Fashion has had a long-standing love affair with shells, from Thierry Mugler’s famous 1995 Birth of Venus dress to Versace’s clam shell bralets from spring/summer 2021. More recently, the seashell has been highlighted for its eco-friendly qualities, as seen with the necklaces and harnesses in Chloé’s spring/summer 2022 collection.
As a natural material, shells have always inspired Stockholm-based jewellery designer Mia Larsson. “I work with all kinds of seashells; it’s such a fantastic ceramic material,” she tells Vogue over the phone. “I wanted to [work with] sustainable materials that are organic and compostable.”
While studying at the Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm, Larsson began collecting leftover shells from restaurants to turn into jewellery. “I got bags and sacks from restaurants and took them home to peel in my bathtub,” she explains. “It was not romantic but they were interesting materials.”
Larsson’s statement earrings, necklaces and rings – which combine oyster shells, scallop shells and horn shells with recycled metals – quickly caught the attention of the Scandi fashion world. Now, the designer sells the pieces via her webshop and Instagram account. “A lot of people are touched by [the pieces],” she explains. “People are really fascinated by the oysters and love the shells, and the connection to the sea.” The sustainability aspect, too, is of course a huge part of the appeal. “People like the fact that all the pieces are handmade and made to order,” the designer adds.
Not only is using leftover shells (which Larsson still sources from restaurants, as well as from friends and a local oyster supplier) inherently sustainable, oysters – which form the bulk of the collection – are considered one of the most sustainable seafood options out there due to their ability to remove carbon and nitrogen from the water. “It’s good nutritious food and oysters can actually cleanse and protect the ecosystem,” Larsson continues.
Ultimately, Larsson hopes to shine a spotlight on the natural materials that already exist, and that can be used within a circular system. “Nature makes intelligent, hi-tech materials in a sustainable way,” she concludes. “There are so many interesting materials that we can be inspired by.”