Meet the trendsetters taking their East London wit to the masses.
By Steve Spear
From adversity, triumph. The story of Bobby White London, a now-established and successful designer brand, has its roots in one of those moments that see most people kick their heels and curse their luck.
“In 2004 I was 21 years old and four years into my apprenticeship, but the company I was working for was closing down so I was facing being jobless,” remembers Bobby White. “Seeing the workshop had been put up for sale I took the opportunity to take it over and set up my own business. My company was initially named White Jewellery but I later rebranded to Bobby White London.” And the past year has seen the Bobby White brand travel faster and quicker than before as the designer moved into wholesale. It has dropped straight into “outstanding retailers” like Rox, Steffans and Wave. As well as helping to grow the sales, this has made Bobby’s designs better known than ever and more accessible to discerning punters outside of his London base. The expansion should continue, helped along by managing director Tommy White.
Bobby says: “We spend lots of time looking at retailers to see which ones fit with our own brand. When we become interested in a potential stockist we contact them to speak with their buyer.”
That, of course, is the sticky bit. “Then comes the hurdle. Buyers’ identities are guarded within companies like MI5 secret agents. This has been a bit of a problem for us at times. We hope that we can continue reaching out to established and new exciting retailers, we would love them to reach out to us as well.” Bobby already mixes in elevated company, and has made pieces for bling royalty from Jay Z and Beyoncé to Prince and Rihanna. The team is also constantly jetting across the Atlantic to meet with the brand’s very wealthy, and somewhat hedonistic, US clientele who will drop thousands on a bespoke piece of Bobby White London jewellery.
So it’s only fair if Bobby himself is pretty image conscious; he laughs as he confesses that he always has a can of hairspray on him and touches up his hair five or six times a day. But adds that he feels this feeds into his brand’s uniqueness. “I combine craftsmanship and traditional skills together with dramatic design. There are only a few who truly do this and the ones who do have this rare combination. We are very different. I have a style which doesn’t imitate my competitors work.”
There’s nothing imitative about Bobby, and even the way his jewellery journey got started is a one-off. “When I was a kid, I made hundreds of cars from plasticine. I had a line of models from sport cars to 4x4s with my own logo and everything. The best part of these cars was if you crashed them into each other, air bags would come out. When I went for my first interview to get onto a jewellery course, they asked me to bring something along with me that I had made. I didn’t have anything in jewellery so I took my plasticine cars which got me my place.”
And as for the future, you will be seeing a lot more of the Bobby White boys, and we don’t mean at industry events. The trio are about to become superstars, as Channel 4 starts work on a documentary about their glittering lifestyles. The idea of a TV series based on Bobby and Tommy’s escapades has been two years in the making, and after the creation of a very funny pilot (of which the Professional Jeweller team were treated to a private screening of earlier this year) the original plan had been to take it to the States but the UK snapped it up first. So keep your eye on the small screen in 2014 and you’ll get the chance to immerse yourself in the crazy, glittering world of Bobby White London.
This Hot 100 profile was taken from the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012 book. To read the digital book in full, click here.