Babette Wasserman is a business badass. After studying in art college and being encouraged by her tutor to pursue jewellery design, she wasted no time in swiftly nabbing a place at the super prestigious Central St Martin’s School of Art.
Girl got game.
Having won the prestigious Designer of the Year 2015 at the National Association of Jewellers Awards, Babette is no stranger to recognition. Her designs have gone global in over 30 countries and she has collaborated with major high fashion brands such as prada and personally designed for the Karl Lagerfield. Impressed yet? Read on…
When you first started out, how did you go about producing and selling your designs?
I had the good fortune to be introduced to a great little factory in London when my father was doing jury service and the man standing in front of him owned a factory that specialised in making cufflinks! My Dad mentioned that his daughter was setting up a jewellery company and this is how I got my first commercial factory to start making my designs. We now use more than 10 different factories to make all our designs.
”Launching a business is the exciting part! I believe that things get harder after you launch…”
What has been the toughest thing about launching your business?
Launching a business is the exciting part! I believe that things get harder after you launch, when you have staff and sell in large international conglomerate department stores. You have to make sure you are producing successful collections each season, constantly introducing fresh ideas and designs to appeal to their clientele and also keeping your customers happy.
Did you ever have the I’ve made it’ moment?
I’m a very ambitious person so I get this feeling regularly! However once I have achieved it I’m onto the next thing and so it never quite feels like I have made it yet! Winning Awards is a great achievement or opening a new account such as selling to Thomas Pink worldwide, or Lane Crawford in Hong King and mainland China, and now I’m onto my next challenge!
Who and what Inspires your designs?
My influences are different for the men’s cufflinks or accessories collection and the women’s jewellery range. For men, I am inspired by architecture engineering and mechanical things. Original materials such as rubber, volcanic lava, rare stones. For women, I love to intertwine nature’s beautiful elements with fashion, colours, jewels to enhance a contemporary yet timeless elegant look. I am in constant search of the ‘perfect design’.
What do you do when you’re low on inspiration?
Running a company and heading up sales is not always conducive to designing as these tasks are highly pressurised roles and design requires clear head and calm environments. I take a bit of time out for inspiration- I always have a lot of ideas throughout the season and record them so I can refer back to them when it’s time to design the next collection.
You have an interesting clientele including Elle McPherson, Madonna, Sienna Miller, David Beckham and others. How has it affected your brand?
It’s a great testament to my brand to have famous people wear my brand as it gives good exposure to my designs. I also have a lot of customers who are not well known but come back to me, time and time again. I have now started doing one off bespoke pieces in solid gold or platinum including engagement rings where each design I make is uniquely designed to suit that person. The piece I made for David Beckham was a bespoke pair of cufflinks.
”Karl was fab, it was such an honour to work with him. He is charming and so knowledgeable.”
You got to work with the fashion genius that is Karl Lagerfield. How did it come about and what was it like?
They approached me. I was working under a private label for Kenzo for over ten years and one of the contacts from there recommended our services. Karl was fab, it was such an honour to work with him. He is charming and so knowledgeable.
What does your typical morning involve?
Checking my emails for anything urgent, replying to certain customers that I look after, doing some sketches, checking over new samples that have arrived. Setting prices for new collections, coming up with marketing ideas, new customers to target , basically lots of things. Two days are never the same.
How much freedom and flexibility does your work give you?
When you own your own company, you end up working even harder than for someone else. For many years i worked till 10pm each night, that’s what I needed to do to get the business off the ground. Now, less so as I have a larger team. The flexibility comes with the fact that you do not always feel like it’s work when you are so passionate about what you do.
What has been your favourite piece of jewellery you have designed?
That is a tough one! My most notable piece of jewellery is the Saucer cufflinks this is a reversible two-faced link, where you can slide a central disk up and down a bar to create two completely different cufflinks. I invented and went to patent this design back in 1998. I have remade it for Ted Baker, Dunhill, as well as selling it under my own brand Babette Wasserman London to many department stores such as Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Liberty’s.
If you could be any gem which one would you be?
I would be a diamond because the breadth of this stone is infinite. Coloured diamonds are stunning, such as champagne diamonds. I love the warm colour of this shade of diamond. Setting it in rose gold is absolutely luscious and luxurious. You also have an lexicon of beautiful and interesting cuts, like rose cut diamonds which can be large and flat They resemble crystals and can be used in a modern edgy design, or kite shaped diamonds, which are my personal favourite right now with their modern geometric cuts.
”Just get out there and gain as much experience as you can working for someone else, before setting up your own business!”
What advice would you give to those who want to start their first business?
Try to get exposure in everything from sales to production, design or even accounts. In order to run a successful business you need to know what is happening in all areas of your business. I worked for two years before setting up my business at the age of 24 and although two years was not very much, I experienced jewellery design on a commercial level as well as learning PR, marketing and sales. I also did a crash course on Accounts which was very helpful. Just get out there and gain as much experience as you can working for someone else, before setting up your own business!
To see more of Babette’s designs, head to her website here.