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Q&A with Kaaren Buchanan

S/S '22

 

We sat down with the delightful Kaaren and chatted work, family, travel, her beautiful jewellery brand and her exclusive collection for The Hambledon, perfectly designed for Summer.

Shop Kaaren Buchanan Jewellery ►

A portrait of Kaaren Buchanan the jewellery designer.

Have you had any formal training?

My background is stone sculpting. When I moved to New York I would take art classes on the side.

What were you doing in New York?

I moved to NY when I was 17 and had an amazing contract with the Ford agency. I lived with Eileen Ford and had a wonderful jet set life. After 3 years I sort of got sick of it and felt burnt out. I was planning on going back to Vancouver to art school but I decided to come to London to do some last few jobs that I’d been booked for. After a couple of months I met my future husband in London and that was that.

How did the jewellery come about?

After I moved to London I kept doing sculpture and drawing in a little studio at home. And then I thought I’d like to make some extra money for myself. My mother had been on the buying side of the jewellery business so I asked her to recommend a small manufacturer to produce some designs of mine. I had a few pieces made. A friend signed me up to do a Christmas sale at school. So I bought all my stuff to sell, and a magazine to read because I was sure I’d have nothing to do, and I sold it all in minutes. I called my husband and said ‘We’ve got to do something with this. It has gone crazy’.

When was this?

This was about 8 years ago. And then Instagram took off and I think I worked out how to use that quite early on!

Where you doing everything yourself?

Yes. Designing and making. And to some extent I still am. I’m overseeing everything. I have people I give jobs to but I’m still involved in everything.

You grew up in Canada with Winters spent in Maui. You now live in Berkshire. What are your favourite things about each place?

In Maui I love the wild extremes and the colours. There’s a hike you can do into an extinct volcano through jungle and then out to the ocean. In Vancouver I love to ski. I love that in the Summer you can be by the beach and then you can do glacial skiing in the afternoon. And here’s a softness and gentleness to the English countryside in contrast to the scale and drama of Canada and Hawaii. And plus my family are here.

To what extent do you think travel has incluenced your work?

Massively. I’m a definitely a visual person. I learn visually. I absorb colour. And I appreciate the side of modelling which gave me so many trips to amazing places. Every place has distinctive colours, smells, flavours and that’s what I love. And I’m sure that impacts what I do. It goes into a mental filing system.

How do you manage a busy family life and a business?

I have the advantage of a garage converted to an office. During busy times, I can sneak in early in the morning, do some work and pop back to the kitchen to be a mother (Kaaren has 4 kids from 11 to 21). They’re all at home which I love. I’m a big family person. My husband also works from home so he is very flexible and I wouldn’t be able to do this without him. I absolutely finish between 4 and 5 every day then I make a lovely dinner and we all sit round the table and then in the high season when everyone goes to bed I can go back to the office.

Do you see a growing interest in jewellery?

I think it’s partly a Zoom thing. People have been really focussing on their faces (and what’s visible on screen). They’re more aware of adding some interest. And in the current climate people want colour, something fun and not too serious.

Other brands make beaded jewellery. Can you tell us what makes yours so special?

I’m very drawn to using natural materials because of where I grew up. I think I was influenced by the beaded jewellery from the surfing lifestyle. But I wanted it to be more sophisticated but still with a hint of the girl from the beach. Lots of jewellery businesses have now moved to using brass but I want to offer really high quality and continue to use sterling silver and gold vermeil.

Can you talk about the materials, the sourcing and the making?

Quite a lot of the stones are from India. They’re very good at cutting too. I work with a buyer based there, overseeing and working as an interpreter. The lapis is from Afghanistan; turquoise from America. The sterling silver is from Italy. And I find Italy’s gold plating is the best. It has been trial and error. There’s no book at the beginning to tell you where to get stuff.

Do you have an ideal Kaaren Buchanan customer. Who would you most like to see wearing your designs?

Somebody who doesn’t take themselves to seriously. Definitely that person! A little bit of a surf girl at heart but she knows how to smarten up. She wants to look chic but with a hint that there’s a bit of fun there.

Do you have any styling advice for wearing your jewellery?

I always put an extender on the chain so you can fiddle with the length to mix it with your everyday pendants. Most people seem to have a pendant they wear all the time. I Iike my beaded jewellery to give a bit of colour. We’re seeing a lot of chains at the moment but I think my jewellery breaks that up. It’s all about layering.

This is a collection of pieces exclusive to The Hambledon (about which we are extremely excited!). Why do you think we are such a good fit?

I personally would buy everything in the shop. The Hambledon is an extension of me and my style.


 

This collection is available exclusively from The Hambledon. Pieces are made from sterling silver gold vermeil and gemstones (jade and orange carnelian, red and white coral, chrysoprase, emerald, seed pearl, pink moonstone, citrine, turquoise and lapis).

Some of our Favourite Kaaren Buchanan Pieces: