As LOUISE JEAN celebrates 10 years in business, we sat down with Founding Director Louise to discuss the journey so far. Taking time out of her busy schedule she shares with us how she became a designer, her tips for those starting out and finally, what she envisions for her brand in the future.
Louise thank you so much for sitting down and sharing your story with us, perhaps you could begin by discussing a little about how you started out and the journey to present?
Honestly it was all a bit of an accident! I was working full time as a photographer and I guess somehow I decided I needed more of a creative outlet. I began experimenting with fine jewellery, working with chains and little bits and pieces from Etsy. Eventually, I began posting what I was hand making on Instagram creating a brand as an extension of my little side project. It was really all for fun, I never imagined it would turn into what it is today!
At the time, Instagram wasn’t the pivoting force behind brands, the world was really only just discovering its success. On a separate but related note, this was also a time when big chunky jewellery was a trend. Comparatively the pieces I was making were very fine, very dainty and so I guess my designs were quite unique and different for the time. Thinking back I do believe LOUISE JEAN owes its success to timing. We just had so much opportunity to make our mark in a space that was burgeoning as a platform. Things just gradually became a bit bigger and before you know it I had a website and I was selling orders.
Designing and creating jewellery requires a really niche set of skills, how did you become the jeweller you are today?
It sounds really DIY but I mostly learnt through YouTube! I did do a small jewellery making course with a jeweller who was funnily enough, based just up from our now showroom. I learnt to do some basic jewellery fabrication with him and I also did a very short course in stone setting just to learn the basics. I think the combination of these learnings along with my previous experience as a creative has led to the evolution of my style and ultimately each of our LOUISE JEAN designs.
Above: The Louise Jean showroom at Peregian Beach.
Having previous experience as a photographer, what lessons did you take as a creative to LOUISE JEAN?
There’s actually quite a lot on the business side of things that are linked to my experience working as a freelance photographer. Not only from a work ethic side of things but also from working collaboratively with all different people. As a photographer you’re generally expected to lead your creative vision while maintaining a consideration of the various needs of your client. Today my clients are our LJ Lovers and instead of leading a team involving stylists and make up artists I lead a company involving a scope of departments from Customer Consultants to Master Jewellers.
What are you inspired by? Tell us a bit about your design process.
I think I’ve always stuck to my style, what I like and what feels timeless versus what’s determined by trends. In essence I focus on creating pieces for myself, that I want to wear everyday and that truly has been my ethos from the beginning, designing styles I never want to take off.
How has the LOUISE JEAN brand and offering changed over time?
Looking back I would say I can identify three major shifts. First would be the decision to go from more economical dainty handmade pieces and into more luxurious fine jewellery pieces. The main difference here being that we went from working with sterling silver and gold filled metals to solid gold and platinum designs.
I would probably recognise the second shift to have been when I took on a more bridal perspective to our designs. Today, if someone says "LOUISE JEAN" the thought of fine engagement rings and diamond wedding bands immediately comes to mind, whereas in the beginning ideas of fashion jewellery would likely be conjured.
The final shift occurred the moment I began accessing better technology to mix traditional techniques with modern methods. When I started out, I had never even heard of CAD, let alone knew what it was! Learning how to design pieces digitally with the knowledge of hand forging techniques was a game changer.
What styles were you known for in the beginning?
One of the first big early moments for LOUISE JEAN was the Oval Ceremonial Solitaire I designed for my friend Thessy. The Ceremonial setting was notably minimal in design and took on a more modern direction to what was available from other jewellers. At the time, oval shaped diamonds were in demand but not in the way that they are today. This all changed when Thessy first shared her ring with the world. It quickly became our most requested shape and to this day the Oval Ceremonial Solitaire is synonymous with the LOUISE JEAN brand.
What’s on your current mood board?
We are doing a lot more in the fine jewellery sphere and I guess I'm tapping into pieces that are still fine but have more bold designs. So we have a heavy curb chain which I love but also a lot of sharp geometric styles like our knife edge pieces. Finally, I see more natural gems coming into our pieces in 2024. My inspiration often stems from the stone itself, so that’s usually my starting point. From there I think about wearability and practicality, always going back to that element of everyday luxury.
Above: Signature Engagement Rings on display in the Louise Jean Showroom.
Of all the pieces Louise Jean pieces you have made to order, which has been your favourite?
Oh what a tough question! I think my best friend Haylee's ring, it was a three stone ring similar to our Thea but she really loved a more vintage inspired piece so it was a bit more low profile. It had a champagne emerald centre-stone and trapezoid side-stones, super cool and the stones had a peachy undertones. Anything emerald cut I’m obsessed with but as far as the sentiment goes that is my favourite piece.
You have successfully run your own business for 10 years now, do you have any advice for young business owners?
There is so much I could go into that! What I would say is work out what your strengths are and what you’re strengths aren’t because others can do things better than you can and trusting in that process and allowing others to do the things that aren’t necessarily your strength will really allow your brand to grow and it will strengthen areas that you didn’t know needed strengthening.
For me, it was about trusting the timing of it all when I was making that shift from sole trader to actually needing the help. And when I trusted the help or allowed it and I was open to it, it really did open more doors.
Obviously in the early stages there are a lot of hats that you do wear, but it’s working with the hats that you do enjoy and don’t enjoy so much. Honestly it’s not like you wake up everyday and love what you do, there are bad days and there are good days but knowing what you’re good at and what you’re not good at and accepting help led to great progress for me.
Above: Louise working with her team at our one of our Melbourne Pop Ups.
Finally, what do you envision for Louise Jean in the future?
First and foremost I always value a great working environment and the team I’ve created. That’s something I want to maintain no matter where we are. This ethos remains at the forefront of what we do when we’re looking at growth opportunities and knowing when to seize them. Growing for the sake of growing for me is not a priority, I’ll always ask: what are the benefits? I don’t have world domination in my heart, I don’t want to think, I need another shop and another showroom… it’s more about the efficiency of what we do.
One thing we are really excited about is the opening of our new flagship store on Hastings St in Noosa Heads. We have spent a lot of time considering the various aspects of design and experience so that each person who visits us will walk away feeling both inspired and empowered to make the right choice for them, whatever their fine jewellery preferences.
As far as what the future holds I think it's about continuing what we do but with as much enjoyment and fulfilment in what we do. I really love the intimacy and the connection that we have internally that we can create with our clients and I think it extends from how small we still are. So in all, I envision our future to involve doing what we’re doing now, but doing it better.