Sara Prentice, Creative Director at Garrard discusses the brand’s latest collection and honouring Queen Elizabeth II for the 70th Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
As one of the oldest jewellers in the world, Garrard has become a global name thanks to its affiliation with the British Monarchy. Founded in 1735, the house has created some of the most iconic pieces of jewellery worn by royalty since being appointed the first official Crown Jeweller in 1843. Garrard has designed some of the most recognisable pieces worn by the Royal British Royal family to date, including the iconic sapphire engagement ring worn by Princess Diana and now The Duchess of Cambridge, as well as many tiaras and crowns worn by Queen Elizabeth II. And those same pieces continue to inspire the brand today. As Creative Director of Garrard, Sara Prentice is continually looking back through the jeweller’s archives to inspire her new designs as she gives classic pieces a modern twist to make them relevant for today. This year the brand is launching Blaze; its most modern collection yet, as well as limited edition pieces to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee this month. On a recent visit to Dubai, Prentice shares more on the latest pieces and the expansion of the brand in the Middle East.
What can you tell us about the new Blaze collection?
When I started to come up with the idea for the Blaze collection during the lockdown I wanted to do something that shouted vibrancy and colour. It had to be different but also, as with all of our collections, I needed it to have some kind of relevance to our past. I wanted it to be fresh and out of the box, and to push our boundaries. So we took the 1735 collection, which is inspired by Princess Diana’s engagement ring which has a sapphire cluster as the centre stone with diamonds around the outside. It’s a very beautiful classic design that represents what Garrard is known for. But I wanted to flip this idea on its head so I created what I would describe as an inverted cluster. We have eliminated the centre stone, then created that same oval shape which we really wanted to keep, with a cluster around the edge. We have used quite an eclectic mix of stones but they were very carefully considered. When I started to draw the designs I actually drew the outer edge over the inner edge and then we carefully placed the stones. I wanted the juxtaposition between the angles of a baguette and then the soft cabochon and then you have angled facets and they all work together. It’s an explosion of colour. This is the first time that we have used coloured stones without diamonds as I wanted it to be about pure colour. The green stones are set in yellow gold, the blue are set in white gold, the pink are set in rose gold and the white, which is the only one that does have diamonds, are set in white gold.
This is a very fresh, modern collection, are you targeting a new customer with these designs?
Absolutely. We don’t want to alienate our existing customers, but we do want to hone in on a younger audience and I think these pieces are probably more fashion-orientated than perhaps we’ve ever done before. Hopefully, they are still classic and they will stand the test of time, but I felt it was an opportunity to have a little bit of fun, yet still have a link to our heritage. We have eight styles in total, many of which can be worn in different ways so they are very versatile.
Why did you choose Princess Diana’s engagement ring as the inspiration for this collection?
Coming out of lockdown I do think my mind was drawn to Diana and what she represented as a person. Her strength, vibrancy and joy are something we were all looking for at that time. She actually chose her Garrard engagement ring herself, which at that time was quite unusual and I think that represents girl power! So I wanted to use this strong, confident muse for the collection. She was a strong woman who knew her own mind and she made such an impact and I believe this is the type of woman that will wear the blaze collection.
You are working with British actress Olivia Cooke as the face of this collection – why did you choose her and how do you think she epitomises the Garrard woman?
Olivia is the first ambassador of the brand. When we considered her we felt that she represents where we are in our journey: bursting onto the scene with a new product – so there was a real mirroring of moments. We loved her vibrancy and it just seemed right. We worked with two photographers who are known for their use of colour and movement and it created this whole modern concept.
What is your vision and direction for the brand today?
I never want to alienate our existing clients they are always really important for us in everything we design and I always keep them in mind. We are an all-female design team and it’s really important that the jewellery not only works within our brand DNA but that it also works for the ladies who are wearing them. Fanfare and Wings are two of the best-selling collections, they have a vast colour choice and all of the pieces are equally as popular. So there is something for everyone, and giving our customers a choice is really important at Garrad. Not only the choice of colours but giving them the choice of how to wear the pieces too. The Blaze pedants for example now come on a bigger link chain which allows customers to wear them at any length. This gives flexibility and also means they can be worn for many different occasions. So yes, we want our clients to keep coming back and to keep enjoying our new styles, but we are absolutely looking at targeting a new audience with other designs. But whoever we are designing for, the client is at the core of everything we do.
This month marks Queen Elizabeth II’s 70th Jubilee – can you share anything special that the brand will be doing to celebrate this landmark occasion?
Yes, the Garrard flagship boutique in London has turned Royal Blue for the duration of the Jubilee celebrations, we also have beautiful visual merchandising in the windows, celebrating the Queen and showing her wearing Garrard jewellery throughout the decades.
We have also created a limited edition Aloria pendant. The pendant was inspired by the sovereign sceptre that the queen held on the day of her Coronation. For the Jubilee, we have created a special version that’s royal blue on one side and diamonds on the other.
We also designed a one-of-a-kind hat pin which has been sold to an individual client. It can be worn in several ways; as a hat pin, brooch, hair slide etc. It sold almost immediately and we are now thinking about making a similar collection of brooches as there seems to be a demand for it.
And we know some of the Garrard pieces are also being exhibited at the Historic Royal Palaces in London…
Yes, we have a partnership with the Historic Royal Palaces in London. Last year they had the “Royal Style in the Making” exhibition which showcases Princess Diana’s wedding dress, as well as a lot of pieces worn by members of the Royal family. Now they have one called “Life Through a Royal Lens” which is all about photographs of the Royal family throughout their lives. There are some wonderful images including those of Princess Margaret taken by Lord Snowden where she is wearing an iconic Garrard tiara. This is the only place you can see this very special photograph. And for the first time for a brand, Garrard has some pieces of its current collections on display within the exhibition.
We know you launched your digital platforms during lockdown – how is that serving the brand so far?
It’s been great. I think for Garrard it’s interesting because we are very much a trusted brand, so customers expect a certain level of quality which they know they will get whether they are buying products in person or online, but it is very interesting to see how well pieces are selling online. Of course, we offer a level of service with every sale, there is a lot of communication between the sales team and the clients and it becomes more of a personal shopping experience rather than a simple transaction. But it is convenient and we have had a positive reaction to it so far.
Can you tell us a little about Garrard in the Middle East – can we expect further expansion?
We have our regular trunk shows here in the UAE where we meet with clients and share the latest collections with them. And then we are also opening a standalone store in Saudi Arabia in Kingdom Mall within the next month. We will start with a soft launch and then by September, we will be fully operational. This will be our first store in Saudi Arabia and we also have stores in Qatar and Kuwait.
What can we expect to see from Garrard throughout the rest of the year?
We will have the second part of the Blaze campaign coming out in August and we have Olivia Cooke contracted for a year so there may be something more happening with her later in the year, so watch this space! And we will add a few more pieces to the existing collections. We also have some new high jewellery pieces. This time we are using more colour in our high jewellery and mixing again the types of stones. We are trying to offer more modern designs and different ways of making something that’s so traditional look a little different.