Our #MVPtoVIP series celebrates the inspirational journeys of some of the fantastic founders in our Farillio network.
This time, we're chatting to Nicola Rees, founder of Edith and Kiveen. Get to know her better below...
Who's your role model in business?
Annoushka Ducas founder of Links, then her own brand Annoushka and was on the steering committee of Lord Davies 2011 review of women on boards.
If you could change one thing about your startup story, what would it be?
I’d have had more time before launch, but then I did impose my own deadline!
Laptop or notebook?
An app that you have used recently?
What's one thing you couldn't live without?
On the basis my husband is not a thing!, jewellery of course!
Tell us a little bit about Edith & Kiveen – what inspired you to take the leap from the corporate world to jewellery?
I’ve always been passionate about jewellery, my grandmother who was an artist introduced me to gemstones before I was 10 – she is the Kiveen in Edith & Kiveen, Edith being my other grandmother. I had always promised myself I would turn my passion into a business one day.
What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of being a business owner?
For me, it is the administrative side. My clients will tell you they can wait a long time for an invoice, I really hate that bit.
I guess the other challenging aspect for me is that Edith & Kiveen is just one of a number of things I do and I need to learn not to put it to the bottom of the pile. I have a tendency to give everyone else’s business priority over my own!
One of the main things Edith & Kiveen does it take jewellery that people don't wear and redesigns them, reusing the original materials to create a piece that is new but still holds such sentimental value for the owner.
What gave you the idea to repurpose jewellery that has a story behind it?
Many of the world’s most famous pieces like the Hope Diamond & the 287-carat yellow diamond Lady Gaga wore at the Oscars have been remodelled over the years, so it is not a new idea.
If anything, though, it has become less common in recent years to remodel pieces and I think that is a real shame because it leads to pieces languishing in safes and jewellery boxes because people are frightened to change them.
The most popular remodelling is 'Grannie’s engagement ring' that you would never wear as is, but which, when remodelled, makes a lovely necklace you can wear lots! I’m sure she would prefer it was worn!
It will hard to pick just one, but what has been the most amazing story or piece of jewellery that you have worked with?
That is a hard one, may I have two?!
The first was a client’s existing row of pearls given to her by her husband but, as she put it, she just wasn’t a pearl person but didn’t want to remodel it completely as she knew her husband would want her to wear it occasionally.
We, therefore, worked on a design to make another necklace that incorporated some of the pearls, her children’s initials and some really funky stones with an identical clasp to the original necklace so they could be attached and worn as one long very funky piece or detached and worn as two separate necklaces.
The other was three engagement rings: a mother’s, grandmothers and the client’s own, which we made into a single ring for the client, so she kept both her mother and grandmother with her always. She wears it every day!
What’s the most alarming thing anyone’s said to you in business?
A friend of a friend was very alarmed to hear that I had used an ancient arrowhead in a necklace when he thought it should be in a museum, but the truth of the matter is there are lots of these Neolithic arrowheads in drawers in museums whereas at least mine is on display for all to see!
What's the oldest piece of jewellery that you have redesigned? What was the story behind it?
If it is really, really old I probably would not redesign it as so much of its value and interest would be in the original design of the piece – apart from the arrowheads of course!
Alongside redesigning, you also create original pieces of jewellery. (Our favourite is Whirlpool, a truly gorgeous ring from the Aurora Collection!)
Where do you get inspiration from for the pieces in your collections?
Another difficult one! Nature is one of the obvious answers. Often, I wake up with a really clear design in my head and I have no idea where it came from.
But, probably the least likely source of inspiration is that I’m often inspired by Michael Portillo’s colour combinations on his Great British Railway Journeys TV programme. In one episode, he wore a pistachio green jacket and cinnamon trousers and I instantly reached for my peridots and caramel moonstones!
How do you move from an idea on paper to the finished product? And what steps do you take along your journey?
It depends whether anyone wants to see the design before the piece is made! If they do I will refine the original sketch into a scale drawing either in colour or with the stones on the drawing to give the best likeness to the finished piece. If they don’t I work with my goldsmith refining the piece as it takes shape.
Of course, there are so many different types of jewellery – but what are your favourite processes and tools that you use for such small and intricate designs?
The process varies from piece to piece and, for commissions, from client to client. It starts in my head and with some rough sketches, I then find the stones and actually place the stones on the drawing. I then work very closely with the goldsmith, so I give him the drawing but will look at the piece at each stage to make sure it looks as I visualised (and/or the client’s vision) and it is comfortable.
I’m obsessed with pieces being comfortable, and have lost count of the number of times I have returned pieces to the goldsmith to have bits smoothed out!
My favourite parts are the very beginning when the idea is formed really clearly in my head and the very end when I know the client is happy with the piece.
Since the start of your journey in 2012, what has been the most valuable piece of legal advice you've received?
Getting my terms and conditions in place, beautifully drafted by my husband, who received a pair of cufflinks in lieu of fees!
What advice would you give to someone starting their own business?
Be really organised before you launch (I probably wasn’t!), take time to get processes in place, have a dry run/dress rehearsal if possible, and always remember you’re doing it because you love it, especially when you’re doing the bits you don’t like, and don’t apologise for sending invoices out as I do!
Lastly, what do you think the future holds for Edith & Kiveen?
I would like it to grow organically and gracefully.
I never want the business to be a high street name or brand; I love the personal aspect of the business too much, but it would be wonderful to employ a team of like-minded people and bring on new talent in jewellery design and continue to rescue those unused, and sometimes unloved, pieces and bring them out into the sunshine!
Thank you so much, Nicola, for taking the time to let us interview you! It has been so wonderful getting an insight into your incredible business and founder story.
We're now off to go to find some jewellery that needs repurposing because your designs are so gorgeous!