Go east. In 2011, Shane Vitaly Foran answered his inner voice. Life was grinding him down. Craving a breather from a busy school schedule, he made a pilgrimage to Bali, where he found respite at Ubud, a yogi destination teeming with craftspeople. He sketched his first piece of jewellery there, but it wasn’t cut from the same type of intricate stone as the temples and palaces all around him: “It was a two-finger ring in black wood, with an inlaid silver hourglass on the top. I named it the Ugenk, after the man who made it for me.” When he returned to Toronto, his skateboarder, tattoo artist and DJ friends clamoured after the spare architectural pieces he brought back – as elemental as nuts and bolts – so he decided to merge his business smarts with his newfound artistic outlet.
Fast-forward four years, and everyone is wearing Vitaly. About 200 fashion retailers in Canada, the US, Europe, Asia and Australia carry Foran’s goods, which he keeps at accessible prices. “This year is going to be pretty crazy,” he says. “We’re releasing two massive collections.” Since graduating from wood, he has experimented with stainless steel, antique steel, tungsten and ceramics.
To keep his line affordable, production is now done in China. But instead of simply sending his designs abroad, Foran makes semi-annual trips to Shenzhen to mock up his concepts right on the factory floor, fuelled by the machine-shop process as he goes. Recently, he spotted a raw piece of steel on the factory floor, which inspired a blacker-than-black finish that “absorbs all light.” And after seeing one of his workers thread and solder the guts of a spinner ring, Foran developed his Interchangeables line, which has swappable layers in every imaginable finish – from platinum and gold animal print to matte black.
Foran still savours the excitement of designing that first ring four years ago, and now that he has become a Toronto success story he has gone back to the beginning: in early 2015, he will open his first store in Bali.