Montreal based designer Gab McNeil never thought he’d end up making men’s jewelry but after a chance encounter his unique pieces are now being featured in GQ and Esquire.
If you ask Gab McNeil of his fondest childhood memory, he won’t recall the first time he threw a football with his dad or his first baseball game with the family. Instead he’ll tell you a story of the day his parents pulled him out of class to go on a day trip to visit their local art gallery when he was just seven years old.
Art and design run deep in the Gab’s family, his mother is a painter and his father a sculptor and his uncle, Nathan Wiens is a well known furniture designer whose made pieces for a number of celebrities. But the person who's had the biggest influence on Gab’s career is his Grandfather Clifford Wiens, a well known Canadian Architect who was awarded the Massey Award twice and the Prix du XXe siècle by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. It was his Grandfather who inspired Gab to pursue his studies in Industrial Design at OCADU in Toronto.
Whilst still in school Gab was fascinated by use of innovative technology like 3D printing to other applications. It was a chance encounter whilst smoking a cigarette on the roof of his apartment building, where Gab met an individual wearing an eccentric pair of shoelaces. This turned out to be none other than David Barclay an accomplished designer himself and the founder of shoelace renaissance company Stolen Riches. Gab and David shared a passionate interest in using a combination of design and technology to break from the traditional conforms of fashion. Both men were also dedicated to keeping their manufacturing process in Canada to help create jobs. They decided to collaborate on what would become Gab’s first men’s jewelry collection.
With David as his mentor, Gab was able to meet and build relationships with other Toronto based fashion companies and fashion entrepreneurs. Through a series of introductions, Gab was hired by some these companies to work as a design and manufacturing consultant. The work allowed him to hone his design technique and learn the business side of the fashion industry which including marketing, PR and graphic design.
Being exposed to the non-stop promotional aspect fashion and menswear made Gab realize that he cherished being able to design what he wanted more than what the marketing department asked of him. He decided to go it alone so he could pursue creating his own line of products.
As an independent designer, Gab spent 3-6 months experimenting and researching the use of different manufacturing techniques that would allow for the local production of men’s jewelry in Canada. The result of tinkering and research led Gab to launch his first line of men’s ringwear under his own name (Gab McNeil) in late 2016.
One of his most recent collections includes a mix-tape pendant that was recently featured in Esquire - the process of perfecting and making the initial model took over a 100 hours from concept to low volume production. To create each piece required Gab to go through a very hands on and complex process involving the using of sketches, 3D scanning, traditional lost wax casting a mixture of hand polishing and finishing.
Much of the initial work in designing a piece includes prototyping, the use of 3D CAD modelling and sketching. In his own words, Gab describes his unique approach as “bridging the gap between craft and factory made products.”
One of the techniques that Gab has adopted as part of the jewellry manufacturing process is the use of faceted design. Faceted Design involves the removal of curves and the use of sharp edges and hard angles which result in wild crystalline structures that catch light beautifully. Faceting has appeared in design more frequently over the years, most recently during the New York Design Week, due to availability of digital design tools. By combining the use of more traditional manufacturing processes with the latest in manufacturing technology, Gab is pushing the boundaries when its comes to jewellry design with his own collection of faceted skull rings.
When asked why he is so driven to create well designed men’s jewellry he quotes another role model in his career, famed Braun designer and the father of the 10 Principles of Design, Dieter Rams who said “Good design is making something intelligible and memorable. Great design is making something memorable and meaningful.”
Over the next few month’s Gab is going to be focussed on experimenting and combining more of the traditional and modern manufacturing processes to expand the brand’s line of products. Currently he is working on a collection involving leather goods which will created and manufactured with the use of laser cutting and thermal forming. To see and buy pieces from his current collections you can visit his website GabMcNeil.com