Corrine Anestopoulos is the half-Greek, half-Polish creator of Biko Jewellery. Right in the center of Toronto’s fashion district, Biko’s new loft headquarters are a far cry from its humble beginnings in a cramped home attic.
“Sorry, I wanted to clean up a bit before you arrived,” Corrine apologizes, her European upbringing evident, as she welcomes me into the Biko studio.
It doesn’t look that unkempt to me. The grand table that takes up half of the studio space is strewn with trinkets, beads, chains, tools and supplies, the organized mess screaming, Creative genius at work! Natural light streams through bright windows into the airy loft, highlighting necklaces and bracelets hanging over exposed brick and off of animal horns and antlers mounted onto the wall. Rolls of chain and bins full of beads fill another wall and a beautiful vintage armoire houses even more finished pieces. It’s like I’m in the jewellery version of Candyland.
Corrine’s sunny personality makes me feel instantly at home. We sit at a smaller table, similarly strewn with delicate earrings, stackable bracelets, long necklaces laced with baubles and trinkets. Ranging in styles from the refined and polished, to the loud and alternative – I wonder just what type of clientele Biko attracts.
“The typical Biko girl is someone who is confident, stylish and not afraid to be in the spotlight,” Corrine explains. And Biko itself has been in the spotlight plenty as of late, with pieces featured in magazines such as Elle, Lush, Fashion and Design Bureau, even in foreign publications from as far away as Jordan. Rachel Bilson has sported Biko on the Hollywood big screen, and a True Blood cast member is slated to wear a piece in an upcoming episode. I wonder if it’s the necklace with the pointy arrowhead. It makes me think of a vampire fang.
I’m way off. It’s actually part of an African hairpiece, used by the nomadic Tuareg tribe of the Northern Sahara. Corrine had oxidized brass casts made of the original.
Travel inspires many of her designs and there seems to be a story behind all things Biko. Here are some of my favourites:
The Logo. “It’s a B for Biko. The feathers represent freedom, travelling, being free. The crown – that’s the quality you’ll find in each piece.” The word Biko itself comes from a nickname young Corrine earned due to her love of Bibiko brand baby food.
Table Talk. “My cousin in Athens had a beautiful antique teak table that I just fell in love with. I was in my IKEA furniture phase at the time, but when got back to Toronto, I found an exact replica of the table and splurged on it. I thought of all the ideas and inspiration that would come from family and friends sitting with me around that table, and to me, that was worth it.”
Circus Chic. “I scored these vintage photos of Barnum and Bailey’s circus from the 50’s and 60’s on Ebay,” she says, showing me the photos on her inspiration board. Nearby, a bronze cast of circus act Fat Jack’s massive ring dangles off a chain necklace. Another classic Biko piece is the Kaleidoscope Necklace, rendering anything viewed through it a mini-circus act in itself.
Wanderlust Fusion. The gladiator-esque look of the pieces in the Spardha line appeals to the Spartan in me. But the inspiration for naming this line doesn’t come from those Ancient Greek warriors, but instead from…a random girl Corrine met through a friend. “I liked how her name sounded. A little bit Greek, maybe Indian, kind of nomadic.” Maybe also because Corrine’s got the travel bug? “I’m dying to go to India and China. I’ve always wanted to do a collection inspired by Greece too.”
Speaking of Greece…An Acropolis postcard surrounded by pictures of her parents, grandmother and older sister join the circus photos on the inspiration wall. The Maia Ring Necklace of the latest collection is actually modeled from an ancient Greek ring.
Wolfie. The collapsible 1970’s dress form, or ‘Wolfie’, as she’s affectionately called, models pieces as they are created, so Corrine can get the look just so. “Let me show you something, the real reason why I had to buy it,” Corrine says, pointing to the midsection of the model. In a pencil scrawl you can make out the words: Latisha is… She pushes down the ribbon to reveal the last word: ugly. Latisha is ugly. Sorry Latisha. Maybe a Biko necklace will help you out.