From TV to friendship bracelets via a chance encounter with Vogue.
Natasha Leith-Smith has gone from working in TV to running a burgeoning, colourful fashion jewellery brand that is winning interest from retailers around the world. The past year has been focused on building her collections, developing her celebrity outreach and establishing her position as a British brand. She was named a NexGem in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 in association with The Company of Master Jewellers and IJL.
Professional Jeweller: Tell us about your move into jewellery design, how did it start?
Natasha Leith Smith: My mother is a gemmologist, I used to help her string pearls at the age of five, but I didn’t end up working in jewellery until much later. I worked for five years in the marketing department at Channel 4. After three different chief executives had gone through the motions at the company, joining and leaving, and I was given the option of voluntary redundancy. So I took it and ran.
PJ: How did you end up launching a brand?
NLS: I launched my own design agency called Ideology. I was always playing with different things and was always creative. One day I bought some little gold pieces and some diamonds and made some string bracelets. I wore one of them which was a string bracelet with a gold tag, and a friend said she liked it and could I make her one. She worked for Vogue and ended up blogging about it on the Vogue website. Then suddenly the Harvey Nichols buyers called me to arrange a meeting for the day after. I ran around, got all the bracelets I had made for my friends together to present to Harvey Nichols but realised I needed a brand name. I’d spent time at art college in Paris and had always wanted to use the word allumer somewhere for one of my projects and it just so happened that I was designing some match boxes for a private members’ club and realised they were the perfect packaging for the little bracelets. The brand just came together there, that evening.
PJ: You won Harvey Nichols as a stockist – what has happened since?
NLS: I’ve been working hard to continue building the brand and my stockist list now includes retailers in the UK, Turkey, Japan, Dubai and Australia. Last year I got Allumer into Paul Smith’s flagship store in Covent Garden and make some special versions of the Allumer match necklaces with faceted briolette gemstones as the tip of the match. Paul Smith was been a definite highlight for me last year.
PJ: How do you strike the work/life balance?
NLS: Right now though I’m working all the time, I don’t even count it as working anymore as I love what I do – playing about with materials and stones, making calls, brainstorming. Even when I go out for dinner with friends we end up brainstorming where I’m going to take Allumer next.
PJ: What are your plans for 2013?
NLS: Next I want to break the US market but I know I need to keep some focus on the UK right now.