Build your own: Tara’s personalised jewels
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.