When you have a jewellery House that has so much history, how do you build for the future and continue to honour the legacy of the brand? That is the question Sara Prentice, Creative Director at Garrard faces in her role.
Sara Prentice Creative Director at Garrard
With a rich history of over 300 years, Garrard is the oldest jeweller in the world. The British House has produced pieces for royalty all over the world and continues to be the jeweller of choice for many members of the British royal family today including Queen Elizabeth and The Duchess of Cambridge.
But how do you take all those memories and moments of the past and bring them into the future? Enter the House’s Creative Director Sara Prentice. Since joining Garrard in 2012, Prentice has been working with her team to take these elements of history and reconfigure them for today’s modern woman. By taking inspiration from the symbols and designs in the House’s archive, Prentice embraces the history but makes it contemporary with new upgraded designs and fresh ways of wearing the pieces. She creates versatile jewellery that meets the needs of women today.
And it’s not just the jewellery itself that’s moving into the future. The brand takes sustainability very seriously and is one of the few in the world to receive the Positive Luxury Award for its continued efforts. The House ensures that all stones and diamonds are ethically and environmentally sourced as well as ensuring its activities as a company are done in the most sustainable way. As we navigate through this unusual year, Garrard takes the next step in its vision for the future by turning to e-commerce. Partnering with Ounass in the Middle East, a selection of Garrard’s pieces are now available to purchase online. To find out more about the latest steps in moving the brand forward and what we can expect to see next, we talk to Garrard’s Creative Director Sara Prentice.
This has been a strange year for all – how have you functioned as a team and were you able to continue creating?
Firstly it was a case of reassuring myself and my team that we still have to look to the future and that this time will pass. It was challenging in the beginning but in an interesting way. We pushed the boundaries in how we were creative and how we reacted to what was happening, as well as being sympathetic to the situation.
We had a lovely initiative during lockdown called The Garrard Angels. We asked our Instagram audience to nominate key workers and people who have done something good throughout this time and we selected around 30 who were gifted Wings Embrace pieces. It was a rather lovely initiative that lifted people’s spirits. The main outlet of course, during this time and moving forward is digital, so we really increased our digital creation. We put out a lot of new images on our digital platforms and we reacted as well and as creatively as we could considering the situation.
We know you like to be in touch with your clients – how have you managed to maintain this throughout this year?
We’ve done a lot of Zoom calls! I have had several bespoke client appointments via Zoom which is not quite the same as meeting in person, but you still have a sort of connection. I absolutely love meeting clients and I love face-to-face interaction, particularly if clients are buying something bespoke as it’s great for me to know who they are and have a real understanding of their personality and the kind of pieces that they would like me to design for them. Social media has been a great outlet for our messaging and connecting with customers.
Have you changed anything within the company and the way you work that you think is for the better?
One thing that we had started to do before COVID-19 and the situation has accelerated is communicating via video and showing our jewellery through videos instead of only images. This is really helpful for our clients, whether it’s a quick video on an iPhone of a piece they are interested in buying or something more complex. It allows the client to see the piece being worn, they can see the details and get a 360 image in their mind of the piece. That’s something we will continue and I think we can push the boundaries on it a lot further. So all of these digital channels are our lifeline at the moment.
On a creative level have you been able to be your creative self throughout this period?
I don’t think I could ever struggle to be creative when I have 300 years of history to inspire me! We launched our Aloria collection in July and we have a new collection coming out next month called Symphony. It is an extension of one of our existing collections. That will be launching in December in time for the festive period. So the creativity is still flowing!
This issue is about the future – of course Garrard is very much about history – how do you think the future and the past perfectly align within the brand to create something relevant for today?
We use the heritage and history in our story telling and it is the start of inspiration for our collections. We are an all-female design team and for me and the team what’s important is that our jewels reflect the modernity of today. We don’t want to produce a direct copy of a tiara that the queen wore in 1893 for example. We take those elements and really think about how the jewellery could be worn today. We look to more contemporary designs; ear climbers or stacking rings for example, but we take that original design and move it through into a modern way of wearing it. Each Garrard jewel is a balance of tradition, versatility and design. We want to create something that you can wear today, tomorrow and forever.
In your opinion what is the future of the brand?
We build on our brand heritage which is always evolving, but we have creative and contemporary designs. So the inspiration comes from the history but we need to move it into today and that’s the vision moving forward.
We know you have recently partnered with Ounass – how do you think this will help to increase visibility in the UAE?
Ounass has become very popular in the Middle East and the region is a new important market to us. So it will allow us to expand our reach in the Middle East. It raises our profile as a brand and enables us to engage with new customers as well as our existing clients.
How do you select the pieces that will be showcased on the platform?
There are of course certain styles that we know the customers in the Middle East prefer and we wanted to showcase some of our best loved designs, as well as allowing clients to discover some of our new collections. Wings Embrace is our most iconic collection that we believe most women relate to because of its symbolism of peace, purity and protection. But we also added in a selection of our new collection “Aloria” which is multi-faceted in the way you can wear it as it has multiple elements to it. So for example you might have yellow gold on one side and diamonds on the other and it’s a very modern collection which can be worn in several ways.
What do you think is important to consider when buying high jewellery via e-commerce and ensuring the customer still gets a luxury experience?
Firstly, we only work with trusted partners whose idea of luxury is in line with our own. Our focus is on fine jewellery but we were quite selective in the pieces that we chose. They had to be accessible pieces that people feel comfortable buying online. We wanted the experience of shopping digitally to replicate that of going to the store as much as possible, so the packaging will still be a beautiful Garrard box wrapped up with a bow, in a bag. So you still get the experience and story and everything that goes with the brand.
We know you have launched on the “Threads Styling” portal – how will this help to enhance the experience?
Threads Styling is a virtual portal that allows customers to have an online personal shopping experience. It is a very fashion forward brand which sees clients shopping through a WhatsApp or WeChat function which allows them to chat directly with a stylist for a personal one-to-one shopping experience. We launched this already and the feedback has been great and we are very pleased with the partnership.
What is a message you would send to you clients in the region?
Firstly, stay safe in these really strange times. But also watch this space. Garrard is launching a new collection in December so there will be some nice fun things to spark positivity and keep people smiling. Our new Christmas campaign is all about celebrating in colour and we want to bring some vibrancy back into everyone’s lives.
What can you tell us about sustainability at Garrard – are there any new developments in this field and what is its importance to the brand?
Sustainability is very important to us as a brand and it’s something we are continuing to push. We’re looking at new ways that we can increase and improve on what we are currently doing. We are evolving our CSR programme and putting the building blocks in place to initiate new practices that will allow us to operate even more ethically in the future. All of our suppliers are required to sign a robust supplier charter and we are looking at extending this to our partners in other areas of the business. In terms of raw materials, responsible sourcing is essential to our business. We source our gold and gemstones exclusively from sustainably managed eco-systems and acquire all of our diamonds from suppliers who are approved members of the Kimberley Process certification which confirms that they are conflict-free which is extremely important. We are also working towards improving the sustainability of our packaging. We are in a good place at the moment but there are always elements that can be improved, so it’s definitely something that’s on our radar.
Can you tell us about you’re the apprenticeship scheme that Garrard has in place?
This is something we are really proud of as it enables us to keep the longstanding traditions of jewellery manufactory alive within the younger generations. We have one apprentice at a time and they take on a programme of five years. Technology and innovation are great but there are still traditions that we don’t want to lose along the way so this is our way of helping to preserve this.
What is next on your agenda at Garrard?
For me right now I just want to travel again! I want to meet my clients in Dubai and the rest of the world. I wanted to get back to whatever the new normal will be. In terms of design – I have the most wonderful job where I think I have designed almost everything you can imagine and I just want that to continue.
What is a lesson that you’ll take from this year?
It would probably be connected to people and having sensitivities to people. I think the situation has affected people very differently and we need to be sensitive to that. Some of my team live on their own and have been isolated for so long and you have to remember that and be sensitive to everyone’s situation.