Accessories

Kiwi jewellers making it on the world stage: Olivia Fleming

Article by Fashion Quarterly

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As senior features editor at HarpersBazaar.com, Olivia Fleming has what many would consider a dream job.


At the very least, it’s her dream job — the one she wanted since she was 10 years old, that she set her sights on as a journalism student at Auckland University of Technology, and that kept her focused throughout her early 20s as she worked her way up from Fashion Quarterly intern, to Teen Vogue assistant, to full-time contributor at one of the most prestigious fashion titles on the planet.

But a few years ago, and despite her professional success, Olivia realised something was missing from her life — a mood ring made of quality metal that wouldn’t make her finger turn green. Eventually, a friend told her to stop complaining and get creative, and Olivia Kane Jewelry was born.

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Olivia Kane Jewelry ring, $280

“I think it’s very much a New Zealand trait: if you want something badly enough, you just make it work.” This is Olivia’s explanation not only for how she manages her brand on top of her day job, but also how the brand came into being. The latter involved a whole lot of problem solving.

A year’s worth, in fact, from when she first approached a friend in the jewellery industry for guidance (“I bought her a beer and asked her to tell me everything she knew”) to her launch date. But she had certain circumstances on her side.

“When I googled ‘how to launch a jewellery brand’, the biggest challenges people talked about were finding retailers, luring customers to an online store and getting exposure in magazines,” says Olivia. With a fiancé at website-building company Squarespace and several boutique-owning friends, creating a beautiful website and securing stockists weren’t huge hurdles. But Olivia’s trump card was her connection to the publishing industry.

“grown-up”-mood-ring

The inability to find the right “grown-up” mood ring led the ex-pat New Zealander to design and make her own.

To date, Olivia’s designs have featured everywhere from Man Repeller, Refinery 29 and WWD, to Australian Vogue and, of course, Harper’s Bazaar. Undoubtedly, her insider access to these media outlets helped her cause initially, however she never for a second considered continued coverage in print and online to be a given.

“In my world, you’re only as good as your last article or design,” she says. “You have to continue to prove yourself. So as crazy, validating and exciting as that affirmation from the fashion industry is, it also just drives me to demonstrate that they weren’t wrong to believe in me.”

Olivia says the specialist craftspeople in New York’s jewellery district play a big part in keeping her standards high.

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Olivia’s New York studio

“That’s the beauty of starting a business in Manhattan — the island is full of experts to call on.” The quality of her materials is also key, with conscious production practices paramount.

She uses 14-carat recycled gold and the pouches her pieces come in are made from discarded leather. Her stones are natural and ethically mined, and not just any will do. “I’m obsessed with unique and rare stones,” she says.

“I spend hours and sometimes weeks searching for unusual inclusions in precious and semi-precious gems.”

Olivia’s-diamond-engagement-ring-was-designed-by-her-fiancé-but-is-based-on-her-Best-Friend-Birthstone-Ring

Olivia’s diamond engagement ring was designed by her fiancé but is based on her Best Friend Birthstone Ring.

The sentimentality of jewellery is at the forefront of Olivia’s mind when she’s designing.

“I love selling pieces as gifts. I have a weakness for men who buy them for the women in their lives, and I spend a lot of time running around New York in the weekends delivering jewellery, because the idea of her not getting the gift in time is too much for me to bear.”

It’s a scenario that sums up Olivia’s MO. “I cannot overstate the importance of customer service. Treat your customers like royalty and you will be rewarded for it.”

@oliviakanejewelry | oliviakane.co

Words: Phoebe Watt

This article originally appeared in Fashion Quarterly Issue 2 2017. 

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