Theo Fennell about the labour of love behind his successful brand

CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed, exclusively, Theo Fennell, the founder of the eponymous London based luxury jewellery brand.

Since opening your first store in 1982, which do you consider as the most challenging and the most rewarding moments?

I suppose facing challenges and overcoming them is rewarding in itself so remaining true to our business ethos and keeping the studio and workshop making original and beautifully made pieces for 30 odd years has been very satisfying and a labour of love. As in life there have been highs and lows, the great thing is to try and have far more of the former!

Which are the key features of the DNA of your brand?

Originality and craftsmanship. We have been much copied and, I believe, box way above our weight in design heft. There is a level of British quirk which people seem to recognise and much sentiment and some humour. Whatever the piece though, from the classic to the overtly theatrical, the craftsmanship is superb.

Is your brand related to luxury lifestyle?

I am always confused by this idea of a luxury lifestyle as we are more about ownership of heirlooms and great works of craftsmanship. I would like to think we make pieces that people who can afford the very best would want to own because they are the very best and, in many cases, unique. This is one of life’s real luxuries.

Could you describe the profile of your most loyal customer?

They have the self-confidence and style not to have to wear or own what everyone else has and the taste to chose pieces for themselves rather than what magazines and ‘style councillors’ tell them. They tend to have a creative frame of mind and love to get involved with all the quirks and fascinations of real craftsmanship and design.

To what extent you follow trends in your product development?

We really don’t at all except for the occasional move towards, say, brooches or tiaras when they become popular. We pride ourselves on pre-dating trends and being quite extravagantly copied!

Was it a strategic approach to maintain one single flagship store and the entire distribution through wholesale (multi-brand)?

Well we have stand-alones at the Royal Exchange and Burlington Arcade and, otherwise, for an independent company the wholesale/concession route is the only one affordable.

Do you consider opening mono-brand other boutiques?

Yes we do. It would depend on us being sure of that market and, probably, finding a local, sympathetic partner.

Which do you consider as the most effective communications tool for your brand?

For us, without doubt, it is word of mouth and exhibition. You have to see our pieces in the flesh and our customers are our best salespeople. We rely on our pieces rather than wight of brand advertising.

Internationally, which are your best performing markets?

The Middle East, Eastern Europe and, lately, The Far East.

Have you been approached by major luxury groups? Would you consider joining such a group?

Yes, we have and I think we would be a really interesting and quirky British adjunct to a big company that has this gap in their portfolio. However, whether they would be sympathetic to such a design-led business and whether we would want to do a deal with such a company is a moot point.

Theo Fennell in conversation with CPP-LUXURY