactile, sensuous quality. “Pomellato is never rigid, never geometric, but sensual. And that comes from the hands of our artisans, because they have worked here for generations in our in-house atelier.”

Such proximity to this level of expertise in the atelier is crucial. “For a jewellery designer to have this relationship is fundamental. You cannot understand every detail in a sketch. You have to hold, you have to touch. We meet every day to find the perfect setting, combination of colours, or the perfect size. When you work with something that is very simple, every detail makes the difference.”

In 2020, the company launched its first high jewellery collection, and subsequently, in October 2023, unveiled Ode to Milan, a collection of 33 high jewellery pieces created to honour its home. Pomellato’s fifth collection, which will be revealed this year, is a blend of innovative design and faultless execution, daring enough to appeal to women who crave the unconventional.

pomellato's vincenzo castaldo on finding creative inspiration and his jewellery journey

Pom Pom Dot collection is crafted in materials including malachite, mother-of-pearl and white rhodium-plated rose gold. Photo: Pomellato

The transition to high jewellery – the highest form and quality of jewellery collections – has been technically taxing but creatively rewarding. “I had a battle with myself to understand if I was able to elevate Pomellato from fine jewellery – that was a test for myself. But I have a very strong partner, and it’s a very inspiring brand. To have this kind of heritage means I can play with all these parts of Pomellato.”

Creativity is a dirty process. You have to explore, test, try, and sometimes, beautiful things come from a mistake

Vincenzo Castaldo

Rather than be intimidated by the stature of high jewellery, Castaldo and his team are enjoying pushing the boundaries. “What I learnt from being in fashion is that the creative process never follows the same path; it is always different. Creativity is a dirty process. You have to explore, test, try, and sometimes, beautiful things come from a mistake.

“But if you don’t make mistakes, you will never discover this. After 10 years [as creative director] at Pomellato, I feel comfortable. People ask if I would like to create my own jewellery label and I always say no. Pomellato is such a part of my journey that if I stop, I will probably stop with jewellery.”

He reiterates that to gain insight into the Pomellato style, one has to understand its link to Milan. “It’s a beautiful story, very Milanese. We were founded in Milan and we are very rooted in the city with the Milanese goldsmith tradition. Even our founder, Pino Rabolini, was a goldsmith.”

“We like the low profile of Milan. People talk about quiet luxury and its attitude, and Pomellato has this. In fashion, it is all about the silhouette without paying too much attention to the details, but in jewellery, there is an obsession with every detail, because we play with things that are very precious. We have to be focused in a very sophisticated way, finding the precise solution to every single problem.”

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