After finding himself redundant during 2009, Alex Angel-Benscher changed his life for the better and began his trip to the Far East and Africa, which he was later to use as inspiration to begin his own jewellery brand; Vurchoo. Located in the centre of Essex, Vurchoo provides charities across the globe with financial and educational support for those less fortunate. The Hun Pitou collection, which is renowned for its iconic design, draws influence from a young girl he met in Cambodia, Hun Pitou, who encouraged him to start the collection.
Building upon the single grain of rice, Vurchoo creates the iconic motif in 18kt gold vermeil and sterling silver to produce staple adornments for the everyday woman. These ethical pieces are not only a timeless keepsake but also save the lives of children in multiple countries. Alex tells us how a round the world trip inspired him to create a unique jewellery brand that gives something back.
What inspired you to create your own brand?
“About 7 years ago, I decided to stop going from job to job and spending my night's painting graffiti with my friends and took what little savings I had to buy a plane ticket around the world. I worked and volunteered along the way visiting many deprived parts of the globe. People said to me before I left, I would come back a different person, I took their comments with a pinch of salt, but they were right.
"Why had I wasted so many years in the shadows when I had so much to offer?"
I had no idea how lucky I was to be born in England. I was desensitised to the suffering that goes on in the world, I just didn’t know it. Why had I wasted so many years in the shadows when I had so much to offer? 14 months later I returned from my solo trip to my hometown of Southend-On-Sea, Essex and knew I couldn’t slip back into my old ways. I knew I wanted to focus on my passion for design, and I also wanted to give back to those in need. I just wasn’t yet sure how.”
How did jewellery go from an idea to a reality?
“I enrolled myself onto a course run by the Princes Trust, called The Enterprise Program. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. It was a week-long course that taught me the skills I would need to overcome the challenges I would face in becoming my own boss. During the course, I had a eureka moment. The idea for Vurchoo was born. A luxury jewellery brand with a difference. I would source my inspiration for the design from the people I met around the world, and share my profits with them!
"The idea for Vurchoo was born. A luxury jewellery brand with a difference. I would source my inspiration for the design from the people I met around the world, and share my profits with them!"
I spent the next 2 years working with charities and schools in both the UK and abroad. I simply asked them to draw the things that mean the most to them, I then used this as the sole inspiration for each piece of jewellery. When I returned to the Princes Trust to show them what I have designed, and the business plan I have prepared, they put me through a ‘Dragon’s Den’ scenario where I presented my passion. I’ve never been so nervous. These 4 people were going to decide my future in the space of 30mins? It turns out I had nothing to worry about! They were more than happy to fund Vurchoo and gave me a business mentor who is still advising me to this day. Now I was ready to make my mark in the jewellery industry.”
Talk us through your collections?
“I launched Vurchoo with 3 collections, all named after the children who inspired them. We have Caleb, a young boy from Rwanda. He wanted to show me the favourite things he owned and his favourite plants. In typical African fashion, he used a burst of colours. I loved the energy he used, and created a stunning enamel collection with matching stones. Secondly, we have Hun Pitou from Cambodia. She wanted to show me where she was from and the paddy fields that are the life line of her village. The most stunning simple shapes we have are from nature. So, I used rice grains as the focal point in this collection creating a timeless design that is perfect for any wardrobe all year round.”
Which one of your designs means the most to you?
“I love the enamel work in the Caleb collection as it took me almost 6 months to perfect it, but the symbolism in the Hun Pitou pendant necklace means to most to me. It’s a silver rice grain leaving its golden husk. Symbolic of Hun Pitou’s coming of age. The high polish reflecting your surroundings, the same way Hun Pitou reflected hers in her drawing.”
"I have just completed my third range as demanded by my current customers!"
What are your goals for the future?
“I have just completed my third range as demanded by my current customers! I want to work with new charities who also really do need a free source of donations. I look forward to beating my goals from 2016 of being on Retail Jeweller’s 30under30 rising star list, UK Jewellery Awards Finalist list for Ethical Business Of The Year, having my designs worn by Caggie Dunlop from Channel 4’s TV show Made in Chelsea, and Persian TV Manoto Stage.”
Vurchoo is available to shop on Jewelstreet here.