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5 Minutes With... Alison Fern Jewellery

by Emma Foreman

Alison Fern is a self taught jewellery designer living and working in London. All of her pieces are individually crafted by hand and in limited quantities. Alison's design sensibilities swing between delicate and feminine with a desire for something a bit tougher with an edge. We spent 5 minutes with Alison to get a glimpse inside her brand.

How did Alison Fern Jewellery begin?

I studied Art and Design at university and originally started experimenting with making jewellery as a creative outlet whilst working in the art world. Inspired by the ever-changing and creative environment, I started to make my own mini pieces of art to wear to the office and while hanging out with friends. It was while working for TATE that my lovely, creative friends and colleagues became my first jewellery clients, and the seed to one day develop my own brand was planted.

I started out in Picture Research, a job which relied on creative thinking and a flair for recognising the importance of visuals in telling a story. I seemed to have so much more to say and ideas to express, that I was always looking for a creative project on the side!

Have you always been interested in fashion?

Fashion has always played a big part in my everyday life. I was an 80’s child and I fully embraced shapes and block colours! I like to think my style has evolved for the better since then, but even now, getting dressed in the morning is pretty much always an extension of how I’m feeling and a way to outwardly express myself and mentally prepare for the day.

What have been the highest and lowest points on your journey so far?

I think my highest point was realising after about a year of experimenting with styles, that I had come up with my first cohesive and concise collection and was truly ready to define my brand. Trying to create something on your own can feel like an uphill struggle at times though and there can be plenty of low points. However, all it takes though is for a stylist to request your earrings for a shoot, or someone to ask where you got the earrings you are wearing from to bring you right back up there again. It can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster at times!

What was the inspiration behind your latest collection?

I’m a country-side, seaside girl living in London and loving it, so I wanted my first collection to reflect that. The pieces consist of soft modern shapes with a tough-luxe edge.

Do you ever struggle to stay inspired?

I would say I honestly never struggle to stay inspired, my issue has always been trying to edit all my ideas and inspiration to develop and stay true to my brand. In the day of Instagram etc there is so much visual noise that if you are ambitious and creative it’s easy to get distracted!

Where is your go-to meeting spot?

I’m a coffee addict so a good coffee shop is always a great place to meet and discuss plans. There is a gorgeous independent coffee shop near me which I use a lot. Other than that I have London on my doorstep so where do I start! Having worked for Tate in the past, the new Switch House at Tate Modern never disappoints.

How would you describe your customer base?

Diverse! I like to think that my jewellery appeals to independent thinkers with one eye on fashion yet valuing quality materials.

Is there anyone you would love to see wearing your designs?

I love seeing friends and acquaintances whose style I have always admired buying my jewellery and styling it their own way. That still feels like a huge honour and thrill and that’s who I am ultimately designing for; the everyday woman. That said, I really love the style of Caroline de Maigret and it would be pretty amazing if she popped up one day wearing the Lucy-Lou ring with the Izzie necklace or something similar!

What are the morals you run your brand by?

I have had conversations with my main suppliers about the ethics of their materials as I would like my footprint to be as ethical as possible. I also operate with transparency and honesty with my customers. It’s only jewellery, but it can make a difference to someone’s day and it’s important for each and every customer to be treated as special and with respect whether spending £20 or £120.

Do you have a mentor?

I have a business advisor which helps, and a creative husband!!

What apps keep you sane?

I am a bit obsessed with weather apps - a true Brit! It helps me plan my day. 

If you could only wear one piece from your collection, what would it be and why?

Ooo that's tough because I have my top 5 pieces on rotation at the moment! I probably wear the Bexley Hoops in large the most, gold is having a real moment currently and these are so easy to wear and add a bit of glamour even on a jeans and a T-shirt day. Then there's the Lucy-Lou ring and the Ruth bracelet... 

What’s the biggest style mistake you’ve ever made?

Well, as I said the 80’s were fairly disastrous, and my teens didn’t get much better! I think when you are young and interested in fashion you experiment a lot and some looks work but a lot definitely don’t!

Is there another designer whose work you particularly admire?

I wore a Jenny Packham dress on my wedding day. It was beautiful, ethereal and magical. That dress helped to make me feel like the luckiest girl in the world. For that I applaud her! 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

In terms of developing a brand, I did read somewhere not to get frustrated if your business doesn’t quite look and feel like you want it too and to keep going until it did. I read that at a time of feeling a bit stuck and it helped reignite the fire!

What drew you to Wolf & Badger?

It seemed like a great way to introduce my first collection to a design savvy audience and a way to be associated with other emerging brands.

Where do you see the brand in 5 years?

Continuing to do what I love! I would like to be a go-to brand for unique pieces of jewellery, have an established customer base and have developed a number of selling channels. I’m not looking for world domination, but I would like to be known as a brand with creative ideas and a sound customer service ethic.