Grace Dermott talks to the Studio 59 founder and design lead about how the business came about, the importance of the back story and her aspirations for the future of the business. Jackie and Julia founded Studio 59 this year
stylish ethical different
Grace Congratulations on the launch of Studio 59. Tell me about how you first discovered the jewellery?
Jackie Julia and I went on holiday to rural south west France. Julia is my friend and partner in Studio 59. The nearest place to where we were staying was a very small town called Lagrasse with this amazing shop run by fashion designer Beverly Smart. Beverly sells her own clothes designs in the shop and wonderful jewellery from South Africa. We visited the shop several times during our stay and both bought jewellery exceeding our normal budget. When we got home and started wearing it we received lots of positive comments
Grace Does Beverly design the jewellery?
Jackie Yes, some of it. There is a really good story behind the jewellery. A lot of it is made from recycled materials – tyres, telegraph wire, recycled metal – all sorts of different materials. Even better is that it is supporting local communities and the money is going back to families and helping with children’s education
Grace Wow. Great story. How do we get from visiting a shop in France to launching Studio 59?
Jackie Julia and I have worked together before and have always wanted to start a business together. We decided we would like to launch a business selling this jewellery which is very different and not available on the high street. We went back to Lagrasse to work with Beverly and to develop and finalise our first order. We decided we would launch a website – not a natural progression for either of us as we both have established careers in very different arenas but we both felt passionate about the jewellery – the style of it, the use of materials that would otherwise go to landfill, the creation of work for the mainly female artisans in South Africa
Grace There is the jewellery which is fabulous. There is also a range of homewares – what is the story with those? I don’t think they come from the same place as the jewellery
Jackie The homewares come from my daughter’s former business Homes With Style. We bought limited quantities of homewares that we both liked – anything from tea lights, vases, kitchen items, things for the garden and some individual glass pieces made by my daughter. Our original premise was that we would buy in small quantities. My daughter and I both have design backgrounds and felt it was important that we both liked the products and that they were well co-ordinated. We sold mainly through shows and fairs in the south of England
Grace When I look at the website what I see there is a collection of products, whether that is homewares or jewellery, that have a certain style, that are unusual and that to me are things people would be interested in buying. I see the link between the jewellery and the homewares as being about a certain kind of style or design ethos. What are your plans for developing Studio 59?
Jackie We are particularly interested in supporting local artisans and artisans across the world. I have a passion for design – I really like things that are well-made. I am tired of mass produced stuff that you see in high street shops. I would like to do something to build a reputation for really good affordable design, supporting artisan and local communities. My thoughts are to expand into more ceramics, more jewellery, millinery, glassware, original art and recycled textiles.
Grace Do you want to talk about the headbands?
Jackie I have a friend called Vanessa Meyer who I used to work with – she has retrained as a milliner. She makes amazing hats and featured in London Hat Week this year. Her hats are truly a work of art. She is developing a range of headbands made from surplus leather off-cuts from the glove making industry. They are beautiful and fit all head sizes. We have initially commissioned three headbands and they will be available on the Studio 59 website soon
Grace What do you think the challenges are for a business like Studio 59? The internet is quite a crowded place. You have already differentiated yourselves from what is available on the high street
Jackie Getting our name out there is the main challenge. Julia and I are really encouraged by the feedback we get from friends, colleagues and complete strangers about the jewellery. Julia works in London a lot and is often asked on the tube or in shops and cafes about the jewellery. We had business cards printed with the Studio 59 website and logo so that we can give a card to anyone who comments on the jewellery. I think it is going to be a slow start – word of mouth and internet profiles take time to build. We are planning to do some events, maybe some pop-up shops
Grace What do you think the difference is between shopping online and going to a shop? Things seem to have shifted very much in the direction of online shopping. But our generation have always gone to shops and touched and felt and looked before deciding to buy. Do you think that is going to be an issue?
Jackie We have spent a lot of time on the website and hope that will inspire people to buy. Of course, it is easier if people can see and touch the jewellery but online shopping is so established now that we don’t see that this will be an issue
Grace I like the website very much
Jackie We have been very careful about photographing the jewellery – a mixture of close up product shots and shots of someone wearing the piece. It is always good to see it on a real person. I don’t feel it is the right time at the moment to open a shop – it is something we originally discussed but then decided against. We have the legacy of Brexit – lots of negativity, rates very high, people feeling nervous about money
Grace It is a difficult time. What about the Tupperware party approach?
Jackie Possibly. I have done party plan stuff before – for Virgin Vie make-up. The trick is to have the right audience – one who wants to buy your type of product
Grace The key thing with a small business like Studio 59 is to ensure that sales are not just confined to your wider friendship group. You need to establish it beyond those parameters otherwise it doesn’t stand as a business – it is just a service for your friends. I guess that getting it known in the wider world is not easy. Not On the High Street is a classic example of retail business on the internet that has really taken off. It is about social media; it is about search engine optimisation – all new concepts for our generation – things we would not even have known about a few years ago
Jackie I think the story behind the jewellery is very powerful. When I explain to people that for example the Re-tyre range is made from recycled tyres and inner tubes that otherwise would have been burnt or put in landfill they are always intrigued. It is wonderful that they have found a way to re-use waste rubber in such an unusual and creative way. The Re-tyre range is hand-made and the care that goes into making each piece is extraordinary. Once you explain all that – they are really interested
Grace When I looked at the re-tyre range I was amazed how some of it was quite sturdy big-statement stuff and some of it was quite delicate
Jackie Yes, the lace necklace for example is very light and delicate. The first thing I ever bought was the rubber chain necklace three years ago. I have worn it a lot and it has aged nicely. People always comment on it. The rubber can also be extremely feminine – there is a lovely shard necklace that we do which is more of a choker style – it is made from fragments of rubber and is a great statement piece
Grace I bought the shard necklace myself and I wear it a lot at work and in the evening. It always draws appreciative comments and people are astonished to learn that it is made from recycled tyres. Rubber is an amazing material for jewellery it would appear. I know you have spent quite a bit of time on how the goods should be packaged – do you want to tell us about that?
Jackie We agreed not to use any plastic – we package very simply in recycled tissue paper and recycled cardboard boxes. We use shredded material instead of bubble wrap
Grace I know this is not the only strand of your working lives and that you and Julia are both busy doing other things which have nothing to do with jewellery, homewares or retail. Do you see it as a future possibility that if Studio 59 really took off that would be your sole work?
Jackie Yes. I trained and worked as a designer and also taught design in secondary schools. Latterly I have been working training teachers. The Studio 59 business is a passion and if it really takes off I will be happy to concentrate solely on that. Julia is still doing her workplace change management but we are both fully committed to Studio 59 and are prepared to invest the time and effort to ensure its success
Grace For me running that sort of business allows you to manage your time, work from your home office, be flexible with other commitments, – a good way to work
Jackie A 2019 way to work
Jackie I would like Studio 59 to develop and grow so that Julia and I could travel, sourcing products and working with the artisan communities to sell their products
Grace Thank you Jackie – I wish you all the best with this new business and look forward to seeing how things unfold