I like to keep it straightforward – I tell people that I am a designer and a jeweller. I get asked all the time what my design style is and it really is a difficult question to ask. I usually say that I am a traditional Goldsmith with a fashion sensibility. If asked more then I go into the design style which is heavily influenced by mythology, ancient cultures and any stories liked to this that has a key point of interest.
What sort of comments do you get about your designs?
Being part of an active studio with a shop front in Brighton and Hove I am lucky to be able to get lots of feedback from clients. The designs go down well and I am always surprised at how I have both male and female customers as well as a wide age range. The general reaction goes along the lines of “oh, that’s different”. Then they try it on and fall in love with the piece!
What is your background?
My background is a bit back to front. I originally studied interiors and architecture for a year but got frustrated with not being able to make what I was designing so moved over to jewellery design. I eventually moved from Scotland to London to study at the Royal College of Art and after graduating there I moved straight into teaching jewellery, mainly focussed in apprentices, in Hatton Garden (the heart of the UK jewellery industry). Doing that for almost 10 years, I decided it was time to focus on my own making so left, relocated to Brighton and set up my label in 2015.
Which designers do you rate highly and why?
My attention span is so short and my favourite things change daily but there are always a few key names that survive! I’m all about new label and emerging brands as that’s where the new styles and exciting use of materials are. Just now I love anything with colour and humour so Noon Passama and Broken Fab come to mind.
Tell us about your design process from concept, production and to the shelves…
I start with all best intentions to follow a routine and structure but then tend to stray away! My start point is always a good sit down and read through notes from previous collections as the core of my design always relates to narrative and mythology so there is plenty inspiration from ideas that have come up and not made the cut at the time.
Once I decide on the story that interests me the most I look into all of the imagery and symbolism that relates which then starts to form into 3D structures in my head. This is usually when I decide if it will be a men’s or women’s collection and then hit the sketchbook hard to develop the designs.
Once the designs are set every piece is then handmade. Depending on the design sometimes the piece suits better to be cast for reproduction, but this is kept to a minimum as part of my brand ethos is bringing handmade items to people at a reasonable price. Once I’m happy with the individual pieces and that they sit together as a collection they get released.
Generally, I work to a fashion season cycle so releasing collections in February and September, but it is a dated process so I don’t feel restricted – off-season is where the gems are!
How do you think your brand has developed?
The brand is still you, and only a year in, but we’re doing well! I would say the main development is a confidence in what we are doing. I want the label to stand for something different in the commercial world where you can reach and audience without compromising on the quality and the hand make.
What do you dislike most about your job?
There are certainly pressures. The main dislike in the constant juggling – it would be great to design and make the whole time but that is about 30% of the job!
Getting the label set up and launched was an achievement in itself! Most businesses fail in their first year and I have confidently made it past that stage! We are now working on the third Millar Jewellery collection which will launch sometime in the next couple of months.
I’m looking forward to this time next year. We will be at a stage where we will start employing people and taking the business from a one-man band to something national.
What advice would you have for anyone starting out in (your field)?
When I started out there was so much advice from all sides, and all contradictory. My advice – ignore it all, trust your instinct and don’t do it unless you have 100% conviction in what you want out of life.
Why do you think British design stands out on the global stage?
British design will always be at the front of innovation and exciting design. There are many countries around the globe that produce amazing designers, but the British have a uniqueness that stands head and shoulders above the rest. The UK is always the innovator – you only have to look at London Fashion Week to see how it is all about new labels, independent designers and fresh ideas.