With over 25 years of graphic and digital design experience, Cassie Hughes’ step into hand-crafted jewellery was a natural one. Her use of bold iconography, shimmering colour and vital social messaging have made her collection of Melbourne-made earrings and necklaces a beloved, sparkling statement piece. Collaborating with the ACMI Shop on an exclusive range of jewellery for Goddess: Power, Glamour, Rebellion – ACMI’s major exhibition saluting some of the screen’s revolutionary leading women – Cassie chats to us about her design process, Charlize Theron and how a humble envelope sketch helped define her collection.
Jayden Masciulli: Tell us about your creative practice – what motivates and inspires you?
Cassie Hughes: Glitter and shiny objects! I have simple needs. But more seriously, I am motivated by living a life authentic to my values and passions. I started the jewellery for myself, never intending to open it up to others. But in doing so I am now equally motivated by empowering and connecting to women. I’d like to use my story and my experiences to help others.
JM: What was the design process in creating the Goddess range?
CH: Once the excitement was managed and my focus was there, I started by absorbing the information provided from the Goddess: Fierce Women on Film publication. I researched the featured women and collected visuals, with a bent towards the deco era to align with my work. I like to create a mood board and then dismantle it, by grabbing elements of inspiration from quick sketches, then subsequently deleting all references to not draw too heavily from them. I then walk away for at least a day and let the magic happen.
I don’t know how to describe it – it all forms in the background of my mind and usually comes together in a ten-minute 3am iPad sketch! Thinking back to Goddess it was a sketch on the back of an envelope. I then jump on the computer and open Illustrator to create the refined designs, starting in grey. Once I feel the designs are working, the fun begins and the glitter colour samples come out. Colours for Goddess are a combination of my 2023 colours and the exhibition colours. I design in collections, so the final step often involves outside eyes to help me edit. This collection went from over 30 options to what we now have on offer.
The final designs heavily draw from my Deco and Bloom collection, which is an expression of breaking out from patriarchal oppression and expectations. They have elements of crowns, spiritual growth, heart and history, but customised to be unique to Goddess while holding my brand’s essence. It incorporates the camera lens, mirrors, cinema lights, signs and retro ticket and theatre shapes.
JM: Who are some of the most inspiring women on screen to you?
CH: I love that we live in a time with more and more female lead roles and heroines – it’s so important. I’m not sure I knew how much I was missing, how impacted my life has been, by not seeing myself and my experiences represented on screen. Orange is the New Black felt like a turning point for more nuanced female characters and women I could relate to. Before then, Charlize Theron’s depiction of Aileen Wuornos in Monster comes to mind as a stand-out. Charlize is a definite inspiration – in the last month I have watched The Old Guard, Mad Max: Fury Road and Bombshell. Thinking back, I have always gravitated toward her movies – she has a depth I connect with. The whole cast of Steel Magnolias. And my ultimate favourite that I would have loved to have had available as a young girl – Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games.
JM: How does your background in design inform your jewellery-making process?
CH: I see it as an extension in every way. I spent over 25 years as a graphic designer which is essentially a form of visual communication – incorporating messaging so it makes sense. My use of typography, graphic shapes and structures that have subliminal visuals to connect with the messaging definitely comes from my design background. Overall, it’s very visually graphic, that extension of my preferred, natural aesthetic. Connecting to a message and an audience (even if that audience is me) has always been my jumping off point with anything I design and how to create a feeling/product to connect with that. In the case of my jewellery, I started as the audience. In the case of Goddess, I drew on the brief, the audience, my design background to incorporate myself, the brand and who that specific collection of jewellery is intended to represent. More practically, understanding many design processes, their limitations, and how to push them has been invaluable.
JM: Can you pick a favourite piece from your collection?
CH: Tricky, tricky, which baby is my favourite? I guess the answer is no, but I can narrow it down to three favourites. Goddess in hot pink; she’s beautiful to me, a strong bold graphic shape, a great colour – she’s a mood, a statement. Bombshell in gold; she’s uber glam, and I love glam. And Rebel in red; wearable, glam and subtly fierce, edgy yet delicate, but pretty at the same time.
JM: Is there a favourite exhibition or film from ACMI you remember?
CH: There was an exhibition, approximately seven years ago, I can’t recall the name. I had a young woman staying with me at the time who had aspects of her life she wasn’t proud of, and nothing I could say was having an impact. On a trip into the city, I noticed the exhibition and decided we should pop in, and she was swept away by it. I don’t want to give too much away, but it was magic to see her sense of self change from that experience – her world opened up.
JM: What are you currently watching, playing, streaming?
CH: This may come as no surprise – Drag Race is on a loop in the background. I loved The White Lotus. TikTok has taken over streaming at the moment, but when I recognise the need for more nourishment I’m watching favourites like The Hunger Games, Mad Max: Fury Road, Elysium and The Old Guard.