BEST OF BRITISH: William Cheshire

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Cheshire on celebrating a decade in the industry and what’s next.

By 2012 William Cheshire will have racked up 10 years in the jewellery industry.

The Hatton Garden designer made his name with men’s jewellery, including his well-known line of serrated Casino rings. Then he created a truly iconic signature line with his Lightning Bolt collection; a range of jewellery featuring lightning bolts across bangles, earrings, pendants and bracelets that has inspired a number of dedicated collectors and still acts as a bread-and-butter line for the designer today.

At International Jewellery London (IJL) last year Cheshire unveiled a new direction for the brand – his perfume bottle-inspired Libertine range and for this year’s show he is planning to build on that theme with a line that is still in production but is based on the concept of a bottle of perfume that has scent dripping down the chassis of the bottle.

This concept will be realised in pendants with a cascade of gemstones or in earrings with a circular outline leading into a silhouette of the drip pattern. During his interview with Professional Jeweller at his Hatton Garden studio in London, Cheshire produces his sketch book to reveal some promising designs. He says there is the potential for one or two of these designs to be ready for Treasure but he confidently asserts that the full range will be completed in time for IJL where he plans to make a big splash with the collection.

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As Cheshire edges towards his 10th year as a jeweller, he is focusing all his energy on really growing his business in his anniversary year. The designer has signed up new stockists, including former Links of London creative director Elizabeth Galton’s much-anticipated new online retail venture EG Studio (see p22 for more details) and he plans to really attack the traditional retail route with the appointment of a UK sales agent called Octavia Agencies to help him grow his brand’s presence in retail stores while freeing him up to focus on designing.

With such a rich body of work and a positive attitude to his business Cheshire was an obvious choice for inclusion in the inaugural Professional Jeweller Hot 100, which he describes as a personal highlight of 2010, and as a designer who still makes all his jewellery within the UK he is an ideal candidate for our Best of British feature. Read on to find out more about this humble yet inspiring designer.

Professional Jeweller: You will be returning to IJL for your fifth year in September – what keeps you going back?
William Cheshire: It’s a great chance to meet with people who are already stocking William Cheshire because I know that they’ll be there. It’s a very friendly show, easy for people to get to, and I think it’s very well known now with the contemporary jewellers and the county jewellers, and there is the potential is to meet new stockists.

How do you plan to evolve your collections in the coming year?
What I’d like to do is add to some bright coloured stones to see what we can create. It will add a bit of lustre to the pieces. I would say I shied away from colour before – a lot of my work is based around the shape of the metal – but now it’s time to play with colour and see what I can do with it. Colour is something that I wanted to do for myself but when I talked to a couple of stockists they said to go for it as it will make the pieces a bit more precious. People have really loved the enamel details we have done so far, so adding a bit of colour will be really exciting. It’s about adding sparkle without making it too gauche.

Do you find it necessary to follow trends professionally?
I notice what’s around at certain times of the year; it might be a colourway or a new way of applying jewellery. I wouldn’t say I follow trends but I’m aware, as I wouldn’t want to make something that everyone else has done. It reassures me that I have a fresh idea.

As well as IJL you do a number of international shows, do you have any advice for designers looking to spread their wings beyond the UK?
It’s really hard to know which is the right show for you as there are so many; it’s a mine field. You can obviously go before and have a look but I think the only way to try it is to do it. Although you can get as much advice as you can from people like the UKTI you just have to bite the bullet and try it.

You have just appointed Octavia Agencies – why have you decided to take on a sales agent?
I can fulfil my role as much as I can, but at the end of the day you need that outside professional help that’s really targeted. It’s not necessarily about taking over the whole of the UK, it’s about finding and managing good accounts and keeping that regular communication with them so we can get feedback about what’s selling and what they need, such as point of sale, which is something that people have been asking for and something we are now working on.

Do you have any weaknesses?
I’m a little too friendly when it comes to sales. I find it very hard; some people are very natural at self promotion and selling their work, but I’m not. I’m comfortable chatting about the brand but I’m no good about going on about who we have designed for and all the achievements we’ve had. I need someone to say this is William Cheshire, he’s great, this is the look he has now and he can deliver you this, and so on, which is also why I’ve taken on a sales agent.

You still make all your jewellery in house. Is keeping manufacturing in the UK important to you?
It was originally, but more and more I see other people that I thought it was important to going abroad. I think as long as the ideas are originated in the UK and you use the UK as much as you can it’s OK. There may be a time when it’s just not cost effective, but at the moment I’m happy to keep everything in house. I think the real key is having something different, not being the cheapest brand or being able to produce the most jewellery.

This article was taken from the June 2010 issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the edition in full click here.

 

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