It doesn’t matter what we have planned before the birth of our children, motherhood is the catalyst for so much change in our lives, and more often than not, none of it is planned. For many women, motherhood sparks a career change, a new perspective and fresh ideas...
For the Belgian founder of Thea Jewelry Émilie Duchêne, it was while she was pregnant with her daughter Thea that her idea came to her. “I wanted a pink gold ring set with black diamonds with her first name on it for her birth. I looked for it everywhere, but it didn’t exist. It was the time of the famous Carrie Bradshaw necklace, but nothing existed in 18K gold and set with black diamonds,” she recalls.
Uninspired by what was being offered in the market, she decided to create her own ring in Antwerp, a city famous for jewelry and diamonds. 10 years later and her personalised jewellery brand is now loved by the likes of everyone ranging from Kate Moss to Beyonce.
Here, we speak to Émilie about her business journey, what 2020 has looked like for her and the process behind her beautiful jewels.
Go to thea-jewelry.com
What did your year spent working for Glamour in Paris as an assistant to the chief fashion editor teach you about the industry?
It was a great year at Glamour and the team was super cool. My fondest memory is the cover we did with Lou Doillon, who is the daughter of Jane Birkin. It was a cover shoot with a girl, whose look I loved. She had some beautiful green leather boots that I was able to keep afterwards – they were a nice souvenir. And of course, I loved the fact that I could attend a lot of fashion shows at Paris fashion week.
You spent ten years working as a marketing and communications director for two clothing brands – what did you learn about fashion in this time?
I was the communication and marketing director for two very well-known brands in Belgium. I did everything related to image – events, fashion shows, photoshoots, window displays, media plans, trade shows and I even designed capsule collections for one of the brands. To find inspiration, you always have to look at what’s going on elsewhere and be curious – that’s the basis of the work. You have to find your own way, but always make mood boards about the trends to come. Above all, you have to be good at storytelling and always stay authentic.
Tell me about the journey to launching Thea Jewelry? How did you come up with the idea?
I’ve always loved personalisation and dreamt of having the freedom to choose my own visuals and create my own identity. When I was pregnant with my first daughter Thea, I wanted a pink gold ring set with black diamonds with her first name on it for her birth. I looked for it everywhere, but it didn’t exist. It was the time of the famous Carrie Bradshaw necklace, but nothing existed in 18K gold and set with black diamonds. So, I made my ring in Belgium in Antwerp (a city very famous for jewellery and diamonds). This was the beginning of my project. I developed my own writing in 3D so no one could copy it, then I made a site with a mono-product which was a ring because personalised rings didn’t exist at all. I collaborated with the brand Victoria’s Secret for two catalogues on 12 angels. I got requests from celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker (after the inspiration of the Carrie necklace, it was symbolic), Jessica Alba, Karlie Kloss… After three years, I quit my job to work on Thea full time. I’m celebrating my 10th birthday next year.
This month, we have gone to 100% recycled materials – the gold, the stones, the packaging and the shipping. I am very proud of that.
How has motherhood changed the way you approach your career?
I was already an entrepreneur when I became a mother and therefore, I already had the freedom to work how I want, when I want. This was always very important for me. I never took maternity leave and took my babies everywhere with me. I love to create and work. If I’m happy with my work, then I’m a better mother.
What do you love about being an entrepreneur?
What I like best is the freedom. I can do a big day’s work and also freestyle and pick up the kids from school or work one morning from home. And then it’s constantly meeting other young entrepreneurs. I’m also a digital coach for young start-ups in Brussels, so I’m close to them and they inspire me a lot in my own projects. Meeting people and creating stories is what I like best about it.
What is the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur?
It never stops. You have to try not to let work spill over nonstop into your personal life. You have to try to keep things separate and for me, it’s not always easy.
Tell me about the process behind your jewellery?
The jewels are created in Europe, in the Portuguese countryside by a family of fathers and sons who have been working ethically for years. Each customer creates his own unique jewel and when you create it on the website, it appears directly in 3D and the price also changes directly. When we have created your jewel, it is created for you as a unique piece in the workshop and we send it to you four weeks later in beautiful packaging. We have an online chat and a WhatsApp number to help customers.