We interviewed Estella Bartlett's creative director and co-founder, Louise, about her most treasured jewels, her industry tips, and her inspirations. Watch the video or read the transcript below:
Tell us about your creative style… what makes your collections unique in the industry?
I usually wear the same things to be honest: pair of jeans, my white Superga trainers, cashmere sweater, maybe a striped Breton top… always my Celine handbag, I’ve had the same one for ten years. Not exactly the same one, I’ve had a couple of manifestations of the same bag. And I’d say I take that approach to the way I design jewellery as well. So, the jewellery is quite simple, not too many details and it’s quite playful and hopefully chic at the same time.
What kind of person wears your jewellery?
Someone who is interested in fashion culture but not a slave to trends. And I’d say they like to make a delicate statement, but perhaps they want to add something lighthearted but stylish to their look.
As a creative director, where do you draw your inspiration from?
Oh, from so many places! Travel, especially. So I go to Paris about three times a year: I always go to the antique markets, Port de Clignancourt is my favourite. Department stores: I was gutted when Colette, this super cool concept store, closed down last year.
Where else? Rajasthan is probably my favourite place on earth, there’s this just incredible creative energy there. And Tokyo and Seoul – I’m often in Asia for work, so I find those places very inspiring as well.
Interiors have always been interesting… I read lots of interiors magazines and I’m currently obsessing over the home of New York designer Ulla Johnson. She has this brownstone in Brooklyn and it’s just amazing. You have to look at it and check it out on Instagram. Garance Dore’s in Los Angeles as well, have a look at hers.
I love photography and I’m really excited about Tim Walker’s exhibition at the V&A this year. And as well I’m really into embroidery at the moment so I’ve been making t-shirts for friends, and I follow a few people on Instagram and I’ve bought some of their work as well. And my old fashion college, the London College of Fashion, recently had this super cool exhibition called Subversive Stitch, so yeah, I’m really enjoying that at the moment.
What’s it like to see someone on the street wearing one of your creations?
Oh! Yeah, it’s lovely! I’m always in disbelief really. But it’s especially nice if someone looks super cool. And it gives me a real buzz to know that I’ve contributed to their look in a tiny way.
Who would you most like to see wearing your jewellery?
Probably… I think Martha Ward! She is fashion director of Conde Nast travel magazine and her style is so cool. It’s quite feminine but there’s also a strength to it as well, and a real British sensibility. I mean, she was shooting in Peru recently, and she can just look effortlessly stylish hugging a baby alpaca in the middle of nowhere. So yes, definitely her.
Who are your favourite designers?
At the moment, probably Ulla Johnson: so she is a designer based in New York, who I just mentioned, and her label has got this beautiful kind of bohemian vibe. She uses just wonderful prints, and embroidery… her creations are gorgeous. And as well, Maria Grazia Chiuri. She is the creative director of Christian Dior and she’s come from Valentino and she just creates these beautiful, kind of whimsical dresses that are emblazoned with embroidery, and I saw her work at the Victoria and Albert museum and it’s so beautiful. It was at the Christian Dior exhibition there last year – I went a few times to that.
What advice would you give to someone interested in getting into the jewellery design business?
I would say: find your niche. So you could think up a couple of words that describe your approach to jewellery design, and then ensure that everything you do is defined by those words. Invest in your branding, that’s very important! If you’re not so hot on the sort of numbers and finance side of the business, perhaps partner with someone who is, or definitely get some help and advice. So, my brother and I set up Estella Bartlett, and I’m rubbish at that sort of thing, but he is fantastic. And we now sell Estella Bartlett jewellery in Liberty, and in Nordstrom in America, so I would say play to your strengths.
What is your favourite piece you’ve ever created and what made it so special?
I think the first piece that comes to mind is a necklace that I designed probably about eight years ago. So there’s a bit of a backstory to it: in my early twenties I lived with my best friends, and one of the girls, Ally, moved to Hong Kong. So the first time she came back it was another one of our friends’ birthdays and we had such a fun weekend! We went to the theatre, had our nails done, we went to Columbia Road flower market. So to say thank you for putting her up, she bought me this plant with a tiny little pineapple growing out of the top of it. I loved it so much that I sketched it and had it made into a charm. So this was a long time before peak pineapple, but because it’s such a beautiful object in itself, I still wear it today and really love it. It’s personal to me because it just reminds me of my good friend and the really fun time we had that weekend.
What’s your jewellery philosophy… how do you like to wear your favourite pieces?
I’m quite minimal when it comes to jewellery I’d say, but I quite like to wear something fun at the same time. So it might be something like this, a very delicate chain with lots of really cute little charms on it, or it might be an emoji necklace. So generally I might wear two necklaces and have a simple chain and then layer something more substantial with it. And then maybe a delicate bracelet, perhaps something like this.
Do you have a most treasured item in your personal collection?
Oh I have so many! There are a few that are really special to me. So, the team at Estella Bartlett had a locket made for my birthday, and I wear that a lot. It’s just a one off piece, it’s really beautiful. As well I would probably say my engagement ring, so it’s an Edwardian ring that was made in 1905, and that was sort of the time that the Suffragette movement was taking off, and I know that in 1908 there was a march in Hyde Park that was the biggest demonstration that’s ever happened in the UK up until that point, demanding votes for women. So I hope that whoever wore my ring, when it was their ring, was a supporter of that cause. And it’s an old European cut diamond so it doesn’t sparkle like the diamonds of today, but I mean it really sparkles under candlelight and I quite like the romance of that.
What’s next? What’s your vision for the future of your brand?
Well, we recently launched some handbags and small accessories and I’m really pleased that they have been bought by some really great stores like Harrods and Liberty, and also some fashion stores like Topshop and Urban Outfitters. So, I’m going to be continuing to be concentrating on the jewellery, but also focus on these new areas of Estella Bartlett.