Barely audible under the thumping bass of German house music and the clinking of champagne glasses is the faint buzz of a tattoo needle. It’s not a sound typically heard at a jewellery launch, but “typical” is not a word that describes German jewellery brand Thomas Sabo or its quick-witted creative director, Susanne Kölbli. In Berlin to fete Generation Charm Club, a revamp of Thomas Sabo’s beloved charm collection, Kölbli sports python booties and a black Chanel chain-strap bag and is mingling with the throng of international media and German Instagram stars in attendance. Many are lining up for their chance to get inked by the country’s premier tattoo artist Bronko Steel, whose minimalist outlines of hearts, half moons and anchors are diminutive yet powerful. They are also symbolic of the bearer’s individuality – much like a charm.
“Through charms, you can tell the story of your life without any words,” says Kölbli, seated on a plush velvet couch at Berlin’s swanky members-only China Club in an interview following the launch. Helping to tell these stories has been part of Kölbli’s job since the launch of the original charm collection in the mid-noughties. And, like many of the brand’s collectors, the charms have grown up. The relaunch reflects this maturity: A fair share of the cutesy saccharine charms are gone, replaced by over 250 new handmade pieces in sterling silver and 18-karat-gold plating that exude a stronger sense of femininity with a vintage vibe. “When we started, our heart charm was sparkling with a pavé setting,” says Kölbli, who has been the brand’s creative head since 1992. The nextgeneration heart boasts faceted stones with a slight blackening of the metal. “It looks like it’s already a hundred years old,” she says.
Thomas Sabo Generation Charm Collection
If the spring runways are any indication, designers are just as captivated by charms this spring. Prada draped chunky and cheeky charm necklaces over collared shirts, and at DVF, models’ wrists were wrapped in tassels and pearls. Charms’ power and freshness lie in their ability to make a statement. Yesterday’s charms are dainty; today’s are bold and sizable and look best when worn a dozen, or even two dozen, at a time.
Tapping into trends is an integral part of Thomas Sabo’s global success, yet as a brand, it is surprisingly – and quite charmingly – traditional. “You feel at home there,” says Kölbli of the rural headquarters located in Lauf an der Pegnitz, a 14th-century provincial village in southern Germany. This commitment to home plays a big role in the Thomas Sabo Foundation, a charitable initiative spearheaded by Sabo’s wife, Luz Enith Sabo. With a focus on children, the organization funds community projects in and around Lauf, including a centre for youth with autism as well as various educational projects in Luz Enith Sabo’s native Colombia. “Thomas and his wife try to give their success to other people,” says Kölbli. “They really have a heart for kids.”
Like the Sabo family, Kölbli has a sentimental side. She still owns the first piece of jewellery she ever received: a baby charm bracelet garnished with animals, a heart and a four-leaf clover given to her at her baptism. Just like with a tattoo, she will never part with it.