Charlotte Legge and Kate Braine are neighbours who have become business partners with their ring company, adding a zing to every finger
MOST PEOPLE HAVE cordial relations with their neighbours, assuming they’re not feuding over the Leylandii. A barbecue in the summer, a mince pie in the winter. Not us – our jewellery company, Legge & Braine, is the product of two neighbours bonding over their love of jewellery and getting together to design their own six years ago.
We had noticed that women had started buying jewellery for themselves: they were no longer just given classic pieces for birthdays or anniversaries but wanted to wear more outrageous and fun things that would match different outfits and moods. Our first collection was an investigation into the idea of the eye as a symbol, a talisman of good luck and fertility.
We used both human and animal eyes for inspiration for the rings, which were made of enamel and glass and set in silver and gold. This ‘Third Eye’ collection is still selling extremely well and includes such eyes as lion, leopard, wild cat, fox, ibex, goat and wolf.
The really time-consuming part of creating our jewellery is the ring sizing. We provide four ring sizes for most of our ranges and therefore we are constantly matching the cabochon tops with the right ring bottoms – and it drives us crazy most of the time. We have what we call a ‘gluing ceremony’ where the vital merging of glass to silver is done. This is always a very stressful but exciting moment. It is a totally private ceremony and includes a chopstick and thick elastic bands.
Living next to one another, as well as both being the mothers of small children, allows us a great deal of time-saving synergy: our boys are the same age and go to the same school, which is vital so we can we share the drop off and collection, and as we work from home, the commuting time is minimal!
We have become more and more fascinated by working with glass for its versatility and its capacity to reflect light and colour. We commission glassblowers from Murano, who experiment with some of our designs, often producing happy accidents, which we call our ‘found in translation’ rings. Our daytrips to Murano are very rewarding but leave us panicking about who is going to collect the children.
Other design ideas also come from our work abroad – well, travelling on Eurostar anyway. We have also been known to lob ideas back and forth over the garden wall. We always come to agreement on design issues and find other
people’s suggestions very irritating.
WE WERE FORTUNATE to have been championed early on by American and British Vogue. Our rings have even been worn by the fashionista character on the TV series Lipstick Jungle, based on a book by the author of Sex and the City, Candace Bushnell.
Philippe Starck saw our jewellery and introduced us to Baccarat, who then commissioned two collections from us. This was an opportunity for us to design with the greatest crystal glass company in the world. Working with Baccarat gave us a lot of exposure and was a high for us, which gave us momentum.
We run a tight ship: no PR, no shop and no employees. Our wholesale business has grown and we are now in London (Harrods), New York (Henri Bendel), Dublin (Brown Thomas), Paris (Maria Luisa) and Harbour Island (India Hicks). We also sell online.
We do trunk shows all over the world, including London, Dallas, LA, Munich, Paris, Patmos, Ibiza, Venice, and we have found that these seem to be the way people enjoy buying our jewellery in this tough financial climate.
Fortunately Charlotte is happy to do the US trunk show sales as Kate hates leaving her five year old.
What we find rewarding and fascinating is how many people keep on buying our new designs and even compete with each other! Nothing gives us more pleasure than seeing our rings out and about. They have been spotted on a woman ascending Machu Picchu and even on a diver in the coral reefs in the Maldives. We do name individual ring designs for our best clients, who are addicted and must not be stopped!
As we’ve learned with Legge & Braine, the Biblical imperative should be: Love thy neighbour – and then go into business with them too.