By Vanessa Gillis
Rachel Mielke, founder of Canadian jewellery retailer Hillberg & Berk, recently partnered up with 2010 Olympic gold medalist Tessa Virtue to create a new collection. After her Hillberg & Berk photoshoot, Tessa spoke with Inside Fitness about her new jewellery collection, a potential Olympic return, and her future plans.
Q: How did this partnership come about?
A: Rachel and I met at a charity event in Toronto (the Great Jewellery Heist) and, as soon as we met, we became really fast friends. It was an instant connection – I admired her as a businesswoman and a role model, and I’ve learned so much from her. I love that Hillberg & Berk’s entire mandate is to empower women. They live by that and they see that through.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: It’s been an interesting process to figure out. The initial stages of putting together this collection ran from vintage and bohemian, to timeless elegant pieces and costume jewellery. I think I’m attracted to things that are feminine and, ultimately, things that are quite delicate – something that is easy to wear every day but also can make a statement once you layer it up. It was really interesting for me to go through this process and fine-tune exactly what my jewellery aesthetic is, and I think this collection really epitomizes who I am. It sounds a little selfish, but I wanted to create a line that I would want to wear all the time, and I hope that that resonates in other people.
Q: How did you come up with this line? Did you have a specific image in mind?
A: I’ve been thinking about doing a jewellery collection for years and years, so I had a certain look that I wanted to accomplish. I’m so grateful that Hillberg & Berk are so collaborative because by no means did I want to put my name on just anything – I really wanted to be a part of the design process from beginning to end, concept to product and packaging, so I feel like I’ve done just that. There are some edgy pieces that are quite on trend, but then there are also timeless pearls and a bohemian look with turquoise, so we kind of touched on everything. Overall the pieces are really simple and I think that the simplicity is what I feel most connected to.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: Scott [Moir] and I have had an incredible year and a half since Sochi, and we were ready to take a step back from the rigorous training. After 17 years of that, it became quite demanding, so it was a nice year for us to perform in different settings. We toured around the world and were able to entertain audiences without thinking about being judged. We were able to work with different choreographers and challenge ourselves through movement, so that’s been thrilling and something that has been very important for us because, if we do decide to come back and compete, we want to be ready. We want to be in top shape and we want to have challenged ourselves enough to stay at the top of our game – we’re both fierce competitors and we both have that drive. We miss it more than either of us really anticipated.
Q: How do you feel you can manage your time if you do choose to compete?
A: If we do choose to come back, that will be our full-time job. We will dive and put everything else on hold. That has to be the priority – you can’t be involved in sport or pursuing the Olympics without that singular focus.
Q: How does it feel to not have to be constantly training?
A: It’s liberating! It’s been really refreshing, but slightly unsettling as well because [Scott and I] have always had a common goal in mind and we’ve always woken up every single day – 50 weeks of the year – pursuing that one goal and that one dream. I went from having that one full-time job to several part-time jobs because I’m doing so many different projects. It’s been enlightening because I’ve learned a lot about myself, but also humbling because I’ve been so competent in one realm for such a long time that it’s interesting to realize that there’s a huge, big world out there outside of the sport and so many challenges that I’d like to tackle.
Q: You’re currently enrolled in a psychology program at the University of Windsor. What do you plan on doing with your degree?
A: I’m about one semester from finishing my degree – although it might take a bit longer because I’m not able to take five classes at once – but that’s motivating and I’m really looking forward to getting my degree. There is so much more in the academic setting that I’d like to do one day; school will be a part of my life for a long time to come. I love it and it has created a healthy balance for me.
Q: Why did you choose to pursue psychology?
A: I’ve always been interested in psychology. It’s so applicable to everything, and I love learning about individuals and about how people function in a society – what their coping mechanism are, what their strengths are. I always want to know peoples’ stories. I just like to observe and understand people at a different level, so psychology was a natural fit. Also, because I was in the sport world for so long, it was important for me to find the place where I got into the zone and the right mental frame of mind to compete at my best and train every day.