Jewellery designer Steven Anton Rehage has reached career highs that most could only dream of, from his tenure at Gucci to creating his own signature line. But, as Inside Out discovers, he’s still a humble Florida boy at heart.
As a young boy growing up in South Florida, Steven Anton Rehage loved to collect items that washed up on the local shore.
Driftwood, discarded metal, rocks, glass, intricate shells. Rage, as he is known, was captivated by the aging process, the way the ocean would subtly erode debris to create unique and unusual pieces.
“It was a family tradition to go to the beach every Sunday,” Rage explains. “I used to collect all the bits that the ocean churned out.
I loved the worn ends of driftwood, the patina of metal. I was fascinated by the process of time through nature.”
The lure of the ocean has been a defining force throughout the jewellery designer’s career, influencing the style and technique of his distinctive works.
Rage’s signature hammered texture, which is prevalent in much of his namesake line, evokes the gentle swell of the water.
“The [hammered] look mimics the way the waves move, the way they reflect the sun and glimmer with light. The designs are simple, universal,” Rage says. “The ocean is the genesis of all of my work.”
That work has taken Rage to the four corners of the world, including the Cayman Islands, where his designs are available at Silver Retail at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. His collections are defined by delicate necklaces, striking bangles, semi-precious stones and elegant earrings, usually in his metal of choice – sterling silver.
The pieces are stunning, with an eclectic style that translates from the boardroom to the bar, and everywhere in between. Now based in Miami, Rage has always had a love of design, but it was during a sojourn to Florence, Italy, that he realised his dream.
“I was extremely fortunate to spend a year abroad studying in Florence,” Rage explains.
“I spent a lot of time in museums, and I saw these huge urns, with all the hammer marks and the fire marks. It made me realise that the artisan is still alive, in a way. His spirit, his energy, is still alive in those marks. I decided then to study metal and pursue jewellery design. It was, without a doubt, the most important thing that had ever happened to me.”
Rage’s time in Florence not only inspired his future career, but also helped the metal smith to land a dream job in the fashion industry, working for legendary Italian design house, Gucci. He describes his time at the company as “incredible”, but believes it encouraged him to pursue jewellery making on a more intimate level. So, Rage travelled to Mexico, where his collections are made and where he still visits every six weeks, to “spend a bit of time at the bench”.
“I’m more interested in the artisan and the design, rather than churning out monster collections,” Rage says. “[In Mexico] I learnt how to weave leather, I trained to be a metal smith. Having made the pieces, it taught me how to be a better designer. Being in the studio, I learnt what worked and what didn’t.”
It takes Rage around 30 days to create a collection from start to finish. With 12 collections a year, he is involved in every step of the process and is constantly creating new pieces to keep the line fresh and interesting. He derives inspiration from his favourite travel destinations, including Morocco and Thailand, both countries with a long history of silver jewellery making.
Rage describes his jewellery as a fusion between fashion and tradition, contemporary yet timeless. Yet that wasn’t always the case.
After breaking into the fashion industry in his early 20s, Rage earned his nickname for his off-the-wall designs. It is a name that has stuck with him, although his creations have been somewhat tamed.
“When I was younger and living in New York, people like magazine editors would see my jewellery and say, ‘That’s outrageous’,” he says with a laugh. “I was designing really crazy, over-the-top stuff. So, I was christened Rage. To me, my designs are just as outrageous now, but more wearable, more sellable. I guess everything mellows with age.
“The idea now is to be setting trends, not following them,” Rage continues. “It’s about not being too far ahead of the curve. That balance needs to be kept between trendy and timelessness.”
Rage keeps his finger on the fashion pulse with his namesake store in Miami’s Coconut Grove. Asked to describe the type of woman who wears his collections, he pauses thoughtfully.
“My customer is a sophisticated and elegant woman with an incredible sense of style. She ranges between classic and contemporary,” Rage explains. It’s clearly a topic he’s passionate about.
“For women, jewellery is important. It’s what makes a woman feel good. It gives her an additional level of empowerment. We have a collection that we like to call the Wonder Woman collection, because you put the pieces on and you feel invincible.
“Jewellery is very sentimental. It means so many things to so many women.”
Rage may be creating a tribe of Wonder Women, but he will always be the boy from the Sunshine State, with a love of the ocean and a love of design.
“I like to go with the flow. If an opportunity arises, I jump at it. But if it happens, it happens.”