Self-taught designer Nikki Gewirtz launched the Lola Rose jewellery brand from her bedroom in 2000 with an emphasis on creating unique and timeless pieces for women. Since then Lola Rose has flourished, attracting high-profile clients including the Duchess of Cambridge, Halle Berry and Sarah Jessica Parker. Eighteen years on, Nikki Gewirtz tells us how she did it.
A beautiful piece of jewellery from a close friend on my 30th birthday struck a particular chord with me. I was frustrated with the lack of affordable accessories available to women that didn’t either break the bank or become items that were rarely worn. Three months after my birthday I created my first piece of jewellery, a single tumble-stone bracelet, which has now become the foundation of the brand.
My initial approach was to start small and really focus on that one product. The Alfie bracelet, my first ever design, was all about nature and celebrating women’s unique identities. Once I had created that first piece, the sky became the limit and my creativity started to run freely. I would attribute the importance of never compromising your beliefs and philosophies to my business’s success.
My breakthrough moment was when the legend that is Hilary Alexander, then fashion editor of The Telegraph, featured our tumble bracelets. To have someone such as Hilary pick up on a tiny independent brand over a big name label was incredibly humbling, and a real moment that I will never forget.
My business was entirely self-funded as I was working from home, buying beads from craft shops in Covent Garden and stringing them by hand myself. I was working as an executive assistant at a radio station when the brand was born, creating bracelets and necklaces in my front room in north London – it really was a simple set-up to start!
The brand name came from my grandma, Lola. She was an incredibly glamorous and stylish woman who I absolutely adored. As I started designing my own pieces I was reminded of her, so it made sense to make her an integral part of the brand. To this day, when I design I still feel grandma Lola with me, inspiring each piece I create.
My main challenge has been remaining on top of the changes in the consumer market, mainly in the digital world. My customer is ever-changing in the way she styles herself and the way she shops. It is my job to be one step ahead of her, ensuring I am always delivering new and exciting products that stay true to my business philosophies.
I had no idea the Duchess of Cambridge would wear one of my designs. It was completely unexpected and an incredible surprise. I understand that the Duchess’ shopping is done via an intermediary so we had no idea until the photographs of her at a charity engagement were put online. The reaction was amazing; the pendant sold out within hours and we had repeat orders, waiting lists and demand from all over the world.
I would be lying if I said achieving a good work/life balance is a breeze. Family is at the heart of everything I do and for me Lola Rose is an extension of my family. There is no bigger joy than having my entire family around me, especially since I became a mum. Spending quality time with my husband and two boys is what keeps me grounded and relaxes me after a busy day in the office.
Being a business owner and founder means I am learning every day. One of the most meaningful things I have learnt is to surround myself with great and inspiring people. I place a huge amount of trust in my team, who I learn from on a daily basis. It is truly rewarding to see they have the exact same passion and belief in the brand as I do.
Self-belief, dedication and a great support network are the three elements that have been essential ingredients to my success. Of course, believing that you’re going to be successful alone isn’t going to make you a success – you have to be incredibly dedicated and willing to put your absolute all into every little part of the business.
I am very passionate about championing home-grown design talent. As a capital and a country, we have produced many iconic designers. I particularly like Alice Temperley for her confident, feminine and effortless attitude, as well as Rixo for how they rework classic seventies designs with a refined, modern edge that eludes a grown-up bohemian aesthetic that transcends the traditional fashion cycle.
Starting your own business is incredibly daunting. I have learned that the more you nurture your business the more it will flourish. It is what makes it so rewarding – that and seeing women enjoying wearing my designs.