Connie Nam, Astrid & Miyu CEO, on jewellery industry trends

In line with the publication of the E2E Female 100 list for 2024, we spoke to Connie Nam, CEO and Founder of Astrid & Miyu, contemporary jewellery brand, which placed in the top percentage of the list, to gain further insights into the jewellery industry as well as Connie’s experience over the years

Wednesday 24 April 2024 16:07 BST
(Connie Nam - Astrid Miyu)

Current State of the Jewellery Industry

When I first started Astrid & Miyu, the jewellery industry was highly fragmented.

I identified a gap initially – there were so many high-end brands, as well as highstreet brands to purchase more cosmetic and throw-away jewellery.

I entered the demi-fine category, which is where people can find high quality pieces that don’t break the bank.

We’ve pioneered this space, but now there’s other businesses entering this market which is very exciting – there’s a huge movement of affordable yet high quality jewellery brands popping up, and the jewellery industry is really evolving.

When I started 12 years ago, branded jewellery wasn’t a thing in this category – there are a lot of brands in fashion and apparel, but you couldn’t identify brands in between the entry and luxury space, and so that is the trend we’re seeing at the moment.

Key Milestones and Achievements

Of course, it was starting Astrid & Miyu – originally, I used to work in investment baking, so starting out on my own and taking that risk was a huge milestone.

Within Astrid & Miyu, opening our first store in St Christopher’s Place three years into the business, was a huge milestone, as well as getting into Selfridge’s five years into the business.

Post-Covid was also a huge catalyst for us commercially, as we were able to secure a lot of deals with landlords, and so off the back of Covid, we opened 20 stores. We currently have 24 stores and only had four stores pre-covid.

Overcoming Challenges

Covid was a big one – we had to close down four stores and we had a very small team. Dealing with everything without having the furlough scheme, as this was introduced two weeks after the lockdown, was one of the biggest challenges.

Personally, for me, which I know is also something a lot of founders scaling up face, was changing my mindset from being a founder to a CEO. As a founder of a small business, you are doing everything, but then once you put your team in place you need to allow people space and allow them to run with things. Making that switch has been a big challenge that I had to overcome.

Also running a business whilst raising two kids – I have a five-year-old and a six-year-old who came in the middle of scaling up the business and in the middle of Covid!

Impact of Technological Advancements

3D printing has had a massive impact on us – before, we used to draw everything, send it to the suppliers, and then wait for them to make and ship everything, which not only took four to six weeks but also left a carbon footprint.

Now, we can prototype things much quicker, and locally, as we can go to a local 3D printer and see the scale of things. This allows production processes to move more quickly in a more sustainable way.

Future of the Jewellery Industry – Sustainability and Ethical Practices

With the jewellery industry, the traceability of gemstones and metals is always a question mark.

Using recycled metals and trying to find alternative methods to sourcing gemstones, as well as upcycling, is how we try to stay competitive and innovative in this market. All our metals are made with recycled silver and gold, and I see a lot of brands following this trend as well.

Lab grown diamonds and gemstones will become big – I think it’s already trending because it’s easy to trace and you can go to the lab and see exactly what’s going on. Also, a lot of labs use solar or renewable energy.

It’s not just the materials for us – it’s also treating people fairly. We have so many practices within our business, and we employ so many people in our retail stores, so we provide a lot of learning and development to empower people.

Advice to Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Understand what your unique perspective is when you start a brand – I see a lot of brands trying to copy others or be something that they’re not.

Knowing what your unique selling point is, and sticking to that, is imperative because your customers will know, and you need to serve your core customers.

The E2E Female 100 is such an exciting initiative – it’s all about empowering women, and I’m incredibly honoured and excited to be a part of it.

We need to be celebrating female entrepreneurs more – I’ve met so many amazing female entrepreneurs throughout my journey, and I feel like they’re always so collaborative and great at celebrating each other, so it’s great to have this initiative where we can all support and celebrate each other together.

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