Rocksteady: the continuing evolution of Boh Runga

Boh Runga Rocksteady Collection

Boh Runga

From growing up in Hornby Christchurch to a stint living in LA and exploring all facets of music and creativity along the way, Boh Runga is undoubtedly New Zealand rockstar royalty, so it’s somewhat fitting that her newest jewellery collection is entitled Rocksteady.

Celebrating an impressive 15 years of Boh Runga jewellery, the Rocksteady collection honours five designs that have become iconic to the brand and also pays homage to the evolution of Boh Runga, both personally and as a jewellery brand.

Having shot into the New Zealand spotlight in the ’90s alongside sister Bic Runga, the pair enjoyed international success and recognition for their individual musical achievements: Boh winning the Best Female Vocalist at the 2000 New Zealand Music Awards and Bic taking out the International Achievement Award.

While music remains integral to their lives, Boh has pursued other artistic pursuits, with designing Boh Runga jewellery at the heart of this. Her dual loves remain intertwined though, and while she still writes and performs music, her love of storytelling is infused through both her music and jewellery.

From the original Birdland collection in 2007 (Boh’s love of New Zealand birds remains a strong inspiration today) to the iconic Feather Kiss cross Miromiro feathers, Boh’s jewellery designs have graced the fingers, necks, and wrists of everyday Kiwis as well as international celebrities.

Boh Runga Rocksteady Collection

Boh Runga’s fearless attitude was evident from a young age and
translates across her musical and jewellery design accomplishments

Partnering with other creatives is always a source of delight for Boh, and she frequently embraces collaborations (or Bohlaborations as the designer who is fond of a name pun prefers).

While building her business for the past 15 years, Boh never stopped singing or playing the guitar. Now she’s returned to the recording studio, with her rendition of Aretha Franklin’s, ‘Rock Steady’ co-produced with P-Money (Akon, Scribe, David Dallas).

“I’ve had the opportunity in the past to sing Rock Steady live, the most recent with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra at their Aretha show in July of last year. It was such fun. It reminded me how much I truly love the song. I danced so hard, I broke a heel, but thankfully, it didn’t give out completely ’til I got off the stage and back to the dressing room.

“No one can top Aretha; all that energy in the instrumentation and that grit and growl in her voice in Rock Steady is amazing. The version I’ve done with Peter is a wee twist on all that is familiar, the melodies are there, sure, but our take on it is a wee side step, a slinky, pared-back tribute.”

Rock Steady is available now on all streaming platforms.

As Boh colours outside the lines of her music and business, she shows that sometimes it’s good to reinvent the wheel. Launching lifestyle brand ’bohboh’, podcast ‘bohboh radio’, a new ‘Bohsé’ wine release, and a bohlaboration with Cadbury, Boh has proven the malleability of her creativity.

FashioNZ finds out more.

Boh Runga Rocksteady Collection

Rocked Perfect Circle Harmony Pendant and Rocked Miromiro Amulet

Do you have a personal favourite piece from across your 15 years of designing?

One of my favourite pieces is Te Huia, the ‘big sister’ version earrings, which are completely unlike anything else I’ve designed before. They are very contemporary and I wear the gold-tipped version a lot when I play shows or do public appearances at events. They never fail to get comments. The smaller, more everyday version is the pair that Dame Lisa Carrington wore when she won gold at the Olympics. That was a thrill!

What part of the evolution of Boh Runga jewellery has been most satisfying?

The fact that the jewellery is still here and going strong brings me much joy. I didn’t really expect it but, of course, hoped that people would like what I was doing. When you don’t have a background in design, it is very rewarding to find that people respond so well and relate to what I created and they still do. It’s humbling.

Has the evolution of Boh Runga gone in a different direction than you imagined it would when you launched 15 years ago?

It has gone in a better direction, but it has taken a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of commitment. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take the brand on board myself a few years back and invited my friend Toyah Attwell to help me shake it up. I didn’t have as much control over the representation of Boh Runga jewellery until then, even though it was my name and my designs. It has taken great leaps and bounds since.

Boh Runga Rocksteady Collection

Rocked Fantail Midi Earrings and Droplet Hooplet

Which part of the process do you enjoy most and why?

I love the initial ideas that can ping around in my mind for a bit until the edges form and there’s clarity. The dreaming part. I don’t write anything down or draw anything until I can see it clearly enough in my mind’s eye. Not all of my ideas fly, though, but when they do, it’s creatively satisfying.

What do you find particularly fascinating about birds as inspiration? 

Have you ever been hang-gliding? I have, with my sister Bic, when we were in Queenstown for a writing sabbatical. She finished her hit song ‘Get Some Sleep’ and we dialled in massages and made a lot of scones. Between scone batches, we decided to go hang-gliding and it was one of the most beautiful experiences either of us had felt before. Your body is completely parallel to the ground, not like para-gliding where you’re seated in a swing seat. You can control your speed by lifting the nose of the glider or tilting it down so that bird-like feeling of freedom is exhilarating. You get an inkling of how a bird may feel skimming the tops of trees, cutting through the air.  How lucky are birds that experience that freedom every day?

How important is the support crew around you to your creativity?

Incredibly important. When I first started with The New Zealand Mint, I was lucky enough to have an amazing team of jewellers troubleshoot for me. I was inexperienced, with no knowledge of the nitty gritty of manufacturing. Everyone was patient and accepting. Nowadays, we have the same kind of support in the creation side of things, but we are also lucky to have a very dedicated team who work for us too, from the shop floor in the Bohtique to the everyday running and making things happen. It takes good people to make it work and Toyah and I are very grateful for that.

Boh Runga Rocksteady Collection

Rocked Feather Kiss Cross Ring (front and back)

What do you enjoy most about Bohlabs? Do you have a dream Bohlab?

I love the chats around what we can do together. Two separate entities coming together to come up with something we can both be proud of is great fun. As for a dream Bohlab, Elon… call me.

What’s inspiring you at the moment?

Where I am living. I am madly in love with it. My partner and I just moved to a wee farmlet – a 1.5-hectare property – and we cannot believe our luck. There’s a lot of work involved with the place (grass never sleeps) but the feel of the house and our surroundings, with birdsong and the greenery, makes us so very happy.

How important is music to your life and why?

Maybe not as much as people may think. I get to hang out with the Stellar* guys as we have a lot of gigs happening for us almost every summer, now, which we really enjoy, but I don’t listen to music on a regular basis except when I drive anywhere. Driving and music go hand in hand. I have really enjoyed working with P-Money on the Rock Steady song, tho, and that makes me want to do more with my time in the studio. I have written a song inspired by my jewellery collection ‘Lotus and the Snowbird’ – it’s so catchy, I just need to record it. We’ve got an amazing studio at home, so no excuse; just need to find the time.

Boh Runga Rocksteady Collection

Perfect Circle Harmony Pendant and Rocked Droplet Hooplet

How and why did bohboh baby come to be?

Baby clothing and accessories are bloody adorable. Who doesn’t love little booties and cute baby items? It seemed like a natural progression from the popularity of the Marigold Bohlab with Anika Moa to think about branching out in this way. Now that some of us at BRD have little ones of our own, it’s even better and more fitting.

What inspired Rocksteady and what delights you most about this collection?

The people who have time and time again gone back to these pieces are who inspired this little capsule range. The Droplet, Miromiro feather, Perfect Circle, Fan Tail, and the Feather Kiss are our most-loved designs so we wanted to do a reiteration of these favourites but give them a celebratory edge ‘rocked’ in stones to celebrate being here for 15 years. Thank you so much, everybody, for your incredible support. Here’s to 15 more years.

Images supplied