In Their Own Words | Tatty Devine, From Grassroots to Cult Classic

Extract from How To Start A Creative Business by Doug Richard

Rosie Wolfenden and Harriet Vine set up Tatty Devine in 1999, and the brand has become a cult classic of British fashion with its witty, offbeat jewellery designs. Every piece is designed by the duo and 99% of the jewellery is made by hand in Tatty Devine’s own workshops. Each year, two main collections are launched at London Fashion Week. Tatty Devine has two London boutiques and over 100 stockists worldwide. Rankin shot a dress covered in Tatty Devine brooches to celebrate 25 years of London Fashion Week, and Dazed & Confused magazine has listed Tatty Devine as one of the 50 coolest brands in the world as chosen by the Cool Brands’ Council.

Rosie Wolfenden and Harriet Vine of Tatty Devine

by Rosie Wofenden, Co-Founder, Tatty Devine. www.tattydevine.com

We started Tatty Devine just at a grassroots level; it was very organic. Harriet and I met at art school and we really hit it off. Neither of us wanted a ‘proper’ job but we didn’t have a business background and we didn’t have any investment. We made fun and colourful stuff to wear for parties and that’s how it all began. Then we stumbled across some leather samples and started making leather bracelets that we sold from a stall in Portobello Road. They were really popular, so we made some more. We surfed the crest of a wave really, making things that we loved and they seemed to sell. We made fun, colourful, statement jewellery; the stuff that we wanted to wear and that didn’t cost the Earth to buy. Our style has always been very fresh and authentic. We always had the desire to make original products and it seemed to strike a chord at that time. We started in the late nineties when to us fashion felt quite stripped back, dull and bland, with a lot of beige and grey. In contrast, our designs were very bold and our aesthetic deliberately different. There really wasn’t anything out there that was similar to what we were doing.

I worked part-time at Steinberg and Tolkien, a vintage store on London’s King’s Road, and I was inspired by the glamour of vintage; it felt exciting and different as vintage hadn’t quite crept into the mainstream consciousness yet.
Referencing vintage shapes and styles — which we did a lot in our designs — just wasn’t commonplace. Harriet and I used to get our clothes from charity shops because we didn’t have much money and were always striving for interesting looks. Now there are loads of vintage, retro and second-hand shops to choose from, which didn’t exist before. Some successes seemed to happen almost by chance. A stylist came into Steinberg and Tolkien when I was working there and loved the headband I was wearing. She asked where she could get one for a magazine shoot and it was actually one of ours, a Tatty Devine creation. So I told her about it and I really sold her on Tatty Devine and she wanted to use it in the shoot
— that magazine that the stylist was working on turned out to be Vogue! It was an opportunity really — a lot of great things have happened from chance meetings like that, and from us seizing those opportunities. We have a real drive to talk about what we do and to get people as excited about it as we are. After that we had a number of approaches: Urban Outfitters, then Whistles, then Harvey Nichols — that was in September 1999 and they approached us by saying, ‘We need some young, fun accessories that aren’t available on the high street at the moment…’ What we make is all about
individualism and appeals to people who want to be a bit different. We have such a diverse audience, from the fashionable 25-year-old to the stylish 80-year-old. There’s one group of customers that has grown up with us and then another group that has found us by chance. We’ve done focus groups to find out more about our customer and found that generally our customers are female, independent, cultured and educated. We also found that potential customers who didn’t know us already were struck by the quality of our jewellery because it’s all handmade. We built a production and fulfilment studio in Kent and it just keeps growing because of the high demand.

Being a UK company is important to us and to our identity. There’s a Britishness to Tatty Devine that appeals to our customers. Harriet and I both grew up with a fondness for craftmaking and a love for handmade items; that element of Britishness and our quirkiness has helped us find a niche, and find customers abroad. There is an ingrained set of references to British culture and British history in our designs and because London is such a multicultural and diverse place, we draw on that in our jewellery design. Harriet and I always ask each other about things that we have seen recently that we love and are excited by, and that informs the next collection.

We’re always bombarded with offers to partner with other brands, so we’re quite careful about what we want to focus on and we’ve said that next year we’ll try to go after the partners that we want to collaborate with and look more at retail and new markets. I’d love us to explore New York, Paris, Tokyo and Melbourne, as those audiences are like our UK audiences and I think we’ll do well. We might do something with Rough Trade and possibly with Bestival. The great thing about partnerships is that you can potentially reach out to a whole new audience and take advantage of somebody else’s PR machine. It’s a lot of fun to collaborate with other creative people and come up with something completely new and unique. We’ve got a pop-up shop in Selfridges in London at the moment selling our custom-made Name Necklaces that have gone off the scale in terms of their popularity and have been worn by some famous faces. The pop-up is doing incredibly well; people love that they can get a handmade item in under half an hour and that they can watch it being crafted for them. The pop-up is going to become permanent and I’d love to roll that out across the world!
Retail has changed so much. It’s not enough to just sell stuff anymore. You need to create a branded space and let people enter into your world and get engulfed by it. Retail has gone to another level, it’s far more experiential and that’s what the customers want; the whole immersive experience. We’ve started doing Tatty Devine workshops following on from the success of our jewellery-making book and it seems that people like coming to our shops and making something unique themselves, to take away — it’s the full Tatty Devine!

Read Tatty Devine’s Story and more in the jargon-free guide for Creative Entrepreneurs, How To Start A Creative Business by Doug Richard.

10_coverGreen&Blue_REV

How to Start a Creative Business is an invaluable resource for any creative with a great business idea. Starting your own business does not need to be a complicated and daunting process and serial entrepreneur, Dragon’s Den investor and business educator Doug Richard, shows you how. He sets out a ten-point plan teaching creatives how to shape their startup business into a success.

Written in plain English, without the dense text and technical jargon of other business books, and illustrated with visual cues to help the message stick, Doug’s practical advice is accessible to all. Real-life case studies are interspersed throughout from successful creative startups that include, Tatty Devine, Paul Smith, Time Out and LoveFilm, which expand upon the theory and bring it to life.

In 10 chapters, Doug asks the fundamental questions any aspiring creative entrepreneur must answer. By following the questions from start to finish, and working through the get your hands dirty activities, you will get the theory first and then apply that theory in a practical way to the real world and your own business. By the time you reach the last question, you will have the foundation of a very solid creative business.

‘A must read for anyone with a creative business idea. If you’re nervous about taking that first step towards starting out on your own, I highly recommend this book.’

Fraser Doherty, Super Jam

 

‘It’s such a breath of fresh air to read a guide that focuses on creative businesses and how to make them a commercial success.’

Rosie Wolfenden, Co-Founder, Tatty Devine

 

“This book helps de-bunk the myth that creative people and business don’t mix by offering a series of insights from start-ups and creatives about taking a skill or an idea and bringing it to life as a business”.

James Boardwell, co-founder of Folksy.com

 

‘A jargon-free guide that is sure to inspire budding entrepreneurs’

Sophie Cornish, Co-founder notonthehighstreet.com

 

About The Author:

imagesDoug Richard is a successful entrepreneur with three decades of business experience building, selling and investing in businesses of all shapes and sizes. He believes that entrepreneurs are made and not born and thrives on helping people make the leap and set up their own business.

 

Doug founded the original School for Startups in 2008, and through it nearly 20,000 people have learned the vital business skills they need to succeed as a small business. In 2010 he established School for Creative Startups, a tailor-made programme for creative people, low on jargon, packed with practical information and one-to-one support. Doug endeavours to make business education accessible, taking a wry, candid, practical, upbeat approach to a subject.

 

Doug is forever fine-tuning his methods and exploring new ways of engaging students to make the greatest impact. He plays an integral role in delivering curricula during boot camp and throughout the year. Additionally he hosts regular live one-to-one surgeries and advises students, chairs the School for Creative Startups Angel Society and often advises government on the best approaches to supporting British startups. You might, however, know him best from his two year stint as an angel investor on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den.

 

Browse articles, read inspirational interviews and news stories and join this creative entrepreneurial community.

 

 How to start your business online course

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