Q&A: Julie Fowler-Drake, Talbots Group

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On packaging trends, British manufacture and why small details count.

Talbots Group is based in Birmingham Jewellery Quarter, creating packaging for jewellery retailers and brands on a global scale. We caught up with its managing director, Julie Fowler-Drake, who talks changes in packaging trends, ribbon, glitter, bespoke design and the company’s British heritage.

Professional Jeweller: Tell us about the packaging market at present – what overarching trends are shaping jewellery packing right now
Julie Fowler-Drake: A rising trend amongst the industry is the constant demand for something different. For example, using luxury paper textures, materials and finishes, or extra detailing that sets the clients branded packaging out from others. As trends change and develop, more and more we’re seeing cardboard jewellery boxes rather than plastic hinged ones, which are also great for lower price point jewellery packaging. Whatever materials we use, we focus on the finish and the small detailing on the box – that’s what allows us to create a premium looking product.

PJ: What kind of bespoke requests do you receive today?
JF-D: There is a big demand for designed, own-branded packaging. Clients want packaging that’s individual to them and differentiates them from others, whilst reinforcing their brand identity and values. Because of this we often get asked to rationalise client product ranges, creating universal boxes that are dual purpose. This creates ranges that are more flexible and universally recognisable with a brand. Packaging can be a powerful selling tool – smart clients recognise this.

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PJ: Tell us about your upcoming product launches – what’s next from Talbots?
JF-D: We have five great new ranges out in September – launching at the IJL show – which I’m really excited about. In this range, we have got everything from fabulous glitter boxes with simple detailing to beautiful fold over envelope pouches with ribbon ties. With this range, we wanted to do something different by making those fantastic off the shelf stock type ranges to be accessible to all, even in smaller quantities. September will be a very busy month for Talbots – as well as launching our AW14 range and new projects for many of our clients, we’ll have some very exciting new things from the business.

PJ: You have a background in design – how has this impacted your role as MD?
JF-D: Being an experienced designer has helped in my role enormously. I am able to use my skills and eye for trends to design new ranges, creatively direct our brand image and roll out my vision for the business. It has allowed me to think more laterally about all that I do with the business and where I want to take Talbots.

PJ: How has Talbots as a business has changed since you took over as MD in 2010?
JF-D: The business has changed enormously. Talbots has changed from what was essentially a jewellery packaging wholesaler to a proactive, global retail packaging brand partner. We do everything from concept to creation – we come up with the designs, manage the projects, the production and supply chain to the client. It’s important to me that our products and our service is the most innovative on the market, so as the company’s leader I have spent a lot of time working on our brand image, long term strategy, vision and growth ambitions to make Talbots the leading packaging solutions provider it is now.

PJ: Finally, how important is it to you as a British company to design your products here?
JF-D: Talbots has been in my family for more than 70 years and our British heritage is very important to me. We’re based in Birmingham’s vibrant Jewellery Quarter and we have been producing and supplying packaging for jewellers since 1913 with Pickering and Mayell, which became a subsidiary of Talbots 30 years ago. My grandfather Fredrick Fowler founded Talbots in 1941 and passed to my father Graham Fowler in 1962. Having such a rich British heritage is something that I am proud of, particularly as we grow and expand globally.
 

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