I love hearing the stories behind inspirational women who have achieved success in their lives and I am passionate about encouraging women to discover who they are and what it is they want to achieve with their life. This is part of the reason why I started my Women at Work series – to explore career opportunities available to women today that might not have been an option just 10 years ago. Today I am so pleased to have the opportunity to interview one very inspiring woman, someone filled with enthusiasm and energy who is passionate about what she does – Kirsten Goss – the South African behind the stunning luxury jewellery brand that is making waves internationally, Kirsten Goss London.
Since I was gifted my first Kirsten Goss piece in April this year for my anniversary (lots of hints were dropped but it was still a special surprise) this range of jewellery has shot up to the top of my “covet” list! Take a visit to www.kirstengoss.com and you’ll see why… The various ranges feature beautiful hand-crafted sterling silver with colourful semi-precious stones that make for unique statement pieces to add to any wardrobe. They have also just ventured into the precious stones market with the new Diamond Jubilee range.
Since launching the Kirsten Goss brand in London in 2002, Kirsten has poured her passion for unique design and unparalleled craftsmanship into every piece of jewellery she has created. Exceptional design, uncompromising quality and a philosophy of value over volume has seen Kirsten Goss London grow from strength to strength.
To find out more about the name (and the person) behind the brand I recently did an interview with Kirsten Goss, Luxury Jewellery Designer…
When did you know this is what you wanted to do?
I studied a year of economics before I switched (rather rapidly) to a BA in fine arts majoring in gemology and jewellery design. I’ve always had quite split interests, on the one hand I’m quite business minded and fascinated with biology and science and on the other I’m an unbound creative. The four years at Stellenbosch were in-valuable, I studied under real masters who tutored us in a very classical craft. That really was my foundation and I still honour the discipline to this day; from that point on I never looked back. Hungry and inspired, I came to London and cut my teeth in the industry working for Erikson Beamon a world renowned costume jeweller which was quite a shock to the system!! It gave me a great insight into the industry; how influential press are and how critical it is to build ‘the brand’.
What did you study – was it in this field or something different?
Funnily enough I took all the sciences and maths at school (no Art!) to study BSc Marine Biology….I quite fancied myself in a bikini with Jacques Cousteau on the back of a dolphin! In the end, after a year of Economics I switched to a BA in fine arts majoring in gemology and jewellery design.
What prompted you to start your own business?
I saw a gap in the market for a mid-high price point brand. Precious jewellery has always had this intimidating austerity surrounding it, I visualised treasurable contemporary jewellery that could be worn and enjoyed and not tucked away to gather dust with your diamonds. I knew there was a market out there of style conscious, confidently authentic woman who buy for themselves and wear jewellery with authority. When I decided to go it alone after working for a few of the industry giants, I knew that I had to really do it alone to get the credibility I wanted to tap into a discerning demographic. I also wanted to design and produce jewellery that represented real goldsmithing, so wholesale was never a long term vision if I was going to stay in control and eventually have an independent shop front. Having a presence at Harvey Nichols and Liberty of London in the early days certainly boosted the name and launched the brand, but I pulled out when I realised I could stand on my own two feet. My husband and father really supported that decision and gave me great, often critical advice from a business perspective on which route I took. It’s not been the conventional approach; it’s definitely a slower burn, but better than a quick buck or flash in the pan any day, I’m incredibly proud of the what the brand stands for today.
What’s the best part of your job?
The freedom to realise the crazy things that confound in my mind and the response from clients who are just as passionate about the brand as we are. Putting all the hype and publicity aside the most incredible thing is to be recognised for what we do and how we do it from institutions like Design Indaba. We’re not conventional, we can’t be pigeonholed and as a brand we take quite a unique standpoint with regards to our whole ethos and production. As a business we are in control from top to bottom, from sourcing to design, development and production, pricing and distribution, right through to marketing, PR and finally retail in our own standalone stores. We do things our way and are in control 100% of the time, which is something my team and I feel very proud of.
What is the most challenging part?
The most challenging thing is probably educating people about what goes into the production of our jewellery. A lot of our competitors cut corners to up margins and supply demand. On a commercial level shoppers (whether its food or jewellery) want instant gratification and the industry reaction to that is to cut corners like gluing instead of setting a stone for example but still keep their prices in line with a brand like ours which in turn gives the consumer a false impression of value and quality. With everything one click away with next day delivery, the average person can’t comprehend having to wait for something to be produced. Our client is someone who can appreciate that and buys into the brand because they believe in the ethos and values in what we do and how we function as a company. On a wider scale, I’m really pleased to say that we’re seeing a slow but progressive shift in the average consumers’ desire for true hand-crafted luxury products, a return to the craft.
What is your typical day, or maybe week, if days are very different?
I think the most honest answer is that there isn’t one! If I’m in Durban I’m in the studio working on forthcoming collections with Chantal my design development manager or tending to bespoke client projects. With two young kids both at school the day can be a little disjointed with lifts and play dates but the Blackberry and iPad where created to counteract these things! If I’m dropping the kids at home then I usually take the opportunity to touch base with London and Johannesburg and then head back to the studio in the afternoon. If I’m in London, Johannesburg or Cape Town then it’s usually for press appointments or client events, which are great times of energy for me. Engaging with the press and key clients keeps me connected.
As a mom of 2 young children the eternal question must be “How do you do it”?
Part of the draw card to Durban is family. My mum Karin 62, dad Patrick 63 and Kwatela Ngwenya 44 are the chief caregivers if both Steven and I are out of town, but that is rare now that we are working together, part of the attraction is that we co-parent the kids. He is a massively hands on dad and we are all very close. Think old Italian family business…..we’ll have them at the grindstone with us in no time.
What are the secrets to your success of balancing family life with a stellar career?
There are no secrets and there are definitely also times where I feel it’s completely unbalanced. This month alone I’ve been to Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Cape Town (x3) and heading off to London next week. It’s a real tug on the heartstrings to leave them but I have a never-ending drive to make our company succeed coupled with an unbound energy to be a mother; I’ve committed to the juggle and you just have to make it work. It’s certainly not rose tinted and I don’t find myself at long lazy lunches or teas as one might think. In fact there is always a sense of duty with the business that never escapes and can be very tiring. However I wouldn’t have it any other way as I am able to make most of the decisions about the how, why and when which is so vital for a personal sense of purpose, whilst constantly considering children into the equation? Living and running the design studio from Durban was the best decision I ever made, there’s no way I could achieve what I do now still living in London. Being five minutes from school, home and work makes the permanent home/life juggle so much more achievable and having my folks down the road is an amazing support. Having a great base in SA paired with the international influence makes my work so much richer and more diverse too.
What do you do for fun in your down time?
I spend a great deal of time travelling, so time at home with my husband and kids is my primary focus when I’m not working; playing with the kids in the pool or reading with them on the veranda is such precious time. Otherwise weekends down the Wild Coast to our very remote house in the middle of a pre-historic beach landscape.
What do you still want to achieve for Kirsten Goss Jewellery?
Where do I start? I seem to have an unbound creative resource to draw from (it’s actually quite problematic when it comes to refining a collection) my team have to rein me in, but I have so much still to achieve on that front, my mind boggles!! Designs aside I would love to have a Kirsten Goss standalone store in a handful of international cities, New York, Hong Kong, Rome and Sydney, I just love the idea of us plotted across the globe, represented by passionate kg ambassadors. On a broader scale (!) I hope we continue to gain recognition from the industry for our unique ethics and approach as a jewellery brand and to be recognised as a brand that really fly’s the flag for traditional craft. Oh and to get our jewels on the cover of British Vogue, that’s on the to do list too!
See what I mean – isn’t she just so inspiring. You can almost feel the energy!! Thank you so much Kirsten for sharing your thoughts and insights behind the brand with me and the Becoming you readers. What an honour to have this “exclusive” interview with you.
Stay tuned for more exciting news from Kirsten Goss and Becoming you early next week. I can’t wait to share it with you….