Q&A: Simon Ogilvie-Harris, Chavin

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The benevolent brand’s founder on uniting jewellery with charity.

Simon Ogilvie-Harris launched into the UK jewellery scene last year with his socially responsible jewellery brand Chavin. More than a year later he’s won UK stockists, including House of Fraser, having spent time commercialising the brand. He was named a Business Big Shot in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012, in association with the Company of Master Jewellers.

Professional Jeweller: Since launching last year, Chavin has grown in the UK. What have been your highlights of 2012?
Simon Ogilvie-Harris: I am very proud of working with forward thinking retailers such as Charles Fish in Canary Wharf, Galio Jewellers in St. Albans, Inspired by Brufords in Eastbourne and of course all of our stockists. It has been great to have the opportunity to work with professionals like these within a year of launching the brand. Other important achievements have included a successful and growing partnership with SOS Children, who are the cornerstone of our brand ethos – Style with a Conscience. Our relationship started in the UK but we have quickly expanded our activities into Spain and Denmark, with others to follow. Our successful launch of the Caring bracelets, named after the mothers we support in Peru, in February has been a key highlight of the year. Our work with the Peruvian Government both with the embassy in London and government agencies in Peru has been something I have cherished.

PJ: Have you hit any challenges along the way, creating a brand that needs to sell in order to maintain its purpose?
S O-H: Like all start-up businesses we have faced a number of challenges in the past year because we have decided to work at such a fast pace which creates a lot of time pressure. Our spring/summer collection took just five months from inception to shop front. Working within these timeframes there isn’t much margin for error and challenges pop up along the way but I believe the key is to stay positive, do everything in my control to make it happen and never lose sight of the end goal. Everything usually falls into place, there is always a way to make it happen it just may not be the way that was first envisaged.

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PJ: Why did you decided to launch a socially responsible brand rather than a standard jewellery brand?
S O-H: After getting a taste for the jewellery industry with my first brand Out of Peru, an artisanal Peruvian craft-based range, I decided that I wanted to launch a brand of jewellery that was not only beautiful and fashionable but that also made a real difference to people’s lives. The concept was born out of the discovery of an ancient pre-Inca civilisation that I had researched – it had vibrancy and a very rich design language that we could draw from for many years to come – it was also different to the direction of many other brands that had emerged in the last few years. Having made the decision to be socially responsible it was vital that we secured this into the very core of the company, so whilst working on the concept we set about finding a partner who could ensure that our credentials in this regard were the highest they could be. We made a professional pitch to SOS Children and made an agreement soon after – they remain as a very important cornerstone of our brand.

PJ: You’ve worked with a number of people within the industry on building Chavin, namely Jonathan Crocker and designer Ana de Costa. How has this helped you on your journey?
S O-H: I wanted to do things with a very solid foundation and make rapid progress so I employed the services of Jonathan Crocker of Vaeta Consultancy and Briq Group and worked on every detail with them to ensure that we built a robust and meaningful brand – this was a fast track on a start-up budget and yet in just 15 months from a standing start we have managed to achieve many things. Both Jonathan and Briq Group have been a pleasure to work with, Jonathan introduced me to Ana de Costa to set the tone for our initial design language, we have since worked with other designers to commercialise the brand.

PJ: How has the brand evolved since launch?
S O-H: When we launched the brand in September 2011 with a very tight design-led collection to show what we stand for – to make our statement and present our personality. From there we have been commercialising our range to have a broader appeal for our retailers. We are a progressive brand and with our successful online marketing campaign for London Jewellery Week we partnered with Elle magazine and Quintessentially to kick start our heavy campaigning direct to consumers.

PJ: How has the trade show circuit worked out for you?
S O-H: It has been successful for us. We have opened a good number of new accounts with forward thinking retailers and it has given us a platform presence in the UK jewellery market. Our planning has been meticulous as we have clear ambitions and we remain on track to achieve our goals. It is not easy gaining momentum, particularly at the moment, however for a brand new brand we are pleased with our progress to date.

PJ: How do you relax off the job?
S O-H: I work extremely hard in the lead up to high season and during the follow through after a collection launches in February and September. However, after every quarter I take one week off and like to travel and explore new places. I usually go to Canada twice a year as that is where my family is and I was born.

PJ: What are your plans for your brand for the next year?
S O-H: We are still young so there will be more work to do to establish our position in the UK market but Chavin Jewellery has been set up to be a global brand and next year we are setting our sights on international expansion. We will continue our heavy marketing campaign direct to the consumer in the UK to support our retail base and have some exciting new innovative products in the pipeline – these will start to emerge in the coming seasons.

 

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