Katie Mullally is a British designer and maker of hallmarked silver jewellery, combining vintage pieces with modern, bespoke design and a strong link to her Irish heritage. All her pieces are quirky, eclectic, individual and British made. Since establishing her business in 2012, Katie has amassed a considerable celebrity following including Elle Goulding, Fearne Cotton and Nicole Sherzinger and she is rapidly building an overseas client base, notably in Japan.
“…As quality is of paramount importance to the Japanese market, I learnt that my products could potentially be popular with the Japanese consumer, and I consider this to be a huge compliment…”
Discovering my love of precious metals and learning about the importance of the hallmark
The business was started just over four years ago. I began designing and making silver bangles and then added a vintage charm. I then progressed to designing vintage inspired charms, one of the unique selling propositions being the oversized bails, so the charms can be stacked together on a chain. There’s also a weight to them that you don’t normally get with fine jewellery which also makes them distinctive.
Hallmarking at the London Assay Office
My other USP is that I hallmark all my charms. A hallmark is a series of marks applied by an independent assay office – I use the London Assay Office as this guarantees the precious metal content. They are sent to the office and tested for the quality of silver, and only then are they hallmarked with the London assay marks, and also my own hallmark – ‘KMM’. Hallmarking is a legal requirement for items above a certain weight. For silver items this is 7.78 grams.
It is very important to me that all my products are made in the UK. There is a lot of mass produced jewellery out there and I think my customers like my pieces because they genuinely feel different as they are all hand finished. Because they are hallmarked it is giving added value to my customer.
Securing interest from Japan and taking part in UKTI trade missions
I was exhibiting at the trade show ‘Top Drawer’ when Kae [Miyazawa] from the British Embassy in Tokyo, came over to my stand. She felt that the product could be popular in Japan. I was then asked to join a mission run by the UKTI [UK Trade & Investment] and UKFT [the UK Fashion and Textile Association], and this included a showcase at the British Embassy where I met many Japanese stockists. I would definitely say that my exporting journey is just beginning, which is very exciting.
The two-day showcase at the Ambassador’s residence had over 600 buyers, agents and press invited, and there was also a reception, retail tours and visits – including meetings and presentations with department stores. As quality is of paramount importance to the Japanese market, I learnt that my products could potentially be popular with the Japanese consumer, and I consider this to be a huge compliment.
Opportunities and pitfalls of exporting
There are many opportunities to export your products, especially if they are made in the UK as there is huge overseas potential. It’s difficult for any business, especially a small business, to decide what is the most attractive market to target, so the best way to find out is to speak to the UKTI – who runs the Exporting is GREAT campaign – as they have a huge amount of advice, guidance and support they will definitely be able to help you make the right choice.
In the long run it will save you a lot of time and money if you work with the UKTI. Also the UKFT have been incredibly helpful and I certainly believe the business wouldn’t be in the position it is now without the help of both these government funded organisations.
It was also amazing for me to visit Japan and I would never have been able to do this if I hadn’t been involved with the UKTI and UKFT. Japan is a beautiful country and the people are an inspiration to work with – their standards are very high, which I think is very important in any business.
If your business is fashion related it is definitely worth talking to and joining the UKFT – they have some excellent events, seminars, master classes. Both the UKTI and UKFT can also offer you advice on any funding opportunities that may be available to you. Attending their events is also helpful for meeting similar brands and is a wonderful networking opportunity. I have met some incredible brands that I would never have met otherwise.
My New Year’s resolution was to attend at least two events a month, I think this is especially important if you work predominately by yourself.
On the horizon
My products are very popular in Ireland and I’m attending my first retail show in the middle of April at the Ideal Home Show in Dublin which I’m really looking forward to.
I’m launching lots of new and exciting products and also a long awaited new website will be online soon.
Very excitingly, I have just been featured on Vogue online in Japan as a ‘one to watch’ in jewellery. (I have Abbey and Grace at Take II to thank for all their hard work here too.) It gets better and better..!