Like many other designers, Cynthia Sakai grew up in a very creative environment. Her father was a successful architect, her mother spent time working for Fendi in Rome and the US, and all of her grandmother’s clothes were tailor-made from fabrics flown in from Paris. “Crazy parents make creative children,” Sakai told Savoir Flair during her first trip to Dubai. “I’ve just always been a little bit strange and looked at things in a different way.” While most kids were busy dressing their Barbies in different outfits, Sakai was cutting their hair and making clothes for them. “I just loved to create things” – which is what led her to creating her own accessories label, Vita Fede.
Welcome to Dubai, Cynthia!
What has stood out to you the most since you’ve been here?
Dubai is so interesting, because the city is so modern, so new – the roads that are so big, the malls are so amazing – but there is still a lot of culture. It’s really interesting that these two things coexist. I’m actually really enjoying the people, from the way they take care of themselves to how kind they are. I think it is the people who make Dubai what it is. Without them, it would not be the same. I am definitely going to come back to Dubai; I love it here.
Your roots are Japanese but you grew up in Pasadena, California, and your jewelry is made in Italy. How have your roots, life in California, and time in Europe influenced your designs? How do the three places ‘meet’ in your creative process?
I was recently telling someone that we are really lucky, because I am sort of a mutt, and I spend time in LA, New York, Asia, and Europe. I feel like the collections I create are a sort of blend of the cultures. That’s why the collection translates well across the world; it is not just doing well in America, it is doing well in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.
The Vita Fede brand is known for its edgy aesthetic, with the ‘Titan’ bracelets being the most signature design of the brand. Can you tell us how the idea of the ‘Titan’ bracelet came about? Do you enjoy reinventing it every season, or is it a challenge?
Well, when the ‘Titan’ bracelet first came out, nobody liked it. They said that it looked like a nose ring and that it was too edgy. Now, it is our classic bracelet. I think people really love it, because it is classic yet also very modern. We have women of all ages that really appreciate it, so it has really become a classic. I like reinventing the ‘Titan’; it’s definitely a challenge though. We do it every season, and I actually enjoy it. We’ve done lots of different finishes, with crystals, animals, etc.
You have also introduced a black material for fall.
Yes, it’s a black metal. I got the idea from matte-black car paint. This year we also introduced snakeskin, ebony, and olive.
You use a lot of geometric shapes in your designs. Are certain shapes in jewelry more timeless than others?
Yes, I think squares and diamonds in the shape of triangles are very timeless. I think anything geometric always comes back in fashion. You see it in handbags and clothes; Yves Saint Laurent did a collection with visual geometric prints. I think that it definitely comes back.
On your site, you have a section called ‘Cynthia’s Stacks’. Is this how you wear your own jewelry?
Yes, it is. For me, stacking your bracelets is very personal, so every day my stack will look different, depending on how I feel. Maybe I feel really girly one day, so I will do a lot of crystals and pearls. Today, I am doing something masculine, with touches of black and gold. I enjoy sharing my personal style on social media, especially on Instagram.
For me, stacking your bracelets is very personal, so every day my stack will look different.
Do you think stacking will ever go out of style?
I don’t think so. I think it has always been in style. I just think it was never called ‘stacking’ until recently. Look at Madonna back in the 1980s or even Jackie O. I think social media has made that happen. I think it will always be around, whether it is a thick stack or a stack of thin, dainty bracelets.
You’ve said that your pieces are meant to be mixed, matched, and layered. Is there an art to jewelry stacking? Are there any tips you can give us for stacking jewelry?
I like to match my jewelry with what I am wearing; for example, I like to do one color to go with my outfit. If I am wearing black I like to incorporate two black pieces and mix them with others, and maybe add white in there. It’s always good to mix metals. But overall it depends, because stacking is so personal. You are the one who has to look down at your arm all day, so it really depends on what you want it to look like.
What are the biggest dos and don’ts of accessorizing?
I think that wearing a lot of accessories is great, but I think at a certain point you have to take a look in the mirror. If you are doing a big pair of earrings, then you can’t do a big bracelet and necklace. Wear a lot in specific categories, but not all the categories simultaneously. If you are going to wear a lot of accessories, do something very basic. I am not at all for piling everything on, because you don’t want to look like a Christmas tree.
What jewelry do you wear everyday?
I wear my watch every day, which is a really special piece to me because I bought it in Milan after the second or third year of Vita. I wear this Cartier ring that my mom and I bought in Paris together; I have the gold and she has the silver version. I also wear this thin ring everyday, which I got at a flee market in Paris. I like to mix and match.
What is one jewelry piece that every woman should own?
Having one ring or one bracelet that you really own. Maybe somebody gave it to you, or maybe you bought it for yourself after your first job. Jewelry is supposed to be personal. You should always have that one piece that really means something.
Do you think it’s important to follow trends?
For any brand to evolve, trends are important. For Vita Fede, evolving and mixing our aesthetics is going to keep us going. We change. If you look at my designs from when I started until now, the pieces look different, because I am getting older. It is really important to keep evolving your own style.
For any brand to evolve, trends are important.
You’ve just launched a new category for Vita Fede, blending jewelry and technology. Can you tell us a bit about how this came about?
I am kind of a techy girl; I have to have the latest phone and the newest laptop. I think that a lot of the techy stuff that is out there feels like a tech company made it, so when they think of making it fashionable; they add bright pink, leopard, or glitter. So I wanted to start creating things that people are going to look at and say, “Wow, that’s beautiful,” and then you can say that it is also a USB. I want style to come first, and then technology should be there right afterwards.
What are three things we might not know about you, but definitely should?
I love sugar, so in my desk I have an entire cabinet of junk food. I love listening to music from all over the world, so if you listen to my iTunes there is music from literally every country that I have travelled to. I don’t understand the words, but I really like listening to foreign music. I named the company after my dog; she was a rescue dog and her name is Faith, which in Italian is ‘Fede’. ‘Vida’ is the first word I learned in Italian, which means life.
Vita Fede is available at Harvey Nichols – Dubai.