Annette Lasala Spillane’s ‘buildable’ fine jewellery line might appear on the surface to be the natural outcome of her passion for design and fine things, but in fact, it’s a smart business proposition built on data and development. 

The Philippines-born, former Ernst & Young accountant launched her jewellery line Tara (or The Artisan Row Accessories) in June 2016 after becoming disillusioned with her ten year long financial career. Fuelled by a desire to integrate social good into her business life, whilst recognising that the trend for personalisation is going nowhere fast, she took a beta version of her ‘build your own’ fine jewellery concept to the APEC Trade Conference in 2016 and it took off; the combination of portable luxury and personalisation resonated.

Ethically-conscious, San Francisco-based Spillane creates her delicate and graphic pieces in the Philippines, working with local artisan experts to encourage for-profit business enterprise within the local communities. 

‘A lot of people don’t know we make a lot of designer products in the Philippines. We have expert goldsmiths who have worked in Italy and we have a unique design perspective,’ she says, speaking from Manila following a recent trade fair. She sources gold, abalone and Mother of Pearl all from the islands and stones online from reputable distributors and GIA-trained dealers in Belgium and Bangkok.

Spillane launched Tara as a direct-to-consumer, digital-first model; she would sell to the right wholesaler but the obligatory ‘middle man’ mark ups hike up the prices to a level she is not comfortable delivering to her customer. The business has grown almost entirely organically. ‘My clients find me through Instagram @ishoptara or through word of mouth from friends.’ The first purchase is often her entry-level triple diamond Jack stud before graduating to buildable pieces.

Spillane says only a fraction (5-10 per cent) of her orders for the fledgling company are for ‘buildable’ pieces, but with an order value typically 75 per cent higher, her buildable jewellery represents a high proportion of revenue – the potential for her personalised luxury is clear.