Best of British Q&A: Nathan Morse, Hannah Martin

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London jewellery brand partner on how to expand internationally.

The January issue of Professional Jeweller was all about celebrating British jewellery talent and looking at what UK companies can do to take their jewels global. Here Hannah Martin London partner Nathan Morse gives us an insight into the brand’s journey to selling its jewels all over the world.

Professional Jeweller: Hannah Martin London is already operating outside of the UK, but do you have plans to further develop this arm of the business?
Nathan Morse: Internationally we are very excited at the prospect of really focusing in on our key areas for expansion. We work with our incredible retailers quite closely, and the aim of the brand is to keep focus on the design and craftsmanship. Expansion through wholesale does factor in our expansion plans, but it is by no means the sole aim. We create to limited edition for the main London line, however with our new line HM SHOW line, we are able to work more seasonally, still with our select retailers. I would say that our own store is perhaps a few years off, but we are seriously considering the location.

PJ: Have you had much funding or guidance to help you take the brand abroad?
NM: We have made regular trips to the US, Japan and the Middle East off our own back to visit private clients, press and retailers. You need to be able to trust your gut in everything you do internationally, and if the formula is slightly wrong, then either voice this with new relationships for clarification, or just don’t do it. I have to say that the UKTI are hugely important to us. We are very fortunate with our support from them, and certainly without it we would have a much smaller understanding of the international marketplace. UKTI is a great place to look as they have several schemes to assist you in planning and actually traveling to foreign markets. Whether on a trade mission or simply on a Passport to Export scheme, the support is invaluable. Guidance comes from all around – if you look at your circle of friends and wider contact group, then you pretty much have all the answers that you need. We help others and they help us – a vital ingredient in the current marketplace.

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PJ: What is entering a new market for the first time like?
NM: It’s quite interesting when you open up a new relationship with retailers; you never know how it’s going to go until the numbers start to roll in. Dover Street Market continues to prove its worth – we have been with them since the brand started back in 2005/2006. The recent opening of DSM Ginza has been an immediate success with the Japanese market buying into the brand nicely. Sometimes if a market is not right to begin with, it might just need an exit and a reapproach once their style has moved on a little. Hannah is known for her androgynous creations, and this can sometimes need a certain maturity in terms of state of mind within the consumer to understand it – just how we like it to be.

PJ: What does a British jewellery brand need to succeed abroad?

NM: The list is so huge its quite hard to pick just a few, but if I had to I would say that it needs a clear idea of its own identity, a clear design message, and definitely a good website. In a world of the homogenised, it really helps to be offering up something a little different and intelligent. When money is hard to come by, the end customer will spend it far more carefully, so you really need to be able to practice what you preach in terms of design and production. Along with this comes customer service: Think about it – it’s the single most annoying thing to be given poor service by anyone, especially when it comes to luxury. We spend a huge amount of resources on making sure that our team are well trained and versed in dealing with all our clients. If you can nail this side of the business then I am pretty sure you are on to a good thing. 

PJ: Three British jewellers that have achieved fame internationally are Shaun Leane, Stephen Webster and Theo Fennell. There is a huge pool of jewellery talent in the UK but we have yet to see a new generation scale these heights. Why do you think this is?
NM: Quite right that we think of Shaun, Stephen and Theo – all wonderful people and designers in their own right. They are not only ambassadors of their own brand, but very intelligent and hard-working people – and have been hard at it for years. You cannot underestimate the impact of recent financial turbulence on the industry. It has been hard, but through that I feel like it has really pushed values hard to the foreground. If anything positive can come from the crash, it would have to be that we now at least think about what we are buying, so then it really comes down to the integrity of the brand. Competition is of course a factor, but then that was always the case, so it’s really just about being a concise brand.

PJ: Do you have your jewellery manufactured in the UK or abroad? And what do you think British jewellery manufacturing could or should do to compete with other countries such as China or India?
NM: We produce entirely within the UK – and are very proud to do so. It’s not what the industry needs to do, it is in fact what the brands need to do to use it. It is obvious that minimums such as minimum wage and minimum orders come into it, but imagine a day when all British jewellers produced in the UK, then the prices would come down – it’s a game of multiples!

PJ: What do you believe the future holds for the British jewellery industry?
NM: Hopefully we will continue to lead the world in terms of its cutting edge in terms of creativity, and at the same time, create the confidence in the market that we can produce exquisite jewels to the highest standards in the world – which is true.

 

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