Discover the creative minds behind the store’s new jewellery room.
Iconic London department store Fortnum & Mason has revamped and extended its jewellery offer to create a strong collection of unique designs that it hopes will make it a jewel destination. Rachael Taylor meets the team as they open the doors to an exquisite treasure trove.
When you think of Fortnum & Mason the images that come flooding to mind probably involve hampers, expensive bottles of scent and oustanding window displays, but up until now it has not been a go-to store for jewellery.
Fortnum & Mason has always had a jewellery offer but it was a somewhat smaller hub of jewels swamped by a much larger accessories department. This all changed last month following a conversation that new chief executive Ewan Venters had with his friend Stephen Webster over a what turned out to be an very important catch-up session.
“To tell you the absolute truth, on day two of being chief executive here, Stephen Webster, who is a great friend of mine, said ‘I’m coming in to meet you for a drink’,” recounts Venters, who took over the top job at Fortnum & Mason in August, joining from Selfridges where he was executive director for food, restaurants and online.
Friends with Benefits
As would be expected, the conversation with his jewellery designer friend naturally turned to Venters’ new job and what could be done to improve the jewellery offer at Fortnum & Mason. Or rather, what they could do together. Venters explains: “He said why don’t we do something together and make Fortnum & Mason a destination for jewellery in London.”
Venters was sold. Not only was the idea of working with such an influential jeweller alluring – Webster worked closely with the store on the new department – he truly believes in the commercial power of jewels. “Jewellery is such an interesting category,” says Venters. “Jewellery makes the most incredible self gift as well as a great gift for friends and loved ones.”
He describes the jewellery offer that Fortnum & Mason had before March’s reopening as “a nice edit but small”, and so set his jewellery buying team – run by head buyer for fashion and beauty Jo Newton and Amanda Wake, a buyer for jewellery, handbags, soft furnishings and lingerie – the task of curating a larger, more exciting offer.
The trick to doing so, says Wake, who has worked at Fortnum & Mason since joining as a Saturday girl whilst working for media mogul Simon Cowell, is to make sure that each designer in the store offers the shopper something different. “You see so many jewellery departments and they all have the same stuff and you’re thinking ‘What’s different here?’,” she says. “The designers are all very different to look at, very eclectic, to appeal to a wider demographic. It is never going to be high fashion but it is beautifully crafted collections that have a unique point of interest and that are not widely available.”
An Eclectic Offer
Wake, who has been buying jewellery for the store for the past five years, says the team were keen to support British designers and this is evident in the cabinets packed with Catherine Zoraida’s gold vermeil thistle brooch, Jessica De Lotz’s seal pendants, Katie Rowland’s quartz and gold vermeil Ishtar earrings, and more. Other Brit brands include Mawi, Alex Monroe, Alice Menter, Hillier and Bex Rox.
There is also a international element to the selection with colourful Parisian costume brand Philipe Ferrandis, Spanish sculptor Carlos Maronna, who creates tiny silver works of art and uses them in jewellery design, and French purveyor of jewellery dolls Servane Gaxotte, which Wake says has been a surprise bestseller.
Prices in the department can start from as little as £50 and hit high notes of £6,000 thanks to fine jewellery lines from the likes of Brazillian stone master Fernando Jorge, modern pearl supremo Melanie Georgacopoulos and edgy fine jewellery star Tomasz Donocik.
Elevating the price points through fine jewellery was as much a strategy as creating an eclectic mix, but the main driver behind the relaunch is to attract a new raft of shoppers, a younger more fashion-forward crowd.
“It is all part of the vision for the business to have respected but contemporary brands that draw in an evolving and younger customer and jewellery is one of those categories [that can do that],” says Venters. “I’ve already read online overnight [since the launch party on March 21] that [My Flash Trash founder and Made in Chelsea star] Amber Atherton is waxing lyrical about it. Word goes round so quickly with the internet.”
The acid test will be the weeks to come as hype turns into curiosity and inquisitive minds make their way down to the store to check out what is on offer.
The space that they will be greeted with is large but minimally dressed, outside of the glass cabinets. Although for those who get down early they will get the treat of viewing a series of jewellery created by the Rock Vault designers in a temporary exhibition for the first four weeks.
A focal point at the back of the room is the Rocks Bar, a plush seating area with a mirrored cabinet that opens up to reveal a luscious selection of spirits. A buzzer can be pressed that brings a Fortnum & Mason butler to your side who will happily mix one of eight bespoke cocktails devised specially for the jewellery department.
This added touch is not surprising in a store that is famed for its luxe foodie offer, and which is now run by Venters, a keen foodie himself and the one who came up with the idea for the jewellery bar.
Bars in jewellery shops tend to incite lingering and that is certainly something that jewellery lovers will want to do now in Fortnum & Mason thanks to the creation of such an intriguing selection that has created a gallery of design excellence.
The only question that remains is whether browsing will turn to buying, but at a store still on a high after what Venters calls a “splendid Christmas” with sales up 17.3% in December – the biggest uplift in its 305-year history – getting the tills ringing seems not to be a problem.
But putting such financial vulgarities aside, “the essence of retail now is so much more than selling, it’s about creating an experience”, as Wade says, and on that front the effervescently genteel Fortnum & Mason’s new jewellery emporium is triumphant.
The Fortnum & Mason Jewellers
Jewellers new to F&M
Stephen Webster, Mawi, Hillier, Bex Rox, Jade Jagger, Katie Rowland, Philippe Fernandis, Heather Benjamin, Slim Barrett, Mentz, Catherine Zoraida, Alice Menter, Carlos Maronna and Jessica De Lotz. Designs by Nicholas Kirkwood, Christopher Kane, Diana Vreeland, Stefano Poletti and Vanessa Seward will join as part of the Atelier Swarovski collection.
Jewellery designers that have created exclusives for F&M
Stephen Webster, Tomasz Donocik, Melanie Georgacopoulos, Fernando Jorge, Jessica De Lotz and Alex Monroe – more names to be announced.
Previous F&M jewellers that have returned after the revamp
Vivienne Westwood, Susan Caplan, Servane Gaxotte, Alexis Bittar, Majorica, Kikamishto, Alex Monroe, Lara Bohnic and Angela Caputi.
This feature was taken from the April issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue online, click here.