Q&A: Mandana Oskoui on collaborating with museums

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The designer divulges on the creative process with the British Museum.

An exhibition on Viking history at the British Museum might not sound like the most obvious avenue for a jewellery collaboration, but that’s exactly what happened for designer Mandana Oskoui. Buyers at the historic institution felt her structural pieces married perfectly with the heart of its exhibition – a 37-metre long Viking warship dating from around 1025ad. Here, Oskoui explains how the partnership evolved.

Professional Jeweller: How did your partnership with the British Museum take off?
Mandana Oskoui: I first met the British Museum while I was exhibiting at the Goldsmiths’ Company Pavilion at Somerset House during June 2013. They explained that there was a major upcoming Vikings exhibition in 2014 that they felt key pieces in my collection would be perfect for. They gave me their business card so we could discuss the proposal further at a later date.

PJ: How did they choose which pieces from your collection to stock?
MO: They told me that they would be attending International Jewellery London in September 2013. As I was exhibiting there I knew it was the perfect opportunity to follow up with them. I organised a second meeting at the show and they took samples of specific pieces they wanted to potentially order for an internal meeting. This meeting was a success and over the following weeks they placed an order which I had to deliver at the end of January 2014.

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PJ: How did you negotiate a balance between making returns on your own product sales and ensuring the museum benefitted too?
MO: This can be a tricky line to toe because each company has its own percentage mark-up on wholesale, and different expectations. You have to be confident enough to negotiate and sometimes think on your feet to finalise an opportunity. The balance really depends on the complexity of the pieces that a potential collaborator or stockist is interested in and the number of units they want to order.

PJ: Will this partnership benefit your brand in the long term?
MO: Working with a high profile organisation, especially one that is an iconic institution like the British Museum, has not only added value to the Mandana Oskoui brand, but also to me personally as a designer. It proves I am focused and serious about what I do, that the quality of my designs and craftsmanship is of a high standard. I feel it also helps establish me and my brand in the industry further and opens up doors for future collaborations with other organisations.

PJ: What should other brands and designers consider when approached by high profile exhibitors and museums?
MO: Be happy, be proud and, although this is an obvious thing to say, above all else be as efficient and professional as you can be. I made sure that the jewellery ordered by the British Museum was ready to post a week ahead of their expected delivery date. This wasn’t easy as I had Christmas orders to complete alongside making their order but I knew that by being extra efficient I would hopefully be labelled as professional, reliable, trustworthy and someone who would be good to work with again in the future. I would also say be patient. You may be excited to finalise things and get the order placed but it may take a while for the collaboration to come about as large organisations will have more than one project running at the same time and therefore a lot of decisions to make at different levels of priority. In some instances it may be a couple of years before the collaboration is finalised.

This Q&A was taken from the June issue of Professional Jeweller, as part of our In Depth feature into jewellery collaborations. To read the issue in full online click here.
 

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