Brand on the cusp: Hannah Martin London

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Why this Brit jewellery house looks set to fly in 2013.

Hannah Martin London was founded in 2005 by British Central Saint Martins graduate Hannah Martin, who set up her own brand after returning to London following a spell working for Cartier in Paris. Her work is edgy, androgynous and certainly has a unique signature.

The brand acts predominantly a fine jewellery house for men, although it has a significant female following, despite the fact that none of its jewels are designed specifically for women. It goes by the tag line Iconic fine jewellery for men, that girlfriends will steal and its e-tail site is cheekily divided up into men’s and a women’s sections that carry exactly the same products.

While her trendsetting jewels, personality and eye for talent have won her awards, mentions in magazines, celebrity fans and collaboration and judging invites, Martin’s stockist list is small. Outside of direct sales, Hannah Martin London jewellery is sold though six retailers in the UK, including Dover Street Market and Matches, five international stores and three websites.

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To date, Hannah Martin London has been one of those brands making all the right noises for a British brand about to take flight – she has won international design acclaim, spearheaded design competitions for the likes of Swarovski and the Palladium Board, collaborated with musician Pete Doherty for fashion chain Joseph, branched into leather goods, won a slot as a Professional Jeweller Hot 100 Trendsetter two years in a row – but it has yet to fully maximise its potential. However, Stephen Webster believes that it is just about to.

“I am in a fortunate position as the curator of Rock Vault, as I have a lot of external and internal information on the next generation of jewellers,” says Webster. “All members of Rock Vault have the potential to achieve global success. Some are obviously are closer than others. The two who are a gnat’s whisker away are Tomasz [Donocik] and Hannah [Martin]. The foundations are laid.

The next three to five years for them will be crucial in establishing themselves in the markets they have entered as designers, next as proper businesses. Behind them the next round are close on their tails. The key is originality, creativity and drive. All of them have that.”

Theo Fennell also tips Hannah Martin London as a brand on the cusp, as well as Jessica De Lotz.

Hannah Martin London partner Nathan Morse believes there is huge potential for the brand abroad, but says that he and Martin are taking the slow route to global domination purposefully to keep a check on the quality and cutting-edge design that the brand is known for.

“Internationally we are very excited at the prospect of really focusing in on our key areas for expansion,” he says. “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.”

The brand has a very particular style; less hearts and butterflies of the commercial jewellery world, more spikes and gender bending. This, Morse says, can make it trickier for the brand to translate in international markets, but it won’t hold it back from trying. “It’s quite interesting when you open up a new relationship with retailers as you never know how it’s going to go until the numbers start to roll in,” says Morse. “The recent opening of Dover Street Market Ginza [Tokyo] 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 re-approach 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.”

But while spreading the Hannah Martin London word worldwide is of course something Martin and Morse would like to do, it once again comes down to having enough funding to back up the designs, and Morse says that the state of the economy could well be a constraint that has held brands such as his back from flourishing on the global market and following in the footsteps of our famous trio. “Shaun, Stephen and Theo are all wonderful people and designers,” says Morse. “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.”

But every cloud has its silver lining, and Morse believes the recession will breed a new generation of jewellers that are sharper and more connected to clients than before. “It has been hard, but through that I feel like it has really pushed values hard to the foreground,” he says. “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 its really just about being a concise brand.”

 

This article was taken from the January 2013 issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue online, click here.

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