IN DEPTH: The all-new Goldsmiths Fair

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David Mills discusses the Fair's new features and marketing push.

The 34th Goldsmiths’ Fair opened its doors at the Goldsmiths’ Hall, London, this week, but this year’s event is a show with a difference. With newness as its theme – from the management team, and designers taking part to the daily schedule of events – Kathryn Bishop catches up with the fair’s head of communication, David Mills.

New. It’s a loaded word, one that denotes something box fresh, never-before-seen and truly of-the-moment.

In the case of Goldsmiths’ Fair 2014, ‘new’ is a word that sums up its many facets, from the designers taking part, to the very pieces this year’s 170 exhibitors presenting in the surrounds of the Goldsmiths’ Hall later this September.

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The two-week Fair has become the go-to event for collectors and admirers of fine, well-crafted designer jewellery and silverware made in the UK, showcasing talented designers ranging from graduates to those long-established in the trade. This year, headed up by David Mills and his dedicated event team, the Fair will stride confidently into a new era at the Hall.

“We have 34 new, first-time exhibitors, which includes 10 graduates,” Mills states. “That is the highest number of first-time exhibitors since the Fair went to two weeks in 2007, so that gives you a sense of our effort to reach out and freshen the pool a bit.”

Indeed, this effort to revive and refresh the jewellery and silverware on offer is part of Mills’ vision to create a show that, year-on-year, remains unpredictable – that is, continues to present fresh jewellery to keep visitors coming back in anticipation of something new and now. In a bid to prompt regular Fair exhibitors to break new ground with their designs and collections, the 2014 application process asked them to feature their latest work in their applications to show how they are pushing their own creations forward.

“We had more applicants this year than ever before but we made a real effort to be proactive and to reach out to people who maybe hadn’t applied in the past or had been turned away previously,” Mills explains. Also new was the selection committee for the 2014 Fair, bringing fresh eyes, tastes and opinions to the panel that helped choose the 2014 line-up. The result? “A new energy,” says Mills. “Of course there will be a lot of familiar faces but there are also long-standing exhibitors who are not with us this year, either because they didn’t apply or they weren’t selected; it was our intention to make sure Goldsmiths’ Fair remained a platform for new work, even from established makers.”

Another element of the Fair that has undergone a makeover in 2014 is its marketing collateral, which has been pared back to focus on product rather than showcasing jewellery on models. Silverware has also been put back in the frame this year.

While the Fair’s target consumer remains largely the same, Mills has taken to promoting the Fair in a variety of new locations and publications, running 2014’s sleek green, red and gold-tone adverts across key London Underground stations and in titles such as World of Interiors, Apollo Magazine, Bonhams magazine and London Review of Books. The aim is for this year’s Fair to catch the eye of “culturally literate” individuals and tastemakers – the types that typically visit design, art and antique shows such as Collect, Masterpiece and the Frieze London fair.

“We’d love to see an improved quality of clientele so we have real buyers and less people coming for a day out to see the Hall,” Mills smiles. “The message of the marketing this year is about trying to be as contemporary and compelling as possible, to show covetable items and things that people really want.”

As Mills points out, past Goldsmiths’ Fair campaigns have featured models: “And people say ‘Oh I don’t relate to that person, they’re too old for me or too young for me, too pretty, too plain,’ so instead we’ve focused on the work, to put it in the spotlight and make it the hero. The marketing is clean, it’s fresh, it’s colourful, contemporary and sharp.”

So why have all of these changes come about? Largely, it is from feedback gleaned by Mills and the Goldsmiths’ Fair team having taken the helm after former Goldsmiths’ Company director of promotions Paul Dyson stepped down in 2013. The new Fair team went to work, speaking with past and present exhibitors, Fair attendees, experts in the jewellery field, collectors and those working at the Company to gain their opinions on the status of the Fair. Opening the feedback floodgates helped Mills to establish what visitors wanted from the Goldsmiths’ Fair experience. “And of course, we had our own thoughts,” he states. “I have worked part-time on four Fairs with Paul, and Joanne [Dodd, the Fair’s events manager] has worked on three. That initial stage of reaching out really helped us to clarify what was working at the Fair, what wasn’t and what we needed to change.”

Along with the new work on show, new exhibitors and a sleek marketing campaign, there will also be a new look inside the Fair. Gone are the booths, which are making way for a more open, flowing show space. Having 10 fewer exhibitors than the 2013 show will also make this year’s Fair easier to navigate.

Mills and his team have further made their mark by introducing entirely new aspects to the show. Firstly, each morning of the two-week Fair will involve a special ‘Breakfast Talk’, featuring guest speakers covering subjects from contemporary jewellery, silverware and pearls, through to the history of Assay and the Hall itself. In the afternoon, a number of free-to-attend, informal ‘In Conversation’ talks will be hosted with jewellery experts and designers, offering visitors a chance to drop in and find out something new about the exhibitors taking part.

One of the most high-profile new elements of this year’s Fair is Zaha Hadid Selects – a showcase of fine jewellery pieces from 21 of this year’s exhibitors, curated by the architect herself and chosen to reflect her personal aesthetic. Among the designers selected by Hadid for the exhibit are Hannah Martin, Jennifer Saker, Ute Decker, Beth Gilmour, Tom Rucker, Jo Hayes Ward and silversmiths Olivia Lowe and Kathryn Hinton.

But of course, there will be 170 designers taking part in the Fair over its two-week duration, with about 10,000 visitors expected to ascend the grand staircase at Goldsmiths’ Hall during that time. “I’m looking forward to hearing what people have to say, as the team has worked really hard to deliver our vision for the Fair,” Mills muses. “This year is an experiment; some of it will work, some of it might be less successful. But we’re not going to say we’re done; we’re going to continue to push ourselves and evolve the Fair.”

New Fair, New Names
A total of 34 new exhibitors will take part in this year’s Goldsmiths’ Fair, including 10 graduates, who have been given the chance to showcase their work alongside some of the UK’s most established jewellers and silversmiths. Here are just some of this year’s new faces:
Jacqueline Mina OBE
Melanie Georgacopolous
Hamish Dobbie
Mirri Damer
Jennifer Saker
Heather McDermott
Amy Keeper
Chris Boland
Thomas Asquith
 

This feature was taken from the September issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue in full online, click here.

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