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In the Bag: Estelle Dévé

Words by Yu Mei

Estelle Dévé

Estelle Dévé has an eye for detail. As the founder of her own jewellery brand, Dévé, as well as a jewellery designer for a number of other labels, she’s carved out a career crafting precious metals into beautiful pieces to adorn yourself with. And while it sounds like the pinnacle of glamour, as Estelle explains below, forging a career path in a self-taught craft isn’t always the easiest road. But her hard work has more than paid off, as the success of Dévé demonstrates.

We recently caught up with Estelle at our Northern Hemisphere Yu Mei lunch, held at Louie London. Read on to hear about Estelle’s jewellery journey, her favourite pieces from her personal collection, and why it’s key to stop putting so much pressure on yourself.

Career

I didn’t come to jewellery on a straightforward path. Growing up, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I always had creative hobbies, but I was also quite academic. I somehow ended up studying marketing at Business School, because it seemed like an option that would allow me a pathway into a multitude of careers — and also because part of my degree involved studying overseas for two years, a prospect that excited me. Once I graduated, I worked in a variety of jobs that all surrounded fashion and creatives (buying, PR, etc.), but none of these jobs felt like they were creative enough, in and of themselves. The more I worked with designers, the more I realised that what they did was closer to what I wanted my life to look like. In 2008, in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis and unable to find a job, I decided to give jewellery a go, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I’m completely self-taught, so it might not have been the easiest option, but it’s something I still enjoy immensely — it just makes sense to me.

I ran the brand I started in 2008 for seven years before relocating from Australia to the UK, and decided it was time to move on from it. I was physically exhausted, truly lacked the cashflow to keep it going, and just generally felt like I needed to focus my attention on something else. So I started consulting and working in-house for jewellery brands here in the UK, which allowed me to develop new skills and create products within a framework I wouldn’t otherwise have had a chance to: working with new factories, new materials, and so on. In the first months of the pandemic, I lost most of my recurring contracts and suddenly found myself faced with plenty of free time (as did a lot of people). I thought this was the only opportunity I’d ever have to really think about what I wanted to do if I were to relaunch my brand, and I used it to start developing what is now Dévé.

Launching a business in 2021 was a vastly different experience from launching one in 2008. Social media, e-commerce and the internet as a whole has changed dramatically in the last fifteen years. One of my main challenges was trying to adapt to this new environment, something I’m still working on.

I still love working for other brands, as it enables me to develop designs that are generally very different from what I would create for my brand.

It forces me to look at different sources and approach the design process in a different way. It also enables me to see how other creative women run their businesses. I would say that the most valuable insight I get while consulting is learning how different women approach their business day to day, how they market their products, and so on, information that’s all incredibly valuable as a business owner. ( 1 )

Life

No day is ever the same. I still consult and design for a variety of brands, so I might be working on a client’s project, designing my own range, doing research, working on my newsletter or dealing with the day-to-day running of the business. Typically, I have quite slow mornings, taking time to make a coffee and to go to the gym, but I tend to work late in the evening. Creatively, I find that my best ideas come between 3pm and midnight, so if I’m designing, those would be my key working hours. I’m well aware that that might not come across as me having the best work/life balance, but I take time off where I need to and make sure I see my friends as much as possible, as they are where I get most of my energy from.

The biggest rewards from my work have been the creative women I’ve met along the way. I interview and meet a lot of amazing women who have all been incredibly supportive in providing me with daily guidance and feedback. I wouldn’t be where I am without their help and support.

Design

Design and architecture form the basis of my research when it comes to developing new ranges. ( 2 ) I’m constantly daydreaming while looking at buildings, art or objects, and most of my ideas stem from there. If you look at my website or line sheet, I list the main references I’ve used to create my designs. I love being transparent and sharing my inspiration with my customers.

My favourite item of jewellery I own is a replica of my mum’s wedding band, which my dad designed. Growing up, I was always trying to borrow it, which she didn’t allow ( for obvious reasons ), so when I turned 30 they had a jeweller make a replica for me. I wear it everyday and never ever take it off.

Sustainability, and ethical practices, are at the core of every decision we make at Dévé. We work exclusively with sustainable partners and are focused on creating timeless designs of the utmost quality. We’re not following a trend-led model, and every single product we release has been thought through, and selected as something that stands alone. It can sometimes seem like quite a limiting practice, but I truly believe that it’s every company's responsibility to act sustainably, both for the good of the planet and for the people who manufacture their goods.

On a personal level, I’ve tried to reduce my use of single use plastic as much as possible, changed all my energy providers to green energy, reuse, recycle, compost, etc. We also grow our own vegetables, and try to eat in season where possible. There’s so much more that could be done, but I try to take mindful, small steps, so I’m not completely overwhelmed by the possibilities.

Utility

I’m a two bag kind of girl: a small one with the essential things I need to find quickly, and a large canvas bag which I throw half of my life in. I’d like to think of myself as organised, but realistically I’m always on the go, and that means carrying a lot of stuff around.

I can’t go anywhere without my laptop, reading glasses, sunglasses, phone, keys, water bottle and bits and pieces of jewellery I need to use to develop samples. Yu Mei’s Charlie Bag means I can now stop carrying a messy canvas bag in which I never find anything, and instead now look somewhat put together. When I’m not working, I usually stick to very small handbags with just my phone, keys and a lipstick thrown in for good measure.

[1] For Estelle, the biggest reward of her career has been the creative woman she has met along the way.Their insight and support have been instrumental to her success.

[2] Architectural inspiration is a common thread for Estelle Dévé and Charlotte Hicks in their design of jewellery and fashion respectively.

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