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  • 5 years of The Collective Boutique: Q&A with founder, Hanna Nicholson
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    Hanna Nicholson

5 years of The Collective Boutique: Q&A with founder, Hanna Nicholson

5 years of The Collective Boutique: Q&A with founder, Hanna Nicholson

    How were you introduced to jewellery? Have you always been interested?

      I’ve always had an interest in jewellery and fashion. My grandmother especially loved jewellery and antiques so I think that did influence me when I was younger and, in the same way, my mother collected some beautiful Art Deco pieces which I used to covet. As I got older, my grandmother used to give me little trinkets and pieces of jewellery she’d picked up - they had a definite impact on me and I learnt to appreciate how special they were.

        What was the first piece of jewellery you bought?

          I think it would have been a necklace from a charity shop when I was about 7 or 8 with my pocket money! And then when I got my ears pierced when I was 13, my magpie tendencies really kicked in!

            What did you want to be as an adult?

              I didn’t really know when I was younger what I wanted to be. When I was 15 and doing work experience, I wanted to become a graphic designer and I think that’s where some of the more graphic, artistic influences come in to my curation. I always loved Art at school but couldn’t fit it in as well as my other 3 subjects for A Level so always felt I’d missed out a bit. I ended up working in Marketing, PR and web development after a stint in travel so there wasn’t a clear path to start with, but I’m a firm believer that everything I’ve done or learnt professionally so far has contributed to where I am now.

                Hanna does the styling for all her The Collective Boutique shoots

                What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting their own business?

                  I would say GO FOR IT! Make sure you’ve researched your market and done a proper business plan though, in some ways it’s easy to get started now as there are so many great platforms but having a clear plan of action is so important. Don’t be afraid of the knock backs either, they are part of the journey, it just pushes you to keep going and try different things or innovate.

                    What was your biggest stumbling block to launching your own business?

                      I think it was probably money - I tried to set everything up with £5k I’d saved up. Taking the leap to being self-employed was a no brainer for me, even though it was very daunting.

                        Eye bangle by Jennifer Loiselle, one of eight designers launched in 2013

                        Tell us about the first designer you stocked

                          I launched The Collective with 8 designers in 2013 - this included Jennifer Loiselle, Rosita Bonita and Dark Horse Ornament with whom I still work today. I had admired their work so it was a very exciting moment for me when we started collaborating.

                            Hanna wears Deco Wing earrings by Rosita Bonita

                            How do you choose designers to stock at The Collective Boutique?

                              I think there is a distinctive type of jewellery designer - either statement or demi-fine so I’m always drawn to these styles, I like wearing both and I tend to choose what I personally like, that’s part of my curation. I love building the relationships with designers and working together on exclusives. It’s lovely now after 5 years to be contacted by brands who want to stock with us, and discovering emerging designers I might not usually stumble across. There’s a fun quality to my selection, and also a wearable accessible aspect (I hope). I really believe that jewellery isn’t just for going out or special occasions, it’s an essential everyday accessory.

                              What has become easier over time?

                              The anxiety of making ends meet and having your own business never goes away but I think once you’re really invested emotionally and financially, it’s easier to take the rough with the smooth. I still sometimes lie awake at night worrying but I’ve learnt to trust my convictions, and that there’s nothing wrong in changing things slightly or admitting that one decision or another might not have been right. 

                              How do you balance running The Collective Boutique with motherhood? 

                              Part of the beauty of running my own business means that I can balance motherhood with work although sometimes it’s not really a balance at all! My husband runs his own business too so we both try to be flexible when it comes to family commitments and school runs. When I co-ran a Pop Up on Elizabeth Street in Belgravia last year for 8 weeks, it definitely challenged my work/life balance but having my son, Seb, come up to London with me during his half term and watch while I helped customers was really important to me. I feel he needs to understand the value of working, earning money and how it’s not always plain sailing!  

                              Hanna's son at the Pop Up at 77 Elizabeth Street, Belgravia

                              Proudest moment in the last 5 years? 

                              I do feel proud to have reached the fifth year, I feel like there have been some challenging times to get through to reach this little milestone so I wanted to mark it and to thank my customers and friends and family for all their support. I still look back on my first Pop Up at Boxpark in Shoreditch with a sense of pride and I loved planning the Launch Party with WAH Nails - curating and running the pop up shops is a huge commitment so it’s all worth it when the doors open and we get lovely feedback and returning customers.  

                              The Collective Boutique's first Pop Up at Boxpark, Shoreditch [April 2014]

                              What have you taken away from the first 5 years of business?

                              It’s a rollercoaster but you mustn’t ever give up. I was always ready for it to be a journey and I think the last 12 months have been particularly challenging in the current retail climate. I think it’s better to be real about these things, so much is rose-tinted glasses now, and I was close to thinking about closing the business in January this year but I just couldn’t do it. I’ve put so much into it that I had to keep going and try and refine things, even if the future is uncertain. 

                              If you could have any other job for the day, what would it be? 

                              I have been doing some freelance social media and website work for a friend’s amazing luxury travel business, Go Bespoke (check it out!) so travel would definitely be high up on the list! 

                              What are your dreams for The Collective Boutique in the future? 

                              My dream for the business has always been to develop my own collection. Watch this space! 

                              Who is The Collective Boutique woman? 

                              She knows her own style and has a sense of fun about her accessories paired with classic wardrobe staples. I love Lucy Williams’ style (Fashion Me Now) and her recent jewellery collaborations with Missoma - she does effortless daytime jewellery so well. I also love how Liza Urla (Gemologue) styles the jewellery she reviews, I think we have quite similar aesthetics and she looks amazing in the statement pieces, I’d love to work with her! 

                              Who would you love to style? 

                              I would love to meet with Iris Apfel and style her in some of our big statement earrings and brooches, she is amazing! 

                              Iris Apfel, image via Who What Wear

                              What jewellery pieces do you treasure? 

                              Apart from my engagement and wedding rings, I have a few treasured pieces. My grandmother gave me a pearl ring which was given to her when she got married by her mother in law, I still have the envelope she gave it to me in. I wear my Gold Spike Hoops every day and my Maria Tash diamond arrow. I love my Missoma Horn and Gold Leaf necklaces for everyday wear and I don’t travel anywhere without my Rosita Bonita Deco Wing earrings. 

                              Hanna's grandmother's pearl ring

                              What’s your ‘jewellery style’? 

                              I think my jewellery style is a bit of a mash up. I will wear a pair of statement earrings during the day with a sweatshirt or top. I never need an excuse to wear jewellery, it’s part of my routine when I get dressed in the morning. I also love layering up demi-fine necklaces and more delicate earrings and rings.  

                              Hanna's everyday jewels featuring Missoma and MFP

                              Give us one styling tip 

                              Don’t be afraid to wear jewellery during the day! I did have to stop when my son was little but it felt really good when I could wear my earrings and necklaces again without them being pulled and played with. Wear the metal colour you’re most comfortable with and stick to it though also experiment with mixing metals. Don’t think that a statement piece is only for going out - you can transform a simple daytime look with an amazing earring or necklace without it looking over the top. If you’re not sure about wearing something big and bold, try the Demi-fine layering look, if it’s necklaces, make sure they’re different lengths to create the right layering effect and with earrings, combine little hoops and studs if you have multiple piercings. That’s more than one tip isn’t it!! 

                               Hanna's demi-fine jewellery styling featuring Amarilo and Missoma

                              • Post author
                                Hanna Nicholson

                              Comments on this post (1)

                              • Aug 24, 2018

                                Hi Hanna,
                                Such an interesting read, and congrats on your 5th year running this beautifully unique and well collated website. I love my Rosita Bonita statement necklace which I wore this week to meet a friend for dinner, it’s my go-to favourite necklace!

                                Best wishes
                                Davina x

                                — Davina

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