Recently voted Jewellery Designer of the year 2013, Sophie Harley is best known for her Algerian Love Knot necklace, famous for its prominent appearances in both Bond movies – Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. This symbol of enduring love was especially designed for Eva Green to wear as the alluring Vesper Lynd along with the beautiful ‘Leaf’ and ‘Circle’ earrings in the dazzling casino scenes.
Sophie’s extensive award winning jewellery collections have created a huge following throughout the world and clients include Kate Winslet, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Colin Firth.
Based in Notting Hill, she uses her creative design skills to visualise and manufacture individual pieces for her clients from concept through to completion. With her bespoke design service Sophie continues to carry out private commissions, which includes a spectacular collection of wedding and engagement rings. All of Sophie’s jewellery is hand made in London using traditional manufacturing methods.
Sophie lives in Shepherds Bush with her husband and family.
What inspired you to start designing jewellery?
My grandmother was English but born and raised in Turkey — she had an amazing collection of interesting turn of the century jewellery. As a child I was fascinated by her collection of gold charm bracelets, I loved the beautifully intricate design and detail. I was also always drawing and painting as a child and knew from a very early age that I’d become an artist or designer of some sort.
What make your designs unique?
I think my ability to draw, combined with my love of ancient artifacts has led me to create work that is easily recognizable as mine. I love the combination of designing something that looks ancient but has a contemporary twist, a beautiful collision of the old and the new. My work tells stories through symbolism — people connect with that and love it.
You designed the stunning Algerian Love knot from the James Bond films – how did you get that job?
I was in business for 16 years when Lindy Hemming, the costume designer for Bond approached me with an amazing design opportunity. She knew my work as I’d made her daughter’s wedding jewellery several years earlier, and knew my style would suit the brief and emailed me a few days before Christmas. Of course I said yes!
By mid-January my Algerian Love Knot necklace was designed, Eva Green came to my studio for fittings, and they started shooting Casino Royale in April. I had no idea at the time just how much the necklace and earrings would be seen on screen, and that the necklace would go on to “capture the hearts of a worldwide audience”. As a small and independent British brand, it’s amazing to be indelibly linked to the incredible British brand that is Bond. The piece created huge media attention for us as a business and created a surge in international sales.
What challenges have you faced?
Running your own business is a challenge on a daily basis, especially if you have kids. I was eight years in when I had my daughter Millie, and went back to work when she was only 5 weeks old (I took her with me and had a cot in my studio for her too). She wasn’t a good sleeper so being exhausted all the time was probably the hardest thing to cope with.
I remember asking a lovely city gent to hold her as she was crying whilst I was wrapping up a bracelet for his wife and she was sick on his pinstriped shoulder! He was very nice about it though and I’m sure I gave him a discount!
In any long term business there are financial up and downs too, but I think you just have to ride the storm, be resourceful and identify areas that need improving. Running a business is an ever growing (hopefully) and ever-changing beast. Having said all of that I love it.
Can you offer any advice to women setting up their own business?
Make sure it’s something you love doing, if it’s going to be successful, you need to be 100% committed to it. It will become a big part of your life. The support of friends and family, especially at the start, is also very important.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
I can’t pin it down to one. Obviously it’s fantastic to be working with beautiful, precious metals and stones on a daily basis, and as a creative person, I love the designing part. The intimate interaction that I have with my private clients, making bespoke pieces to mark important milestones in their lives is incredibly rewarding. I also really love having clients here in the studio, for most people it’s a really unusual experience and I love to see people trying on pieces from the collections. Seeing my work on the big screen, TV and in magazines of course gives me a huge buzz too, but every day in the studio is a pleasure as I have such a great in-house team, we usually manage to have a good laugh at some point even if we’re having a stressful day!
How do you juggle family and work?
I am always juggling, but my youngest daughter is 15 now (I also have two lovely stepdaughters aged 18 and 25) so she’s pretty self-sufficient, besides she’s very used to me working a lot. I also have an amazingly helpful husband who is not averse to cooking and hoovering so I never need to nag.
What’s your favourite thing to do as a family in West London?
We love going for dog walks at the weekend in Richmond Park — we live in Shepherds Bush, so it’s only twenty minutes in the car and then having Sunday lunch at home or at a local pub. A great night out would be a movie at The Electric cinema on Portobello Road and then supper at Crazy Homies, a fantastically groovy Mexican joint on Westbourne Park road.
To see Sophie’s designs visit www.sophieharley.com or find her at Sophie Harley Design, 122 Westbourne Studios, 242 Acklam Road, London, W10 5JJ.