Managing director talks celebrities, the Isle of Bute and retail.
How many designers in the world can claim their pieces have been photographed on celebrities including Sir Elton John, Lana Del Rey, Usain Bolt and even Boris Johnson within their first two years?
None, you might think, but Scottish jewellery designer Mhairi McKenzie would prove you wrong. The designer behind costume jewellery brand Bonnie Bling broke through with a collection called Scottish Slang, and has been linking her art to her country of birth ever since.
“I grew up on the Isle of Bute off the West Coast of Scotland and saw an opportunity to set up a permanent base for the business there,” she says.
“I wanted to create employment for locals, spend more time there myself and provide inspiration to young people to show that they don’t necessarily have to leave the island to follow their ambitions.”
In April, Mhairi took over an empty shop front in the centre of Rothesay, the island’s principal town, providing a bright and vibrant showcase for her collections and a large studio space. The fast-growing business now employs four part-time staff who assemble the jewellery, plus a sales assistant.
Joining the ranks of Professional Jeweller’s Hot 100 isn’t the only recognition for Mhairi. Her company has already enjoyed a nomination for a Scottish Fashion Award and Best Product Award, which have helped unlock support from the Highland & Island Enterprise scheme.
The brand also raised significant funds through a successful crowd-funding initiative, resulting in enough money to buy a new laser cutting machine, which is already proving useful for Mhairi’s designs.
“There is a very packed sketchbook full of design ideas that I am steadily working into future collection pieces,” she reveals.
“There is such a wealth to Scotland’s history, culture, style and humour that I never find myself short of inspiration close to home.”
To read a digital version of the Hot 100 2014 book in full online, click here.