James Hu founder of ASTRA. Image supplied.
James Hu founded his jewellery brand ASTRA in Wellington in 2013 and in four short years the brand is already stocked throughout New Zealand and internationally. ASTRA’s pieces are easily identifiable by their clean designs that are full of delicate sparkles. Hu is passionate not just about jewellery but also providing creative opportunities for young people and has a talented young team of designers working with him on ASTRA’s beautiful collections.
We caught up with James to find out how he came up with the idea for ASTRA, what his favourite pieces are and where he sees his brand going.
Where did you come up with the idea for ASTRA, and how did you go about creating your brand?
Living in New Zealand, we all get to appreciate the sparkling stars in our night sky. In the last 20 years, I have travelled around Europe, America and Asia. I feel so lucky to live in this spectacular environment. I dreamed about catching the sparkles of stars and keeping it in a locket to share with others around the world, so I created ASTRA. Each ASTRA has moving stones inside – this represents the sparkle of New Zealand’s stars.
As an international fashion brand, especially as a jewellery brand, ASTRA connects to an element of luxury around New Zealand. I believe that the way we live, the bright sunshine, the clean air and water, the open space, and sparkle in the kindness of our people are luxuries for most people in the world. ASTRA is telling a New Zealand story on the world stage, and this has been very successful and well-received in the international market. Everyone has a story. ASTRA jewellery has a story of New Zealand lifestyle.
Who do you think the Astra Jewellery customer is and what are they looking for from your brand?
ASTRA customers are women with their own distinct sense of style. They appreciate beautiful things for sure, but they are less concerned about wanting to show how expensive their jewellery is. Instead, it’s about wanting a special jewellery piece to tell their life story and express a moment of their life. We found lots of men buy ASTRA for their wives, girlfriends or family members.
Each story of ASTRA jewellery is based on one of the four ASTRA girls we created to tell the story of our brand. Based on these four ASTRA girl life stories, we created four collections: Maya, Freedom, Leda and Stella. These four collections are very different in style, but have one thing in common, they all have captured sparkles inside of the piece.
Our customers can relate to our pieces as they connect directly to their life stories and what’s happening in their lives at any moment. It goes beyond the beauty and quality of jewellery.
Campaign images of ASTRA’s jewellery.
How do you find being based in New Zealand and distributing jewellery to the world?
We found a formula to promote ASTRA as a New Zealand fashion brand on the world stage. The successful ASTRA branding comes from few important things:
A creative team is so important. ASTRA is based in Wellington, the capital of creation and innovation. I have met lots of creative young people from all over New Zealand who come to Wellington to achieve their dreams. New Zealand provides creative young people that can become part of our team. We provide a platform for young people to use their creative ideas to connect to the international fashion market. New ideas and unique thinking are so important to us.
The sparkle of the New Zealand environment and lifestyle is the story behind ASTRA brand. Creating and distributing ASTRA in and from New Zealand makes perfect sense.
What are your personal favourite pieces from your range and why?
ASTRA Double Heart is my favourite piece, as it tells my story. I want to be a totally open heart to people in my life. The Double Heart has one heart inside of a bigger heart, both hearts being set in between two crystal lenses. It tells the very special person in my life that you are always in my heart, my heart is always around you, my heart is open to you, what you see is what I feel and what I have. These represent the people I care about and love in my life.
What are your favourite materials to work with?
Silver, as we can achieve high quality and fine finishing for the ASTRA designs, and keep the price affordable.
James Hu’s favourite Double Heart pendant from his ASTRA jewellery brand.
Why do think jewellery is such a popular choice of gift when people are celebrating milestones or occasions?
A successful piece of jewellery has emotion behind it and a connection to the person.
What is your advice for anyone who wants to get into making jewellery?
Jewellery is not about metal and stones – it’s about creating a connection with people.
You’ve already accumulated multiple stockists here and overseas in the past 4 years. Where do you see your brand in 5 years time?
In 5 years time, ASTRA will have 4000 stockists in New Zealand, Australia, Europe, America.