A conversation with Hiscox
Tessa Packard talks all things jewellery with British powerhouse insurers, Hiscox
Jewellery is symbolic, talismanic and timeless. As artworks in miniature the design possibilities are ever open and ever evolving. Whether costume or haute joiallerie, jewellery is addictive and highly collectable. It is always the final touch to every outfit yet often hold the greatest value and visual pull. I find it both a challenging and mesmerising medium.
How did your business start?
A pipe dream, intuition and a bit of self-belief. When I was much younger I wanted to be an accessories designer. For one reason or another university studies and ensuing career led me down a different path: into the world of art history and the commercial art market. Then my intuition rebelled – I realised that I badly missed being creative. Coupled with my love of jewellery and the acute desire to start-up and run my own company the idea behind Tessa Packard London was born.
How did you define your niche? What is unique about your business?
I produce two collections a year, each one based on a completely different theme. Narrative integrity alongside good design is of the upmost importance to me, and perhaps in that sense my jewellery is unique in that the final product will be the result of a long research process, in which every piece of jewellery in a collection becomes an interpretation in miniature of that very narrative. I attract clients who are equally passionate about design and appreciate the importance of a story.
The collections are also made up of both 18ct gold jewellery and 18ct gold vermeil jewellery, which is in itself unique as the pieces span across various price points. My love has always been for fine jewellery but as a consumer and businesswoman I noticed that there was a substantial lack of mid-range, elegant but contemporary, British-made silver jewellery, and that was exactly what my contemporaries were looking for and most importantly could afford. Using well-set semi-precious stones and 18ct gold vermeil, my diffusion line pieces sit camouflaged against their more expensive counterparts. With my diffusion line I am offering customers the chance to buy affordable fine jewellery that looks much more expensive that it is, and to date this alliance between the two ranges of products has been a huge success.
When did you think you could be successful? What was the turning point?
When I received my first serious commission from a total stranger I thought for the first time that I might just make it. When you sell your first serious piece of jewellery to a total stranger you again think with a little bit more confidence that you might really make it. When I am in a position to have a workshop, studio and shop of my own then I will say to myself ‘maybe now I have made it’. But my list of what I would like to achieve is very long and constantly growing, so I doubt I will ever be satisfied!
How competitive is the luxurious jewellery business? What were the risks? Did they pay off?
It is unbelievably competitive and yet, as being proved, there is always room in the market for the ‘new’ if the brand in question has the talent and determination. Setting up any business is risky, especially one in an industry where you have no prior experience of and are largely self-taught. But perseverance, tenacity, tireless networking, and common sense do get you a long way. For me, the regret of not fulfilling this dream would have far outweighed the regret of trying but not succeeding, and for that reason I would say that every risk I have taken to date has paid off ten-fold.
What part of your business is most important to you?
Without a doubt the design aspect. I am an artist first and a businesswoman second, although arguably at times it should be the other way round!
Where did you start selling and how did you grow?
I started selling quietly at first – to friends and family through a series of private sales. From there I started hosting larger events, both corporate and private and slowly I expanded my network of clients. This in turn increased the volume of bespoke commissions I was working on (and this is another aspect of the business that I relish). Simultaneously my e-commerce sales grew as my notoriety on social networking platforms also increased. Last year I organised a Best of British Christmas Fair for 25 young brands (ranging from artists to fashion designers) which again was very successful. Having accrued a degree of credibility in the industry but also with myself, I am now about to embark into the world of wholesale, which will hopefully prove to be the next big step in the TP London empire!
What advice do you have for people who might want to set up a business?
Anything is possible with enough energy, patience, intelligence, desire and determination. But be prepared to give up a big portion of your life to make it happen.
What do you still want to achieve but haven’t?
I would like to wholesale internationally successfully, I would like to have my own proper showroom and workshop, I would like to do a collaboration with a fashion designer for a LFW catwalk show, I would then like to open a shop, then another one, I would like to become a part-time stylist working with jewellery, write a jewellery column for a magazine and then maybe go on holiday for quite a long time.