The neighbours turned jewellery designers behind the must-have brand.

Alice Menter has been a jewellery brand to watch this past year, winning enviable stockists across the UK, coverage in leading fashion magazines and appearing at numerous jewellery trade shows. The brand was founded by two neighbours, Alice Cabanas and Alice Menter, who were named NexGems in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012, in association with The Company of Master Jewellers and IJL.

Professional Jeweller: What have been your highlights of the year, building the Alice Menter brand?
Alice Cabanas: Some of the press coverage has been fantastic – being listed in the Grazia Fashion Charts within a couple of months of the launch and as number one in Harpers Bazaar [fashion picks] was a great feeling – as was knowing the BA gift guide featuring the Ruby Cuff was on all BA flights for a December. The UK Jewellery Awards nomination was also a milestone, and our first order from Harvey Nichols was something to celebrate.


PJ: Have you come up against any issues launching a non-precious jewellery brand?
Alice Menter: Challenges seem to be an everyday occurrence. Building and running a business is hard work. And the first two ears are pretty non stop. We both have small children so getting that work life balance can sometimes be difficult as can jugging the school run with order deadlines and sample call ins. We seem to make it through though with a fantastic support network around us of friends and family who are fully behind us.

PJ: How did exhibiting at Treasure and The Jewellery Show in 2012 work out for you?
AC: Both shows were good exposure for us, and allowed us to make sure we were meeting people and getting Alice’s work out there throughout the launch of the business. The Jewellery Show allowed us to develop our stockists further and Treasure was a great experience which allowed us to trade directly to the public.

PJ: The brand was one of the designers at the Pieces of Eight pop-up shop which ran last Christmas – what was it like, working with other designers and showing the brand in central London?
AM: We met the other designers at IJL 2011 and the idea for the pop up came from that. We are all big fans of each other’s work, and it was a really nice experience joining forces with them and creating something like that. The shop went well for us, and we really enjoyed the experience –  pop ups are a great way for small independents to experience direct retail without the huge commitment of a long term lease, and we got great feedback from customers who saw the collective offering a truly unique blend of designers to browse through.

PJ: How has your brand grown in the past year?
AC: The business has grown from an initial two stockists to 18 UK stockists and is also now stocked in Australia and Italy. Alice Menter has been stocked in three UK branches of Harvey Nichols since September, and we have had a great response in the V&A Museum shop. Our online retail site is growing steadily and we will be focusing more on this in 2012.

PJ: What inspirations go into the brand’s designs?
AC: Alice’s main inspirations and exploring boundaries between jewellery and clothing, combining contemporary luxury with the influence of old fashioned 1920s glamour, creating pieces that are diverse and appeal to all ages, that hold contrasting qualities so can be bold yet intricate, industrial yet glamourous.

PJ: How would you describe your approach to work? Who does what and how do you work as a team?
AM: Alice Cabanas manages the day-to-day running of the business and looks after the business development and marketing. [While I] design and make, as well as overseeing our team of jewellery makers who now work with us in our Bristol studio.

PJ: How do you manage your work-life balance with young children and also being friends?
AM: We make sure we spend quality time at home with the family. It can be hard to switch off sometimes but our children keep us grounded in family life. We relax by spending time with friends, good food, and good company.

PJ: What are your plans for your business for the next year?
AC: We exhibited at IJL and London Fashion Weekend in September and [so] we would like to look into developing the export side of the business and increasing European stockists during 2012 as well as growing the online side of the business through our online shop.