Q&A: Des Doyle

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On why his classic-with-a-twist jewellery is a winning design formula.

Des Doyle caught the attention of Professional Jeweller and several UK retailers when he showcased his unusual 18ct gold designs at IJL in 2011. Since then his collections, and stockists, have grown and Doyle continued to produce eye-catching, well made and affordable fine gold designs. He was named a NexGem in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012, in association with The Company of Master Jewellers and IJL.

Professional Jeweller: Tell us about the past year – what have been your highlights?
Des Doyle: The last 12 months have been fantastic both in a professional and a personal sense. Professionally I’ve had the opportunity to launch a whole new collection which has been very successful with really excellent sales. I’ve grown my retailers and also my private commission business too. I’ve completed a new collection which has some really special pieces that I’m really proud of. I’ve also just completed a new office and studio which gives me space to have everything just as I want it. It’s great to have a nice space to work from. Being selected for the Hot 100 has been a fantastic recognition of my work to date so I’m looking forward to building on that. My personal highlights? I’ve focussed on working to become a better swimmer, it’s something I have always loved to do and I was always a strong swimmer but this year I got a swimming coach who really got me to work on being more effective in the water. It’s not over yet – progress is slow but rewarding.

PJ: What kind of challenges has the business faced, and how have you overcome them?
DD: I’ve hit lots of bumps in the road. Living in Ireland and dealing primarily with overseas markets has been difficult, any market visit requires jumping on a plane to stay in touch with retailers or see what is happening. As a result I’ve become expert at working out schedules of what needs to be seen or visited in a short space of time while I’m abroad. The jump in gold prices put my business under pressure at the beginning of the year but I responded to that with smaller pieces with more stones, in particular diamonds and rubies.

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PJ: What inspires you as a designer, and do you feel that your collections have evolved over the years?
DD: Primarily as a designer I’m inspired by natural form but not in the tradition of taking a shape and copying it in metal – that’s easy. Instead I like to take the feeling of the shape – what it evokes and play with that. I don’t like things to be too distinctly referenced or obvious. My collections have really pushed forward over the past two years – I’ve begun to work with more gemstones and this year I’m working with custom cut stones that are cut just for me. I’ve also got really good at making the shapes I use to be more pleasing – a tiny detail here, a polished edge there all add a certain finish that is still really rare in the marketplace. Jewellery should be exciting to look at, each surface should have a discovery – I’m always disappointed to see that a piece has had no thought put into making the back as beautiful as the front.

PJ: How has your brand grown over the past year?
DD: The brand has been discovered as a niche player in the fine jewellery market with incredible attention to detail and a great story. My customer tends to be very concerned with quality and finish and also longevity so the “classic pieces with a twist” combination that I specialise in makes sense to them.

PJ: How would you describe your approach to work?
DD: I don’t like to be tied down so I like to work on small quantities of pieces and then move on. I’m always experimenting and growing my ideas – I make new models every week and often work on several ideas at the same time. Work-wise I’m very focused on achieving targets and building new relationships with stockists who understand what I’m about.

PJ: How do you manage your work-life balance?
DD: My work/ life balance always needs adjusting – I’ve got two small kids and I live in a very beautiful rural location in Ireland so it is really nice not to be stuck in a city and to be able to get out into the countryside easily. I swim a lot and walk and I’m restoring the garden of the house where I live which was first laid out in 1810 so there’s a lot of work to do there which is actually very relaxing. I have very simple pleasures.

PJ: Tell us about your plans for your business for the next year?
DD: Sales for the past year have been really positive so for the next year my big focus is on working to build stockists for the collections. I’m always on the lookout for new stockist propositions particularly stores that offer jewellery that is a little bit different to a discerning customer – that is a perfect fit for my work.
 

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