From Hong Kong to New York, Karen Phillips has been designing jewellery for over 20 years all over the world. Previously a costume jewellery designer at Tommy Hilfiger, Karen returned to the UK in 2003 determined to undertake the task of building her own brand.
Harnessing precious metal and distinctive gemstones, all of Karen’s pieces are forged with a high attention to detail, resulting in an opulent portfolio. We chat with Karen about her journey.
How did you get into the jewellery industry?
“After college, I went to live in Hong Kong, it was here I became involved in the jewellery industry. I worked within the diamond industry designing and merchandising a diamond jewellery line for a younger consumer. I was very young and it was a very exciting learning curve, Asia was booming at that time and I worked in Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia.”
When did you fall in love with jewellery design?
“When I was 15 I completed a 3D art project for my school, my art teacher told me she thought I would end up a jewellery designer based on my designs. I’ve no idea if she knows what I do now, I’d love to see her and tell her she was correct.”
"My art teacher told me she thought I would end up a jewellery designer based on my designs. I’d love to see her and tell her she was correct."
How has your childhood influenced you as a designer?
“I grew up in London quite near where I live now. My parents loved travelling and we were constantly going to new countries, visiting art galleries and museums. I was continually exposed to new visual ideas and this is lasting, if I don’t get exposed enough visual stimulation now I get very grumpy and take myself off to the nearest art gallery.”
What drove you to start your own jewellery brand?
“After designing for other companies for 15 years I wanted to create my own designs, I also wanted to get back to hand-making product not just designing. This is the complete creative process for me.”
"If you believe that people are good, then you have more positive experiences with others."
Values are really important us at Jewelstreet. What are your core brand values?
“My values are simply that everyone is the same and deserves the same respect regardless of their, job, wealth and social status. If you believe that people are good, then you have more positive experiences with others.”
How is your jewellery made?
“I sketch and create continually, and take inspiration from wherever I find it. My jewellery is made in my studio by me. I love the process of making, it is all absorbing and totally satisfying. I am at my happiest when I am making something.”
What is the most meaningful piece you’ve ever received?
“My grandmother had a lovely charm bracelet from the forties with all sorts of charms on it. I remember playing with it as a child and it has influenced all sorts of things I have made over the years. Unfortunately, it was lost in a move so I only have the memories now.”
Who are some of your clients you are most proud of?
“I am always fascinated by all my clients, I feel extremely proud that someone wants to wear my creations, and that they have related to something I’ve made.”
"I love what I do. Hand-making is the most satisfying creative process. I hope all my pieces express the energy I put into making them."
How do you want someone to feel when they wear a piece of your jewellery?
“As if someone has trusted them with a very special secret.”
What has been the highest point of your journey so far?
“I have loved working as a designer throughout my life. When we lived in New York, I worked for Tommy Hilfiger designing costume jewellery. Many pieces were placed in the popular press, Vogue, W, Elle. It was an extremely fun time, and New York life was fabulous. My highest point now is always the latest project I am making and the next creative challenge.”
What does the future hold for your brand?
“I am proud; but I will never arrive. I am driven with the ambition to create better and better things. Shaune Leane’s jewellery was described as ‘the antiques of tomorrow’ I think that’s as good as it gets so that’s the current goal! I love what I do. Hand-making is the most satisfying creative process. I hope all my pieces express the energy I put into making them.”