Western Australian jewellery label Mountain and Moon was founded in December 2014 by Audrey Allen and Ashton Cameron. Allen spoke with ragtrader.com.au about building a jewellery label which focused on remaining both ethical and sustainable.
How has the brand evolved?
We started small, working very closely on the ground level with artisans in India and creating minimal runs. As the brand has grown we have moved away from the full collection model and instead focused on dropping small injections into the range more frequently providing a better offering to our MM women who want to see fresh new jewels. We have still kept to fairly small runs and started bringing out limited edition styles. Also, we have expanded our style range to cater towards women looking for more everyday styles, whilst continuing to focus on our statement earrings.
What's your current distribution strategy?
Ecommerce & wholesale.
Where are you currently stocked?
We currently have 20 boutique stockists on the West Coast, and also stock online with The Iconic. This year we are looking to grow our retailers on the East coast with the aim of securing another 10-20 brand aligned boutiques during 2019.
What has been a successful initiative that has driven growth?
As our main marketing tool from the very beginning Instagram has helped foster organic growth for the brand. Providing a space for us to share our carefully curated content and connect with women around the world that have become fans of the brand and the messages we share. We are passionate about forming relationships with our customers and bringing together a community of women to share our designs, ideas, thoughts and opinions that extend further than just the brand. We love the way Instagram helps us do this and we can be authentic and honest online and have the opportunity to connect with women we wouldn’t otherwise be able to. Lately we have been focusing on more video content which has had some great engagement.
What are some of the strategies you are using to be more sustainable/ethical?
From the inception of the brand we wanted to not only create beautiful products but also give our customers the chance to purchase into an ethical model that had purpose behind it. The idea of both sustainability and ethically minded practice within business encompasses a huge gamut of different ideas and spans many topics, and for a small independent brand such as ours it became obvious that we needed to only focus on a few key areas to begin with so that we could get these right before moving on to others.
Our main areas of focus are:
- Working conditions in our Indian factory: Respect humans rights (e.g. no child or forced labor, fair wages, safe and comfortable working conditions)
- Packaging: Reduce packaging material to the minimum, use 100% recycled content + recyclable postage bags, paperless invoicing
- Recycling: The brand recycles 75% of all its garbage and aims to increase the percentage over the years.
- Ethical brand communication: Authentic and transparent throughout all communication channels. No photoshopping, promoting body positivity and female empowerment.
- Giving back: We are a small independent brand and our ethical attributes operate in a small way. However we work within our means to contribute to our NGO partner (IPHD + Saheli Women) who is building amazing initiatives from the ground up in a rural village of India. We visit them every year and are involved in a more personal and significant way. We work with IPHD whom we donate 1% of revenue to, every 6 months, for varied health related schemes put into play by the founder of the initiative. This has included us buying health insurance for all women in the village, and menstrual hygiene products for all mothers and daughters in Bhikamkor as well as education classes surrounding this issue.
- Job creation: The women who are supported by the NGO also work for us sewing and weaving our jewellery packaging and receive fair wages for their work. Creating financial stability helps them towards feelings of freedom and empowerment.
What has been the biggest challenge since launching your business?
Our biggest challenge has been learning to manage every aspect of the business and wearing every hat necessary to both get it off the ground and grow it organically to where we are now. As the two Co-founders we take care of everything, from designing to managing supplier relations in India, to content creation and running the brand from a financial standpoint. We have had to take the reins in many areas that we had no prior experience in and really just learn everything along the way as it unfolds. It has been quite a ride! We wouldn’t say we have necessarily overcome this, every day something new crops up that becomes a new skill we need to learn, but by implementing more structure and processes into the business we are confident in knowing what we can take charge of and then where to delegate and outsource. We have identified our own strengths and isolated our job descriptions more effectively to be able to handle 50% of the business each and work to in a more efficient way. Then again, it is effectively still a small business and a lot of the time you just need to pitch in wherever and whenever you can.
What has been the biggest opportunity?
Being able to work with our manufacturers in India has been a real dream for us as it means spending more time in a part of the world that we love so much. Running a brand where our key supplier is international means travel is necessary and this is something that keeps us extremely inspired to design and create. Our favourite part of the whole journey though and the best opportunity we have had has been connecting with our NGO partner IPHD and the amazing women who we have been able to meet and now work with. Their stories and their smiles keep us motivated to continue building a brand that has a message behind it and an ethos that encourages change within the fashion industry.
What are some of the key-selling trends or styles so far this year?
Our MM women love motifs. So anything with hearts, stars, snakes medallions etc. Also stones, our women are loving wearing more colour with their gold. The Juliets, Priscillas and Cleos are our best selling earrings the past year.
Have you noticed any trends in terms of purchasing habits?
Whilst the majority of our business is online and mobile friendly shopping and purchasing is an important factor for our customers, there is still a real push towards the in store experience. Buying jewellery has always been a special part of every woman’s spending habits and they want to touch and feel the product before committing to it. Our retail partners are key to introducing women to Mountain & Moon and explaining the ethos behind the brand. We find that once a woman is familiar with the quality of the jewellery and builds a loyalty to the brand that she is more likely to purchase online the second time.
What are your key sale periods?
When Summer hits jewellery becomes more of a priority and the months leading up to Christmas and New Year are our best selling periods.
Have you made any other back-end changes?
Within the last 6 months we have moved into our beautiful showroom and made it open by appointment. This has been an important step in developing our relationships further with our customers and it feels akin to opening our home to friends. Our MM women love to come into an intimate shopping experience and peruse the entire collection whilst chatting to the designers and being able to understand more about the inspiration behind each piece. This is an important step in building our community and in the near future we plan to open it more often to the public and foray into workshops, presentations and open nights further down the track.
What else is ahead for 2019?
We will be showcasing at The Suites for MBFWA in May. Continuing to work with inspiring and fabulous women. Expanding the line outside of jewellery… stay tuned.