I’m Tessa Packard, founder and owner of Tessa Packard London, a fine jewellery label that embraces statement design and storytelling at its very heart. I was born in Brazil and brought up in Britain. Inspired by Victorian curiosity cabinets, juxtaposition and all things whimsical, my fine jewellery collections are all about building alternative, magical worlds in miniature. I’m a strong believer in British industry, and all my jewellery is manufactured and finished in-house by my team or local workshops in the UK. I hand-make all my resin objet d’art and hope to continue to do so for many years to come.
With regards to my childhood, I spent most of it muddy in the countryside, at the art block at school or visiting the Natural History Museum, which I consider to be a spiritual home. Since childhood I have always been fond of art and design in general, though not specifically fashion or jewellery.
In school, I unsurprisingly leaned towards the Arts, and in the end, decided to read Art History at university, as at that time I wanted to pursue a career in the commercial art world.
After leaving Edinburgh, I worked for four years in the art world at an international art dealership in Mayfair which specialized in Impressionist and Modern Art. It was a really exciting experience and provided me with a lot of exposure to the luxury sector. Whilst ultimately it didn’t end being what I wanted to do as my ‘forever job’, I learnt a huge amount about running a business, client relationships, quality and standards and the joy of having a great boss.
Towards the end of my time in the art world I realized that I missed drawing and designing. I was surrounded by all these amazing paintings and sculptures, but none of them were crafted by my own hand, and that somehow left me feeling a bit empty and unfulfilled. I made the decision almost overnight to leave my existing job and start my own creative business. Jewellery appealed to me as a subject for three main reasons. Firstly, it was immune to the pressures of fast fashion and the general fashion calendar. I could produce new collections when I wanted, and this felt more authentic to me than having to work to a fashion week deadline. Secondly, I wanted to create a product that was timeless and wasn’t just ‘of a moment’. I wanted the challenge of designing something good enough to stick around for many generations to come and lastly, I felt that the fine jewellery industry could do with a bit of a shakeup. It was generally quite elitist and focused predominantly on showcasing certain gemstones, and certainly didn’t prioritize the gift of curated storytelling like other disciplines. So, I aimed to create a brand that treated everyone equally, that challenged the concept of fine jewellery by using new and exciting materials, and that prioritized narrative integrity over carat weight.
Thinking about my journey so far, I love what I do! Like any job there are always challenges and frustrations, but this experience has been a life-changer for me. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some truly extraordinary people. This industry has really helped me to define who I am as a person and what I truly believe in because authenticity in design is key to success doing what I do.
As a Creative Director and founder, I have to oversee everything. My main role is to design jewellery and define the creative direction of the business both logistically and aesthetically. However, I leave the management of certain areas to my lovely colleagues who have more patience with assembly, excel and SEO than I do. I try to outline the vision and together we make it happen!
Challenges are a part of every profession. Small businesses constantly suffer from a lack of resources. We are only a team of 3 so we constantly have to look ‘out-of-house’ to satisfy many tasks. Whilst this does keep the books streamlined, it wastes time because you are not always going to be at the front of the queue. For example, I would love to have my own atelier of goldsmiths and setters to speed up production, but realistically the cost would be more than we could afford right now, so we continue to rely on third-parties to make our jewellery. However, together we try to overcome these challenges.
With regards to this profession, I love the fact that jewellery provides me with the opportunity to be creative and visually stimulated every day. When you run your own business you can really ‘explore’, and that’s both exciting and rewarding. I love learning new techniques and pushing the possibilities of jewellery manufacture. It’s important to keep searching for the new and expanding one’s horizons. I struggle with those who have arcane and formulaic views about design.
As part of the milestones achieved, our brand has successfully been nominated for (and collected) a few awards here and there, but I wouldn’t count them as great achievements. I prefer to judge our success on metrics such as client happiness and employee fulfilment as these two aspects are very important. For example, I feel extremely privileged and fulfilled every time someone asks us to design an engagement ring. I am immeasurably happy when a client ‘gets’ one of our more kooky, statement pieces because he or she vibes with the story behind it. I guess I’m at my happiest when I feel the risks we have taken to be different or unique have been recognized and paid off and all these things are no less than milestones for me.
In terms of advice for any new jewellery designers, I would say it is important to keep your stock levels low for your debut collection – don’t over produce. One should make sure his/her laptop is colour calibrated before retouching images (as I didn’t do so which resulted in everything looking a bit green when I launched my website). One should be prepared to redo the website at least 5 times before being fully satisfied.
I would also say that there are huge benefits to be un-institutionalized and building a business intuitively – diving in at the deep end can be the best way forward. Completing hundreds of courses, followed by years of internships before starting a creative brand can result in the production of products that look and feel too similar to everyone else in that arena. Get experience by all means, but be aware of how it might influence you – your creative brain must remain untainted by other people’s inspirations and opinions.
My success mantra is that there’s more to life than jewellery, so keep the world of luxury in perspective!
Also, we were incredibly lucky to end the lease on our last showroom before lockdown hit. We would have been crippled by the rent and business rates had we renewed the tenancy. Aside from that, we’ve just really tried to make the most of the lockdown downtime to complete some in-house internal projects that otherwise would have been dealt with further down the line. For example, we brought forward a big piece of website SEO work and also some housekeeping with Pinterest that kept us busy for eight weeks. The first couple of months were pretty much dead in terms of client interaction. Luckily, from May onwards, we’ve seen a steady and healthy uptake in sales and commissions, so I’m hoping that the worst is over in terms of transactions and we can get back to business as before.