Chrissie Vreeker & Rachelle Bleeker

I interviewed my Dutch friends Chrissie Vreeker (1988) and Rachelle Bleeker (1989), at The Hoxton Hotel in Amsterdam, about their beautiful jewellery brand called BY1OAK. The two girls, both with a great sense of style, have been best friends since they were little girls. After finishing high school they decided to study English together in New York. Once they got back in The Netherlands they decided to start their own jewellery brand BY1OAK. Read everything about it and find out their favorite hotspots in Amsterdam below!

When you grew up, what was your dream job?

Rachelle: ‘I have always known that I wanted to start my own company. I come from a very entrepreneurial family, both my father and mother are entrepreneurs, my father owned a few car companies and my mother a store. I very much liked the idea of having your own company and being independent.  

Chrissie: ‘My interest in jewellery started early on, because of my mother. My mother had a great sense of style, she worked in fashion, she represented women’s fashion brands. I absolutely loved her jewellery when I was a little girl. She had bracelets with handmade charms and earrings with diamonds, pearls and ruby gems. Necklaces with different lengths, made out of different materials. Each piece, in her jewellery box, had its own story and I wanted to know everything about it. When I was 15 years old I started working in a small jewellery store on Saturdays, I not only helped in sales, but I also designed jewellery. It was a great experience.’

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How did you come up with the idea of starting your own jewelry brand?
After finishing high school, we decided to study English in New York. We had the time of our life. New York is such a vibrant and lively city, full of adventures and inspiring people. We spotted beautiful jewellery while we were there, a certain style we couldn’t find in The Netherlands. We were so inspired after our New York adventure that we started making our own jewellery, inspired by the jewellery we saw in New York. Our friends loved it and wanted to have it too, so we made it for them. Soon after that a stylist of Grazia wanted to use our jewellery for a photoshoot, that was the moment we decided to start our own brand.

Wow, so suddenly you had your own jewelry brand. What was that like?
Very cool, we couldn’t have made a better decision! We were quite young (Chrissie 21, Rachelle 20 years old) when we started. At first BY1OAK was a side project, simply because we had to make money first. So we both had other jobs, which was good, because we were able to learn and gain more knowledge. The brand grew very organically. We put a lot of effort in finding the right materials and suppliers as quality is very important to us. We launched a webshop and fashion magazines started to feature our products in their magazines. Subsequently, we started to select stockists in The Netherlands, stores that understand and fit the brand and its style. Last year, we both decided to work full-time for BY1OAK, that was quite a milestone for us.

How did you come up with the name BY1OAK?
The meaning of 1OAK is ‘One of a kind’. Every piece in our collection is handmade and every gem in our jewelry is unique, each stone has its own colour, size and meaning. The name totally fits the concept. And 1OAK was the night club in New York where we danced (many!) nights away, that was a nice detail for us too, we have great memories about that time.  

What’s the signature style of BY1OAK?
It’s a mix of the sophisticated and classic French style with a New York twist, as the gipsy’s in Williamsburg. We always look for a tension between two extremes. All jewellery is refined, petite and has a certain personality, something unique. It gives an edge to your everyday look.

Can you tell us more about the design process?
Of course! We design the jewellery in our studio in Amsterdam and we outsource the crafting, but there are always pieces we want to create ourselves as we love to keep that ‘One of a kind’ feeling. We have always looked for new materials all over the world, because we come up with the most creative and crazy ideas when we work with new and different kinds of materials. As we are designing we filter these ideas in order to create something great. Every piece of jewellery is inspired by a moment in our life, so it’s all very personal. You can find it in the names we give to the jewellery, for example: Midnight in Paris, Better together, Catch me if you can, Five of us, Dreams are coming true, Flower power & Into the night.

Who is your customer?
Our jewellery is very accessible, because it’s subtle and timeless. Our customer could be a classic and elegant woman who wears the ‘Full Moon Party’ or ‘Simply Perfect’ necklaces or an online fashion influencer who wears our classic items together with a sharktooth. There is something for everyone.

Who’s your style icon?
Jane Birkin! We love her style. It was simple, timeless and every look had a little joke you wouldn’t notice at once. It’s all in the details.

 How do you divide your work?
Chrissie is the creative director and Rachelle is responsible for the business side of BY1OAK. It’s a perfect combination, we complement each other. We have the same vision and we both want to take one step at a time, and because of that we are able to grow organically.

What do you find the most challenging about entrepreneurship?
Each day is a new challenge, in every way, you have to be on top of everything. And as business partners it is very important to always have the same vision and goals.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Our pop-up store, in The Hoxton Hotel in Amsterdam, that we organised in December 2015. It was our first pop-up and a huge success.

What is the most rewarding of all your hard work?
The feedback from happy customers, we just love it. It’s so great to see our jewellery on people and to hear that they enjoy wearing it. And we love seeing our products featured in magazines.

How do you disconnect from work?
As an entrepreneur you always think about work, but we know it’s important to unwind – especially to get inspired. We come up with the best ideas when we have a day off or when we are on holiday, so we make sure to do that once in awhile.

What are your dreams for the future?
We want to grow, one step at a time. Everything we do is carefully thought-out. We find it very important to retain the ‘One of a kind’ feeling. This coming year we will focus on countries outside The Netherlands, we will launch our webshop in English and visit potential stockists in Europe. And we will launch a 14K gold collection this year, which we are very excited about! So, great things are going to happen!

by1oak / Amsterdam

Healthy: the cold pressed juicery

The tastiest and healthiest raw food, cold pressed juices and superfood smoothies to go.

Willemsparkweg 8H (Amsterdam Zuid)

by1oak / Amsterdam

Lunch: de wasserette

Especially in the summer a great place to have lunch, because they have a nice terrace. The chicken/avocado sandwich is our favourite.

Eerste van der Helststraat 27 (Pijp)

by1oak / Amsterdam

Cocktails: Door 74

The best cocktails are served at this beautiful cocktailbar/speakeasy.

Reguliersdwarsstraat 74I (A’dam Center)

by1oak / Amsterdam

Brunch: Drovers Dog

A very cosy Australian cafe, a perfect place to have brunch and hangout on Sundays.

Eerste Atjehstraat 62 (Amsterdam Oost)

by1oak / Amsterdam

Coffee: Scandinavian Embassy

The most delicious coffee, made by pros.

Sarphatipark 34 (A’dam, Pijp)

By1oak / Amsterdam

Dinner: Morgan & Mees

We love Morgan & Mees! Delicious food and great service. A perfect atmosphere, in the winter as well as the summer.

Tweede Hugo de Grootstraat 2 (A’dam West)