May 24, 2019 | By Cassandra Napoli
Aug 22, 2018
By Sandy Chu
WGSN sat down with jewellery designer Joanna Hardyment in Shanghai to talk starting up her eponymous brand, J. HARDYMENT. We discussed Shanghai’s energy, understanding differing tastes in jewellery around the world and strategic planning.
Could you tell us a bit about how you founded your jewellery brand?
I had an interest in design and fashion from a young age, but didn’t feel ready for fashion school when the time came. Instead, I majored in art history at university, believing it to be a good foundation for anything design-related. I then worked curating and framing artwork in a gallery where I realised I loved the tactile side of creativity. After that I moved back home to Taiwan (where I grew up), and had a fantastic opportunity at Vogue Taiwan where I ended up co-hosting a daily web series where we would create ‘how-to’ fashion videos around styling.
This led to an opportunity in Shanghai, where I worked on styling wardrobes for Chinese TV and film. Living in Shanghai is so amazing – there’s this energy that makes you feel capable of anything. I think that’s why you find so many entrepreneurs in this city. I got into designing as a hobby and felt ready to try and begin designing. After fortuitously connecting with Baodao Group China (a Taiwanese eyewear company), I started a freelance job designing eyewear of their own premium brand Milanno.
Learning about sunglasses and eyewear was the best thing for me, I dove into the technical aspects of design, visited factories and fell in love with creating something physical from something conceptual. After an eyewear project with the Danish brand Georg Jensen, I felt ready to launch my own brand with my own stamp on it. Prepared to go into accessories and begin by creating my own line of sunglasses, my focus somehow organically evolved into jewellery where I found my real passion.
I love jewellery, as they feel like mini pieces of art and sculpture. Seeing my pieces come into fruition still gives me immense fulfillment. I still always reference art, industrial design, and fashion in my design process, as that’s where I seek inspiration. Now It’s been almost two years since my brand launch, and I still find I evolve organically through experiences.
What’s your design ethos?
My design ethos is to try and create pieces that are timeless. The tagline that I use for my jewellery is ‘minimal statement jewellery’, because I love trying to simplify the forms in a modern and sculptural way, while still trying to create statement pieces of jewellery that have a boldness and suit different occasions.
At the moment, the materials I work in for the jewellery line is just sterling silver or brass plated in 3 colourways, 18k yellow gold, 18k rose gold, or rhodium and find this metallic medium has no limits in a simplified and directional way.
Are there any taste differences you’ve noticed from your sales or stockists across Asia? What about globally?
As a business owner and a designer, I find it is so important to pay attention, from how buyers are selecting, to what clients are choosing in order to understand the direction of the design. Currently I have stockists in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan and can already see clear differences in sales and preference.
In Taiwan sales in rose gold is much more popular than the other two regions, whereas, in mainland China, the sales between the three are pretty even. In Hong Kong yellow gold is the most dominant. I have found that globally, yellow gold is currently trending and earrings in particular are a major category.
Despite being a relatively young brand, you’re currently stocked by Lane Crawford. What helped your brand stand out?
I think luck and intent played equal roles, but perhaps it’s that cliched saying of ‘just be yourself’. I definitely design for myself as a starting point and try not to be overly-swayed by trends whilst still keeping an eye on them. I think keeping your core identity is so important.
Aside from product offering, what do you feel brands should focus on to grow their business?
I am still learning this along the way, but I definitely believe in listening to the market on all aspects of your business, to be flexible enough to shift when something isn’t working and, of course, knowing that it’s also ok to ask for help. A big focus I hope to improve on is e-commerce and social media. The possibility to autonomously control your business is now available, and I think this is incredible no matter how daunting it can feel.
Do you have any influencers you’d love to see wearing your brand or dream stockists you’d like to see carry your brand?
It would be a dream to be able to reach a global audience, and to be able to sell on e-commerce platforms like Net-a-Porter, Moda Operandi, or Matches, for example. I also follow a lot of different influencers, and would be beyond flattered if any one of them liked the brand. Not too long ago, Chriselle Lim chose and wore a few pieces (the 2 Face Ring and the 2 Face Bracelet), and that was really amazing.
As someone who has successfully established a brand do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring designers?
Creating a brand is not just about design, it’s also about production, marketing, sales, customer relations, etc, but that is not to say there is no creativity involved in all these aspects. I think you can never fully realize just how hard starting a business is until you do it. It can simultaneously be the most rewarding and the most shattering thing you can do, and though I am nowhere near feeling established, as long as I remind myself that failure shouldn’t be scary, perseverance is the only thing that matters.
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