Goldyn, a successful local boutique, closed after 11 years in 2018. However, the owner of the former boutique, Vanessa Barcus, now has a new Denver-based jewelry collection she recently launched. Talisman Fine Jewelry features a collection inspired by many attributes near and dear to Barcus’ heart.
As a young child, Barcus recalls her first memory related to fashion. “One of my earliest memories is probably from pre-kindergarten in the ’80s. My mom dressed me in some hideous mint-colored polyester pants — which I hated. I recall throwing a fit and refusing to go inside the classroom until she let me change and dress myself. This was my first diva moment. Or perhaps the beginning of my disdain for synthetic fabrics?” said Barcus.
It wasn’t until she had the opportunity to work for an up-and-coming clothing designer, Trovata, she considered a career path within fashion. However, her love for clothing, textiles and art were always prevalent in her life.
“That experience changed my life. A while after I came on board, Trovata won the CFDA/Vogue Fund Award and completely blew up before our eyes. It was thrilling, and I fell in love with fashion after that. That was where my creative side truly started to blossom,” mentioned Barcus.
303 Magazine: After owning your boutique, Goldyn, for 11 years you decided to close in 2018. Can you tell us about the fashion industry burnout you felt?
Vanessa Barcus: Yes, fashion industry burnout was a big factor in my decision to close Goldyn in 2018. People just don’t realize the level of stress designers, boutique owners and others are under every day. Having to keep up with a constant rotation of extra “seasons” like pre-fall, resort, pre-spring, etc. Moreover, continually feeding into a more-more-more materialistic attitude which you’re expected to push onto the customer. On top of that dealing with day-to-day business things like personnel or marketing.
It’s a hustle. I’m so glad that industry leaders like Anna Wintour and Alessandro Michele are finally talking openly about this. In addition, how they are trying to change the fashion calendar as a result. Even though [COVID-19] has been an awful reality for all of us, one silver lining has been the way this has forced a pause and a slowing down. This has awakened people to just how unnecessarily crazy things have been. Burnout is all too common. Furthermore, I’m super thankful for the slower pace of my life now. It’s all a reminder that you can choose to consciously create your own reality.
303: What ideas and values have you carried on from Goldyn to your collection, Talisman Fine Jewelry?
VB: Goldyn was always about fashion as art, empowerment through self-expression and supporting sustainably-minded, independent designers. Moreover, cultivating community and collaboration were equally important. This time the tables are just turned. It’s been an incredibly positive, healing experience to work with my hands and let that creative expression run through me. This collection definitely has my energy all over it — just as Goldyn did.
Much like the interdisciplinary nature of what we did at Goldyn, I take a lot of inspiration from fine artists like sculptors Alma Allen, Barbara Hepworth and Rogan Gregory. In addition, architects John Lautner and Paolo Soleri. More and more, I’ve started to view my collection as sculpture for the body. It’s timeless and very wearable for everyday, yet stands out and makes a statement. Much like the collections we carried at Goldyn.
303: You believe in creating pieces that use less waste and excess from the industry. Why is this important to you? How have you incorporated this into your collection?
VB: Fashion is an enormous contributor to pollution and environmental degradation. I wouldn’t feel good about putting anything new out into the world at this point if I wasn’t doing my best to produce as little waste as possible. While there is still plenty of room to innovate and do better, I try to do everything I currently can to have sustainability in mind. Using recycled metals and creating each piece by hand, to choosing packaging that is eco-friendly and can be repurposed by the consumer.
It also comes down to my overall brand ethos, which drives the collection itself. We really don’t need so many “things” in our lives — that less is more — that when we do choose to purchase something, it should be something that will last a very long time. That, by the way, is also the reason I chose to make fine jewelry specifically.
303: Your collection is inspired by many different attributes close to you. How does this reflect in your pieces such as rings, necklaces, earrings, etc.?
VB: Indeed, my inspirations come from a lot of different disciplines. As I mentioned above, abstract modernist sculpture, mid-century and brutalist architecture, as well as things like my travels and my obsession with ancient Greek and Cypriot culture. They’re things I spend a lot of time researching and going down rabbit holes with in my free time. The collection reflects an amalgamation of all of these influences, mixed with what just flows from me naturally. All of these interests undoubtedly sit in my consciousness while I work. When I’m drawing designs or sculpting my wax models, I really do it intuitively without trying to think too hard on it. My designs are unquestionably my own take on what are oftentimes classic jewelry styles. However, I think you can see these influences come through in subtle ways.
303: In addition to your minimalist 14k gold jewelry, you offer hand-sewn Talisman Pouch necklaces. Can you tell us a little about these?
VB: Being the Boulder-new-age-hippie-kid that I was, I’ve always carried around medicine pouches. The desire to carry our little sacred objects, whether it be for protection or for good luck, is something that has been with humans for thousands of years. When I still ran Goldyn, I was inspired to create an elevated, daintier version with 14k gold that women could wear — paired with our designer collections. I commissioned my friend and collaborator Andrea Li to sew the first iteration. This has since evolved into the current version which I sew by hand at home. A lot of time and intention goes into making those.
303: Can you tell us how your artistic perspective led you to create everyday staple pieces that also make a statement?
VB: In an effort to create a collection that also encourages a “less is more” lifestyle, I wanted each piece to be very wearable and versatile. Personally, I tend to gravitate to my staple jewelry pieces each day anyhow. Wearing them helps me feel comforted and powerful at the same time. I also especially cherish everyday jewelry because it’s imbued with the wearer’s energy. From a purely aesthetic perspective, I’m definitely more of a minimalist. As a style this easily lends itself to versatility and daily wear when it comes to jewelry or apparel. I just don’t buy the idea that “everyday” jewelry needs to be plain or boring. It’s entirely possible to wear something bold that’s still your everyday go-to.
303: You moved back to the Mile High city in 2006 after living in LA for a few years. The West Coast fashion scene ultimately led you to find Denver was lacking in shops featuring up-and coming-and smaller designers. What is your impression of the Denver fashion scene currently?
VB: You know, Denver has really changed and evolved a lot in that time. I actually recently moved back after two years in Portland, Oregon, and it’s interesting to see how, once again, that has shifted my lens. I really appreciate that there are some creators and innovators here trying to continually push the envelope. From designers like C.R. Lee, Mecla, Brooks and Mimi Shim — to retailers like Steadbrook, Queen City General Store, and Yucca — to stylists like Avery Ashmore and Shayla Preeshl.
People here are also uniquely open and collaborative. This is something that is truly special to this community. There is admittedly still a bit of homogeneity to the culture here overall, which has a tendency to emphasize conspicuous consumption over unique self-expression. People’s horizons need to be broadened. However, I’m glad there is a community of artists and creatives who are trying to show the way towards owning your individuality.