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IN CONVERSATION WITH… KATE JARVIS FROM STEPHEN WEBSTER
For International Women’s Day we sat down with Kate Jarvis, Managing Director from Stephen Webster, the London-based contemporary fine jewellery brand established in 1989 and known for its powerful aesthetic and recognisable collections. At the heart of the brand is a respect for traditional British craftsmanship and goldsmithing. Self-described as rebellious yet ethical, Stephen Webster uses materials that are always thoughtfully and responsibly sourced. Stephen Webster first joined the Positive Luxury community in 2016 and has successfully earned Butterly Mark certification three times to date. Kate Jarvis has been with the company for nearly 20 years starting as Head of Global Sales followed by nearly a decade as Managing Director. With Kate, we dive into their brand ethos, how she thinks the world of sustainability and luxury collide and what she is most proud of both personally and as a brand when thinking about the progress of women and celebrating equity.
Hi Kate, could you tell us a bit about Stephen Webster and its origin story?
Stephen studied at Rochester University, having initially enrolled in a fashion course he switched to jewellery lured by the Bunsen burners. He went on to complete an apprenticeship under former prime warden, Tony Shepherd. Having worked as a master craftsman and designer for jewellery houses in Canada and California, creating for high profile clients such as Elizabeth Taylor, Stephen then returned to London to establish his own business in 1989. In 1995 he met his wife Assia, and together they built the brand it is today.
What would you say is at the heart of your brand ethos?
To create beautiful jewellery that not only stands out but stands for something. ‘No regrets’ is our mantra and it flows through all that we do, daring us to push boundaries creatively and technically whilst challenging our processes to be as responsible as possible.
What does luxury mean to you personally and to Stephen Webster as a brand?
For us, luxury means the highest quality of and responsible commitment to design, craftsmanship and materials. Essentially, timeless products crafted in a responsible way. The beauty of jewellery is that it is truly everlasting. You can repurpose or recycle raw materials to extend the lifetime without lessening the value. Our RESET initiative does exactly that, allowing clients to reinvent their unworn treasures.
International Women’s Day is an opportunity to recognise the incredible progress in women’s empowerment and equity globally – either personally or as a brand, is there anything in particular you are most proud of achieving in this light?
As a brand that exists to empower women, our collection ‘The ReBelles’ spotlights extraordinary women from very different walks of life, who have endured to accomplish great things. It is a true celebration of women but also an important reminder of the continued pursuit for equity. Personally, I am incredibly proud of the talented female leaders at Stephen Webster who head up Design, Sales, Marketing and Operations. They contribute hugely to our culture of nurture and development. For example, Kellie, our Head of Operations, acts as Wellness Officer, utilising her psychotherapy training to provide support to the wider team. Also, many of the Stephen Webster team are parents and I understand the struggle to manage the combined demands of parenting and work. If we want women to remain and excel in the workplace, we have to ensure there is flexibility and support to do so.
For Stephen Webster, how do the worlds of luxury and sustainability collide?
The ‘excess’ aspect of luxury is at odds with sustainability. For example, the idea that you need to present a luxury item in over the top, unnecessary packaging just feels like a dated concept. It is only when you scrutinise every step of your process and supply chain that can you fully understand your impact and identify what needs to change. However, change cannot happen overnight but if you establish a plan with timeline goals you become accountable to create positive change.
What shifts in the industry have you noticed in relation to sustainability? Is it enough?
Our industry has historically been rather opaque, particularly regarding traceability of materials. We would like to see continued improvement here, including greater developments in block chain. At Stephen Webster, we are reliant on working solely with a small pool of trusted suppliers and where possible we work directly with mines such as Muzo emeralds or Single Mine Origin Gold. We also champion innovators such as Skydiamonds who mine carbon from the sky to create carbon negative diamonds, proving there are alternative, less disruptive ways to create.
What’s next for Stephen Webster?
Aside from anxiously awaiting to hear if we have won the Positive Luxury ‘Responsible Luxury Business of the Year’ Award 😉, we are busy building a new website which is scheduled to launch in April. We also have a very exciting collaboration under wraps, soon to be revealed…
Final quick fire round… If Stephen Webster the man was a fictional character, who would he be and why?
Someone with a rock star quality and be notorious for breaking rules… Ziggy Stardust meets Dennis the Menace.
Favourite colour? Emerald green.
Favourite meal? Lobster & (skinny) fries.
Favourite holiday destination? Route 1, Big Sur California.
The images of the collection shown are part of ‘The ReBelles’ that takes inspiration from heroines throughout history, celebrating their achievements, intellects, and rebellious spirit. Comprising seven limited-edition made-to-order cocktail rings, the collection showcases Stephen Webster’s impeccable craftsmanship and attention to detail. Each piece references the unique personality and charisma of the rebel who inspired it.
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