For our latest industry profile, we caught up with jewellery designer Luke Rose to revel in his brand’s continued success and hear all about his exciting role in Sophie Monk’s engagement.
We’ve loved watching the Luke Rose brand flourish since we last spoke with you back in 2017. Can you tell us how the last few years have been?
When I first started Luke Rose Jewellery in Australia back in 2015, my aim was to become an internationally known brand with loads of global stockists. Now I have completely changed my focus and conception of success, choosing to create fine jewellery and bespoke pieces at affordable prices for predominantly Australian consumers.
I think what really sets my brand apart is its authenticity and accessibility – while my jewellery is handmade, unique and beautiful, it doesn’t cost the earth.
How has your brand and business model evolved?
I’ve had to completely reinvent the way I approach my business over the past year and it’s been a game-changer, which is actually a relief because it initially felt very risky to take the leap and go solely online.
Before COVID-19 came along, I had 10 stockists around Australia and was still mainly focused on supplying wholesalers.
However, I was always uncomfortable about how much I had to charge for my product just so my retailers and I could both make a profit. I also felt removed from my customers.
How has hosting pop-ups changed the way you see/interact with your customer and brand? Do you see a bigger PR payoff with these kinds of events rather than engaging with wholesalers or a permanent shopfront?
In March 2019, together with 5 great Australian brands, we opened a collective store in Woollahra, Sydney to build on the success of the “Collective on Queen” pop-up the year before. Being in direct contact with customers taught me how to be more commercially appealing and how to become more guided by clients.
I found what I really loved was meeting and interacting with customers to figure out what they wanted and co-creating jewellery pieces with them. I learned that if people are going to spend $1000 on a piece of gold jewellery, it should be exactly how they want it – not how I think it should look! We had intended to have the store for the long haul but then COVID-19 suddenly came along and forced us to pull the plug.
By then, I had already been thinking about giving up the wholesaling so I could become more competitive – so I pulled back from all stockists, readjusted my prices and became a fully online business in early 2020, working from my home design studio in Surry Hills. It’s been the best decision I ever made; since then, business has gone crazy!
With everyone in lockdown and not able to travel or go out, instead they’ve been online shopping and spending their money. Since around October, I’ve had an extra 450 online sales – and many of those happy customers have bought more pieces since. They’ve also seem to have been spreading the word, telling friends about it and recommending it to other people they know; they realise I’ve got a quality product.
What are the essential elements of a successful pop-up?
Don’t pop up on your own would be my main piece of advice for smaller brands. Join forces with a few other like-minded designers to bounce off, so you energize each other. It also helps to expose your product to all of their clients as well as your own.
We hosted shopping events and launched collections together meaning we could access the 100,000 Instagram followers we had between us. This gives far more reach than relying solely on your own existing client base.
What would you say are your core in-house PR activities that drive coverage outside of celebrity/influencer strategy?
Over the past few months, I have really focused my marketing efforts on Instagram, which has been phenomenal for growing the business – I’ll spend $1000 on an ad and I’ve been getting over $10,000 back in sales.
I can spend two hours a day planning posts and editing photos. My engagement has gone up massively since I started paying more attention to it … people love to see a piece of jewellery made by my grubby fingers much more than just a product shot. I’ve found doing those kinds of posts far more effective than using Instagram influencers.
I also now include a few personal shots on my page. I think my customers like getting to know the designer behind the brand.
We know that Sophie Monk is a huge fan of yours! Can you give us a little glimpse into the story behind designing her engagement ring? How did this kind of celebrity endorsement impact your business?
Of course, having Sophie Monk endorse and wear my jewellery – including her new, bespoke engagement ring – has been great.
Sophie’s so stunning and always looks amazing in my pieces, and she also posts about it on social media, which helps! Sophie’s actually been a fan since 2016, when her stylist contacted me to request a piece to wear on the final of Australia’s Got Talent. Since then, she’s often worn my jewellery – including on the final of The Bachelorette – and has bought it as gifts for friends.
One day, I got a phone call from Josh – her then-boyfriend – saying Sophie had made it quite clear that if he was ever to propose, I would be the only one designing the ring! That’s when I sat down and asked about how they met – and it turns out it was on a plane, which gave me the idea of two become one up in the clouds.
Together, we designed a ring in two halves with a diamond halo in the form of a cloud. Sophie loved it and posted thanking me – I got more than 3000 new followers overnight and even more sales. In fact, in January, my sales increased so much that I sold more in January than I did in December.
Tell us about your latest collections. What was the inspiration behind them?
I love to design and create bespoke engagement rings like Sophie’s – to meet up with the clients in person, learn more about them and find out what they want. But, of course, not everyone can come to see me in Surry Hills, so I think it’s really important to have a ready-to-wear engagement ring line, which I’m designing at the moment.
My other ready-to-wear lines have also been going incredibly well – I’ve developed the ME and MY³ collection in solid gold, and I’ve also designed the FOREVER collection, which I describe as “everyday diamonds”.
My new GOLDEN collection sees the return of rose gold as well as being available in yellow gold and silver. This collection is simply classic, everyday pieces featuring lots of symbols and charms. All inspired by the client feedback I received whilst working at Collective on Queen.
What are the major milestones or goals for Luke Rose Jewellery in 2021?
I’ve got lots of exciting plans for 2021: I’m not sure about future pop-ups in Sydney at this point though. To be honest, I am so busy fulfilling online orders and expanding the studio and showroom that I’m not sure I’ll have time!
I do think they are a fantastic idea for designers who work alone though – so I could be tempted if I was invited inter-state! For now, I’m concentrating on finishing the extension of my design studio and creating a proper showroom.
I’m slowly but surely taking over our whole Surry Hills apartment, which is in a really cool mixed-zone residential and commercial building, with 6m high ceilings, designed to work from home! I now have room for three jewellers but, at the moment, it’s still just me, apart from a part-time assistant and people who occasionally help with my website SEO and marketing.
I need to hire another full-time jeweller soon as my fingers are getting sore from handmaking all my pieces!
That’s one big goal for this year – and if the retail climate improves in the future I would love to open up a Luke Rose store. Eventually, I’m looking to expand out to become a lifestyle brand – so watch this space!