In just three years, Julie Macauley, has built a successful jewellery brand known for its bright colours and tongue in cheek attitude. John & Pearl could be described as part street-lux, part playful and since launching in 2012, it has won over major stockists such Harvey Nichols, Urban Outfitters as well as independent shops from all over the globe. Arriving at Julie's new Pop Brixton store, everything from her bright lipstick (echoing her brand colours) to her eagerness to talk about John & Pearl's story, makes it clear that Julie is living, breathing and loving her brand. So we sat down with Julie to find out how she made it all happen.
How did you come up with the idea for John & Pearl?
The idea came from an experiment and also some frustration about the potential that wasn’t being used in the brands I was working for before. I was working for around 8 years in the jewellery industry before I started John & Pearl, and I got a bit annoyed with the lack of creativity and ambition to try new things. The brands vision was never really worked on – it was more product focused. For me, the idea for creating a brand needs to be visual. I had a lot of knowledge from working in small companies, where I had learned exactly how to run things from top to bottom. I realised I had this huge parcel of information at my fingertips, so I put it all together to launch John & Pearl.
We know you like to tell stories – what stories do you want your brand to tell?
I found that when I am talking to people, like journalists and customers, they want a story. They want to know who the designer is and who made the product. My brand is named after, my grandparents, John & Pearl, who taught me all about love, style and travelling the world. I wanted to create a brand which I could live and breath.
In terms of the stories the I want the brand to tell; we want to tell our customers that we care, that we love colour, that we have a lighthearted attitude and that we want to experiment with design. We also want to hear stories from the people who wear our jewellery. It’s a circular thing; the way girls and women use our jewellery comes through when we design the next collection.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I think getting out of what you are doing in your normal daily routine is a really good way to get inspired. It is always a different answer when I am asked about my inspiration because it depends on what I am doing at the time. At the moment I’m really inspired because we just launched the shop.
We spent the last three days making our brand vision come real in this shop. At the same time we have also launched our new website, so we have been pushing all of our ideas out and finally they have almost all crystallised into what is happening now.
Speaking of your shop – why did you decide to a launch a pop-up?
We really wanted to put our brand in context and do something creative with this space. We do a lot of wholesale and when we go to trade shows, we only have a limited amount of space to work with, so the potential we had here to really make the space work for us was just too good to pass up.
Brixton is also really local for us, so I was thinking if we got an opportunity we might as well take it. We did one in July 2015, which was a success so we decided to come back again in time Christmas.
How have pop-ups helped build your brand?
We had such a good time in July and we got lots of useful feedback. It was great to hear from customers about what they were looking for and what they wanted. For instance, a lot of them were looking at our rings, which led to be designing more of them in our next collection.
We also collected a lot of emails from our last pop-up, so we have been able to really grow our mailing list. However, the most important thing for me is meeting our customers face-to-face. I think that if you are not working in retail you can easily forget what your customers want and who they are.
Since launching your brand in 2012 – what have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
I think the biggest challenge has been shifts in the market. Our second season was 70% Japanese sales, but then the market changed and suddenly that revenue stream disappeared. A key learning from this was that you have to make sure you are covering all your bases and not only focusing on one customer or one market. That’s also the reason why physical retail has been a really good way for us to spread out slightly as a company.
We love the shop you’ve created here – what is your advice for other young jewellery brands looking to do the same?
I think community is really important. Go talk to people, companies both nationally and internationally, and start creating your own little network of people you know you can work with – see it as a support group you know you can rely on.
Another simple thing is having a presence. Try to live and breathe your brand. You will have to believe in your product, because if you don’t really believe in it nobody else will. And please don’t beat yourself up if it does not take off immediately.