Fairtrade Q&A: Vivien Johnston, Fifi Bijoux


The ethical brand founder & campaigner desires a strong FTFM campaign.

Professional Jeweller’s March 2013 issue takes an in-depth look at the development of Fairtrade Fairmined gold in the UK, from client demand through to supply chain issues, pricing and marketing. Vivien Johnston, founder of ethical jewellery brand Fifi Bijoux, has moved all of her bespoke business into Fairtrade Fairmined Ecological gold. She explains the need for a strong marketing campaign for FTFM metals in the UK.

Professional Jeweller: Tell us about the kind of client that comes to you looking for ethical jewellery
Vivien Johnston: We’ve been driving the Fairtrade message since 2006 and ethical consumers are our main audience; though we do have a high percentage who are simply attracted by the designs and then learn of the Fairtrade credentials later. Our typical client is in their 30 to 40s, educated professionals. Many are doctors, lawyers, architects, civil servants or bankers. They tend to have quite conservative tastes, in the main, but still like something a bit more personal, with a little bit of a twist to the norm. I love it when they get completely absorbed in the design process and in selecting their diamonds or gems; I get to know them and often customers become friends. Because Fifi Bijoux has been going for nearly seven years now, I’ve looked after their jewellery for engagements, marriages, children being born and christenings. It’s a privilege to create something for such significant life events. Every few months we get someone who’s really open to a totally expressive design and it’s lovely to be able to put their personality into the piece. Those are lots of fun and allow experimentation with new gem colours or more playful designs.

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PJ: Will you use certified Fairmined silver and platinum, now that it’s available?
VJ: We’ve been using ethical platinum and silver for the past five years or so, it’s exciting to have certified available.

PJ: Lots of jewellery designers and brands have mentioned supply chain issues with a view to findings and pricing of FTFM metals. Have you faced similar issues?
VJ: I’m keen for licensees to get together to create a large enough volume order to make FTFM chains. The price points are difficult because of the high price of gold and I think some work still needs to be done to address that and allow licensees to remain competitive.

PJ: What do you think needs to happen in the UK to increase demand and awareness of Fairtrade and ethical practises when it comes to precious metals?
VJ: Most of all, I’d like to see more promotion of the smaller jewellery brands like Fifi Bijoux who have committed to FTFM and need a strong and focused marketing campaign from Fairtrade to reach consumers and drive the demand required to take FTFM gold to where it should be: visible, accessible and supporting artisanal small mines and small businesses to grow strong together.

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