Tessa Packard: “My jewellery is everything that inspires me”

I came across Tessa Packard‘s jewellery collections and absolutely felt in love with them! Her pieces are literally yummy and girly, definitely outstanding and I’m sure her young brand will get its place in the jewellery market. Her items are contemporary and statement and designed to express your personality.

-          How did you get an idea to launch a jewellery brand?

I’ve always had a pipe dream to be an accessories designer. When I was much younger I spent hours designing bags, shoes and jewellery. After I left school the idea was always at the back of my mind to be a designer but I think sometimes in life you can get side tracked or influenced by what are perceived to be more sensible job options – opportunities with less risk and more security than starting your own fine jewellery house – so instead I did a degree in History of Art (another great passion of mine) with a view to working in the commercial art world, which I subsequently enjoyed over four years.

Although I loved my stint in the art world, I began to really missed drawing and designing. The commercial art world is a very creative place, but because I wasn’t running my own gallery I didn’t have the greatest opportunity to make many curatorial choices, which isn’t a criticism – it’s just the way it worked. But this creative frustration did spur me into thinking about my career, my future and what I really wanted to do.

Jewellery, for me, was the most interesting of the accessories. As a discipline, it appealed to me because of its autonomy and timelessness – fine jewellery is not dictated by trends or seasons, nor is it seasonal. It’s sculpture in miniature.

TP (1)-          Do you still have in mind one day to launch handbags and shoes design?

There’s a part of me that would like to do lots of things. I would love to be an interior designer, a fashion editor, a shoe designer and guest stylist amongst others! I find all design fascinating – from home accessories to Modernist architecture. But my belief is that you have to concentrate on one thing first and get that really right before expending your menu card. Having only launched three years ago, I am still establishing my name as a fine jeweller. Having said that, I am always open to participating in interesting design collaborations, whether that be jewel-encrusted candles or leather goods. Perhaps one day I will dabble with the idea of home-wares or fashion accessories, but it it’s not something that I’m rushing into right now. These developments have to be organic and complimentary to the brand.

What I would really love to own is a successful concept store – a space that sold everything from art to jewellery, furniture to clothes – that would be like walking into my head space. A little slice of everything that I love, the objects that inspire me and the things I want to live alongside. It would all be me.

-          Jewellery market is already quite saturated. Haven’t you been afraid of being competitive enough to get your place in there?

You are completely right, the jewellery market is incredibly saturated. I think the last fives years has seen a huge increase in what I would call ‘young, independent brands’ – such as my own – emerging on the scene. On the one hand that’s great because its exciting to be part of a new generation of innovative jewellers, many of whom I respect and admire; on the other hand it makes life a little more complicated because I have to shine through everyone else.

Establishing your own brand – in whatever industry – is competitive, but the only thing you can ever really do is work as hard as you can, try and be the best that you can, as well as the most inventive. The fear of failure fuels me as much as the dream of success. And you have to dream big because otherwise what’s the point?

In terms of my designs, I do not follow trends. I do not think commercially – for me that would be the quickest way of losing designer autonomy and individuality. Commerciality breeds generic-looking jewellery. I would say my design aesthetic is wearable, statement jewellery – the kind of ring that can take you from a casual lunch with the girls to a gallery opening or black tie ball. The pieces are unique and independent because that’s what I like wearing. And design integrity is everything to me.

IMG_1169-          What makes your designs outstanding?

For me, a jewellery collection is not just a group of similar-looking pieces on a table. A collection is the culmination or all your thematic research and your design process, as well as the final product. It’s the months running up to a launch, the hours spent researching names for my pieces as well as working on my collection sketchbook. Jewellery should be more than just a combination of beautifully constructed metal and gemstones, It should have narrative integrity – a story behind it. I want people to wear my jewellery and be inspired to tell their friend the story behind it. I like style that has meaning.

Bespoke design is a totally different sector; here the design of a piece is a partnership between a client’s brief and my interpretation of it. It’s a completely different challenge.

20aeee9a2c0d35c7034972c99fcf7976-          Most of your collections are quite girly, are your customers younger and feminine?

I can usually identify which of my collections will appeal the most to a client. My audience can vary between collections because they are thematically very different. For example, my ‘Mexicana’ collection is geometric and modernist in feel and attracts clients that perhaps prefer clean and bold forms; my second collection on the other hand is inspired by flowers and the Orient and is much more decorative and opulent – it’s a much more girly collection. ‘Predator/Prey’ is edgier – little wasps with stings; last year’s ‘Fat Free’ collection was by comparison very pop having been inspired by my love for candy and American pop art. Each of the collections represent different facets of my own personality and style. Some days I might channel the rock chick, other days I’m a bit of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’ girl in pearls and a little tailored dress.

Every so often I am completely surprised by a purchase. I recently had an older lady buy one of our ‘Eat me’ rings; another time a septuagenarian purchased one of my most modernist pieces. I’ve had a ninety-year old man commissioned me to do a brooch for his Golden wedding anniversary which was pretty modern. So there isn’t always a formula. My clients buying habits can be quite eclectic.

-          How do you get customers?

When I first launched my business I relied upon world of mouth for my initial sales. Whilst word of mouth is still a very powerful medium for me (and certainly brings in most of my bespoke commissions) we have diversified enormously and now attract new clients through other avenues such as press, marketing, collaborations and events.

As most of my jewellery is sold either by private appointment or at private events, one of my greatest priorities is the face-to-face relationship I have with my clients. Whilst all our jewellery is available to purchase online, e-commerce is still an area we are developing and constantly updating to better reflect the brand.

This year a focus is to expand our international client base through targeted press campaigns and non-UK events.

-          Would you like to sale via department store?

In short, no, or at least not in the conventional sense. I did approach several retailers when I first started with a view to selling my jewellery through them. Aside from one boutique, the terms of sale I was consistently offered was consignment (or ‘sale or return’) which did not work for me as I neither carry a huge inventory of stock, nor do I have the financial means to make large quantities of stock without the guarantee of sale. So after a season and a half of speaking to retailers I completely restructured my business plan and removed the wholesale element from it. This is turn allowed me to reduce the price of most of my pieces because I no longer had to factor in the retailer’s mark up.

What I would be interested in doing is guest-designing a collection with a retailer or boutique. I’ve done guest designing for other jewellery brands but never a boutique. That would be fun.

IMG_1215SMALL- Would you like to launch male jewellery?

We do design and sell cufflinks, but no other male jewellery. Originally I designed cufflinks for girls to wear – I think that subtle touch of gold on a blouse sleeve looks so elegant – but all the men bought them instead! To be honest, I don’t know if I want to delve into the male jewellery sector with regards to my mainline collections. Cufflinks aside, men’s jewellery is not an area I am particularly passionate about, nor know much about. Most of my male clients are not the jewellery wearing type. Saying that, I’d be more than happy to work with a male client on a bespoke piece of jewellery.

- What’s your favourite gemstone?

I love black sapphires. They are an elegant, deep, inky-blue. In the past, not many fine jewellers used black sapphires in their jewellery as they were considered inferior quality to their more traditional, cornflower-blue cousins, but I consider them to be very versatile and chic everyday stones. I also love aquamarines and citrines when paired with yellow gold.

IMG_3968Diamonds are, of course, wonderful, but I think they look best when they are not overworked. A diamond cocktail ring is a beautiful thing, but it’s not always a versatile object. It doesn’t pair as easily with jeans and a white blouse as a black sapphire cocktail ring. My jewellery is about versatility – the ability to be able to wear the same piece of jewellery for lunch as for dinner. Most people do not have hundreds of thousands pounds to spend on fine jewellery, so what they do purchase needs to count.

The one stone I do not love is the opal. In fact, I would go as far as to say I hate opals, any opals. I know a jeweller should never say that, but I do! Of course I would work with them if asked with regards to a bespoke commission (it might even be an interesting design challenge for me to work with them) but I don’t think you will be seeing an opal anytime soon with any of our mainline collections.

- What’s the most extravagant item you’ve been asked to create?

I’ve had weird requests. Someone asked me to design a necklace using their children’s baby teeth. I politely refused but generally speaking I am open to any idea. Most of my bespoke requests are pretty sensible – more engagement rings than gemstone bras.

-          How do you see your brand in five years?

I’d like to say world domination but that might be a bit premature! I would like to have a larger showroom from which to operate; I would like to be better recognised internationally and perhaps be involved in a few more collaborations and guest design requests.

The dream is to one day have boutiques worldwide – Tessa Packard Paris, Tessa Packard New York, Tessa Packard Moscow – and be considered one of the great jewellery designers of my day. But one step at a time. Growing a brand is a marathon not a sprint and it’s important to be open to change and new opportunities.


Photographs: courtesy of Tessa Packard

Text: Irina Smith

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