E-COMMERCE is a tricky, but ever-expanding market, one in which it can be difficult for boutique luxury brands to gain ground. You need a beautiful product, sophisticated marketing and a strong sense of brand identity to stand apart, especially in the myriad of jewellery brands now online.
Happily, all of these factors came naturally to Bec Astley Clarke MBE, founder of Astley Clarke. With a distinguished family background full of academics, scientists and politicians, Clarke brings a naturally entrepreneurial mindset to her work, supporting the import of British craftsmanship. But, she also has a true love for making beautiful objects for women to wear from coloured stones and other materials.
Founded in 2007, Astley Clarke is all about perfecting the art of British luxury jewellery. The Astley Clarke boutique is located in a villagey section of London’s W2. There, you will find a shop on the ground floor and the design studio on the first floor, where Astley Clarke Creative Director Lorna Watson and her team conceptualise and design the brand’s jewellery collection.
We recently sat down with Bec Astley Clarke to find out more about her take on brand heritage, e-commerce and the art of beautiful design.
After your roles at Tesco.com and iVillage.com and your academic background, what inspired you to move into jewellery and set up Astley Clarke & what were the decision processes for setting up Astley Clarke as a solely online e-commerce outlet at first?
I started Astley Clarke because I saw a gap in the market for amazingly designed coloured gemstone jewellery being sold online. I had been working in e-commerce up until that point, and my whole history was online. I saw that big luxury brands were slow to adopt online as a selling medium, and as a way of telling a brand’s story.
Can you tell us something about the vision of Astley Clarke? Who is the ideal Astley Clarke consumer? What, in your opinion, do they look for from a retail experience?
Astley Clarke Customers are intelligent, empowered women who appreciate refined and precious jewellery.
Could you tell us which of your lines has been most successful?
One of our most popular collections is our Biography by Astley Clarke bracelet collection. It’s our take on grown-up friendship bracelets with differing precious gemstones and talismans. They’re highly collectable and stunning if layered to create bespoke stacks. Our most popular Fashion Fine collection is our Icons collection – delicately hand paved pieces. They’re perfectly refined and available in Yellow and Rose Gold.
Which fashion designers work best with your designs?
The great thing about Astley Clarke is that it’s highly versatile whether worn with jeans and a T-shirt or with an evening dress. Designers that I think sit nicely alongside the Astley Clarke Brand are Victoria Beckham and Rupert Sanderson – considered, refined, but wholly wearable.
What, in your opinion, is the most essential piece in a woman’s jewellery wardrobe and what is your favourite piece of jewellery?
The piece I wear every day is our Astley Clarke large Rose Gold Icon pendant. It’s striking in its design yet refined and delicate enough to wear every day. I think a beautiful necklace is essential in completing an outfit.
Why do you think luxury brands were slow to embrace online and e-commerce? And what do you see the future holding for online luxury?
Astley Clarke was pioneering in that it was the first fine jewellery brand to retail online. It’s difficult when a new sales channel emerges as a Luxury brand to embrace it and knowing how to ensure a great customer experience is still achieved. At Astley Clarke we worked to ensure each and every customer received that good old fashioned customer service whether purchasing on or offline.
It’s true that other luxury brands, especially jewellery, were slow to embrace online, however once they realised how effective it could be they certainly jumped on board. In regards to the future, I can only see the channel growing with the digital world constantly pushing boundaries and increasing in size.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of digital media to brands? Do you plan to have any non-digital channels such as producing a magazine like Net a Porter’s Porter?
I believe that online goes hand in hand with offline, while the website allows us to communicate with our customers through engaging content, we also speak to our customers through print media such as catalogues and postcards. As we have launched in more and more retail locations across the globe it is important to speak to our customers both physically and digitally.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs starting out?
You have to take the plunge. And don’t be frightened to do things that other people don’t generally tend to do.
by Jessica Quillin