How Storytelling Plays Into John Hardy’s New Bamboo Collection

How Storytelling Plays Into John Hardy’s New Bamboo Collection

By Victoria Gomelsky | April 19, 2021
John Hardy has worked hard in recent years to connect with consumers through digital channels and social media—especially Instagram Live. Those efforts have included a few ambitious film projects.

This year, for example, the brand produced a mesmerizing video with the artist and activist duo Kita Poleng to celebrate the concept of transformation. A dancer draped in transformable pieces from John Hardy’s latest Chain Remix range performed a stylized dance called the “Amrta” as she made her way through scenes of everyday Balinese life.

“She’s on the beach with shell gatherers and fishermen—it’s daily Bali, not postcard Instagram Bali,” says chief marketing officer Suzanne Hader. “She goes to the market and continues to dance through the market with people haggling over food and motorbikes going by. The collision of all those things is what makes it so arresting.”

And this week, in honor of Earth Day on April 22, the brand is presenting a short film titled Radical Renewal, featuring Elora Hardy, founder of the architecture firm Ibuku (and John’s daughter), and Arief Rabik of the Environmental Bamboo Foundation. Together, they make a compelling case for bamboo as a next-generation building material and for the brand’s 44-year-old and constantly evolving Bamboo collection (through the Wear Bamboo, Plant Bamboo program, John Hardy plants seedlings for each piece sold).

John Hardy Bamboo bracelet
Bamboo 28 mm Flex Cuff bracelet in sterling silver with black spinel, $1,695

“Bamboo is this giant, magic grass that stitches up the landscape,” Rabik says in the film’s voice-over. “When you plant bamboo, you stitch up the soil, you bring back the water, and then you suck up the carbon dioxide and all these other pollutants and you stabilize them to actually become the food for that landscape.”

Below, Hader talks about why it was important to the brand to showcase the power of bamboo. The interview has been edited and condensed.

How did you change your design approach to appeal to younger consumers?

Taking Chain Remix as an example, we’ve really leaned into transformability, especially with hero pieces. We’ve been doing more necklaces. We’re known for bracelets, but for fall 2020 we did one that was a slightly thinner profile than what we’d done in the past.

The Chain Remix collection that’s out now for spring features several different kinds of transformable pieces—such as those that transform into necklaces you can wear multiple ways and also into necklace and bracelet sets. We’ve styled them as unisex pieces—that also appeals to a younger customer. It’s a little less specific. Those are the big ideas we’ve found people latching on to. And the aesthetic has become a little more modern, especially with silver jewelry.

We have made all our jewelry from recycled metals, but we talk about that a lot more in the way we present and market it. That’s a big deal. And thinking from a design perspective about how we can give it more versatility. We spend a lot of time showing that it’s jewelry that goes with a lot of different styles and attitudes—mainly through imagery, and also working with influencers to have them style it in their own ways.

In the latest piece of storytelling, you’re talking about bamboo, which, of course, ties into your iconic Bamboo Collection and your overall ethos of sustainability. Tell us about the background of the film project.

John, when he was at the brand, set the tone for our efforts at sustainability. He was fascinated by bamboo. It’s been a part of our story since the inception of the brand. The program Wear Bamboo, Plant Bamboo launched in 2007. But the collection has always been an iconic way to reference something unique to Bali and stands for a certain kind of mindfulness.

John Hardy Bamboo earrings
Bamboo Drop Link earrings in 18k gold, $2,700

And how did the “Radical Renewal” project come about?

Bali is a small place. Elora is an amazing architect—she is John’s daughter, but first and foremost, she’s an amazing architect. We’d been following her career for a long time. We were looking to help our customer understand what bamboo means in Bali, and how, within Bali, bamboo has come to have this very important symbolism for sustainability in general. When we say “bamboo” in the U.S., it doesn’t necessarily bridge the gap that it’s a sustainable material and a building material that has all these incredible properties and that it has a lower carbon footprint than concrete.

All these things we wanted to show and not tell, and as we launched this collection, we approached Elora and Arief to help us. Arief has been our partner for planting bamboo for the last three years—he could speak to the role bamboo plays for being first aid for degraded landscapes, being a material that brings both benefits and health for the environment in addition to becoming a sustaining business practice for communities, for women in particular.

And Elora telling the other side—about what’s possible with bamboo. Her work has been described as “bamboo cathedrals.”

John Hardy Bamboo earrings on model
Bamboo Twisted Hoop earrings, $2,500

Top: Bamboo Fan necklace in sterling silver, $1,295

By: Victoria Gomelsky