The blood, sweat and tears of launching one of 2012’s freshest brands.
Kathryn Barry is the founder of Kat&Bee, a quiet jewellery brands that has been building its presence across the world, winning press coverage and celebrity fans. The brand hit the mainstream last year, with Kathryn 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 2012 – what were the highlights for Kat&Bee?
Kathryn Barry: It is really hard to pick highlights as I was overwhelmed by all of it. Being shortlisted for Hot 100 of course, and getting Kat&Bee stocked in Opening Ceremony, one of my favourite stores, is definitely up there. The celebrity pick up has been great – Kelly Rowland, Fearne Cotton, Nicky Minaj have all been wearing the jewellery and our press is growing which is great recognition. I am massively into horoscopes and last year was the year of the dragon which is about re-evaluating your life. I have definitely been re-assessing a lot that I think my highlight has to be me allowing myself to do this.
PJ: Have you faced any obstacles launching the brand?
KB: The main challenge that I have had is time and there not being enough hours in the day. At one point I was working three jobs which when I look back was just ridiculous but I wouldn’t change it. I was working 16-18 hour days, often six to seven days a week, for most of 2011 which meant a lot of sacrifices. I was like a machine and getting up at 5.30am to do two to three hours on Kat&Bee and Twin [magazine] then going to my day job at The Guardian. I would be answering emails for Kat&Bee and Twin at lunch and then dashing straight to the studio after the day job to get back to work on Kat&Bee or Twin until at least midnight. I was so determined to build the Kat&Bee brand and get it to the place it is at so that I could start 2012 with full dedication and time on both businesses. I felt I had no choice to work in a different way as I wanted to know that I was putting 110% into and knew that the three jobs wasn’t forever, which is what kept me going. Now I only have Kat&Bee and Twin to focus on so I do have more time to step back from the business and work out more strategically where to take them. I am still working long hours but it feels very different now. Making the transition from a regular job to running Kat&Bee full time was harder than I thought and I think this is an ongoing but we are getting there and try to take each day and week as it comes. I totally love and 100% believe in both which is what keeps me going.
PJ: What inspires you as a designer?
KB: I just love trialling new things out and seeing where it takes me. My collections have been inspired by different places – the colour, overall vibe and feel of somewhere.
PJ: How do you balance building your brand with your work at Twin?
KB: This has been tricky and can be an ongoing balancing act. Each week I try to work out set days or half days for dedicating time on each. Sometimes it works like a treat and other times every one wants everything at once. That’s life I guess. I think I kind of like the balancing act.
PJ: How different is a life in jewellery to a life in magazines? And what made you want to give it up to create jewellery?
KB: It is totally different. I have always had this inner desire to want to have my own business and I think I always knew at some point I would. I think it all started on a yoga holiday in Turkey with one of my best mates which was just before my role at ELLE as promotions director became redundant back in 2009. I spent the whole two weeks working out what I was going to do when I got back as I was convinced that there was going to be a big spell of redundancies so I needed to plan what I was going to do next. The week I got back the redundancies happened and a year later the Kat&Bee brand had started. I loved my time in magazines and I am so glad that I spent over 10 years doing it but I am now onto the next chapter which I love even more. Working on Twin allows me to tap into my old life but with the freedom of it being a smaller and independent team.
PJ: How has Kat&Bee developed as a company over the past year?
KB: My main focus for the past year has been to introduce Kat&Bee to the right stockists and to increase press and celebrity coverage for more brand awareness.
PJ: How would you describe your attitude to work?
KB: I am a very dedicated and hard worker and love it when you have achieved something that you have really spent time (and occasionally sweat and tears) in getting there. I guess I am a journey girl. For me, there is no better feeling when you have achieved something than knowing that you have worked hard to get there. I have no qualms in putting in the hours but also trying to make it fun and relaxed as well, for example with the small pockets of sun we have had we have been making jewellery on our roof terrace whilst listening to music and plays which cannot be bad. I do love to surround myself by people that are really focused and inspiring as it sparks off different ideas and really gets you motivated.
PJ: You have won a selection of impressive international stockists – how did these come about?
KB: Of my international stockists winning Opening ceremony is the one I am most proud of. So how did I win this? Well Opening Ceremony worked with Twin on issue four where we worked with one of their prints for the inside covers and they also sponsored our issue launch party. I met up with the team in New York to talk about Twin and show off the issue and one of the girls commented on one of my rings – which was a Kat&Bee. She then put me in touch with the buying team who were interested but would not place an order until they had seen the pieces in person. I then met up with the buying team at LFW with the collection. They were very inquisitive but loved the collection and then placed the order from there.
PJ: What are your plans for your business in 2013?
KB: My main plans are to tackle the overseas market and to continue to build the brand in the UK. I would like to create more bespoke pieces for costume or red carpet and to possibly work with an art gallery and do a collaboration of some sort.