“They’re individual works of art.”
Jill Killeen has never considered herself a collector. In fact, when FASHION reached out to the principal of Killeen Communication Strategies about being featured, she was shocked. “Doesn’t everyone have 187 brooches?” she laughs. They certainly do not.
Killeen, who grew up in a small town in New Brunswick, doesn’t describe her childhood home as a particularly fashionable one but shares that both of her grandmothers took their style quite seriously. She likens her maternal one to Midge from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in that she was a quintessential ’50s woman. “She was always in a skirt and sweater — I rarely saw her in pants.”
Killeen would often borrow her grandmother’s book on royalty and pore over the pages that featured Grace Kelly. She was so inspired that she admits to sneaking into the matriarch’s room and trying on the small tiara she kept hidden in a set of drawers. “It was the first piece of truly sparkling jewellery that I ever saw,” she reflects. “I was instantly captivated by it.”
While Killeen certainly got her soft spot for sparkles from her mom’s mom, it was her paternal grandmother who first introduced her to the wonderful world of pins — albeit the big floral kind à la Carrie Bradshaw. But it wasn’t until Killeen was in her late teens and going to school in Toronto that she purchased her first “real” brooch. “It was probably around $20, but back in the mid-’80s, that was all my grocery money for a week so I had to have a layaway plan,” she laughs.
Fast-forward a few years (after a move to Vancouver) and Killeen has become a bona fide brooch biographer. Her expertise is unparalleled; she effortlessly labels and describes each stone and the significance of its design as if she were a museum curator conducting a tour. Her collection is mainly concentrated on pieces from the 1950s (consider it her maternal grandmother’s influence), with an emphasis on Canadian costume-jewellery designer Gustave Sherman. Her bejewelled bounty also includes items from more modern masterminds, like Alan Anderson, whom Killeen used to work with. “I was never paid in money; I was paid with jewellery — and that worked out just fine for me,” she laughs.
Killeen finds other brooches at vintage stores and online marketplaces like eBay. The key, she says, is never to go searching for something specific. “When I’m looking at a tray of pins, I very quickly know which one I want,” she reveals. “It’s an immediate connection — I’m drawn to it.”
What exactly is she drawn to? She says, staying true to her younger self: “It’s the sparkle, the design and the way the pieces make me feel. When you put on something that makes you feel powerful, you believe you can take on the world. I hope that every time I walk into a room, I’m making a statement. I want what I’m wearing to start great conversations, and I’ve met some great people because of that.”
As such, Killeen’s advice for those who want to jump on the brooch bandwagon is to start with something that you love, even if it’s small. “People think that these pieces should be saved for special occasions, but I have no fear wearing them every day,” she says. “Brooches are accessible at all levels. Find your entry point, and if it makes you feel special, wear it.”
This article first appeared in FASHION’s Winter 2024 issue. Find out more here.