I think most people would agree that a husband and wife business team can either be wildly successful or perhaps wildly disfunctional! Those that do gel tend to have a longevity and solidness that trumps other partnerships and I think that Claire and Greg of NZ based jewellery brand; Meadowlark might just be a shining example of that.
Despite having visited their old HQ late last year I jumped at the chance to be the first to check out their shiny new Auckland space and share their story in full with you.
Claire Hammon dropped out of high school at 16 years old (take that popular opinion!) The Christchurch teenager had designed and started to produce her own fashion label; Urchin which rapidly gained traction among her local peers. Entirely self taught in design she also quickly learnt the ropes of running a small creative business – ploughing all profits back into its development and ultimately being stocked in popular store; Cheapskates. With the help of a business partner who came on board she soaked up the skills and experience until the sale of the brand when she was 24 years old. Not a bad result for someone under 25!
Tucking some travel under her belt she returned to New Zealand to settle in Auckland and began to pursue graphic design work. Again, while not formerly trained, she had gleaned skills from friends and completed some short courses to reach a level where she was then engaged to design a magazine – a contract that she still holds.
In 1998 Auckland born and bred; Greg Fromont launched himself into a Visual Arts Degree. Originally with the intention of becoming a printmaker he soon realised that when working with woodblocks his fascination lay not with the resulting print but with the creation and form of the woodblock itself. A realisation that quickly led him to jewellery where he stayed. Following his graduation he balanced the tentative development of his own label with the production of Huffer’s jewellery line and an obsessive passion for skateboarding!
In 2005 Claire and Greg met and yes, a romance ensued but so did a pretty awesome meeting of minds! They quickly realised that aside from their shared inspirations – Claires business and design skills combined with Greg’s jewellery design and production skills equalled a legitimate opportunity to create a brand. Both continued with freelance work but began to plough effort into their collaboration at any opportunity.
The first Meadowlark collection Starwood Lane was produced from their small rented bedrooms. While they already had the following range; The Secret Corridor designed, they wanted to kick off with jewellery that was not only easy for people to grasp and love but also an attractive option for potential stockists to take on. Inspired very much by their love of tattoo art and Claires own swallow tattoo, that debut range has maintained its popularity.
In 2006 Claire moved into Greg’s Grey Lynn flat and as various housemates moved out, Meadowlark slowly expanded to fill any available space. When I visited late last year Greg and his production jewellers had moved sideways into a neighbour’s basement while Claire worked from their “spare room” office with her team. By this stage the couple were not only married but had also added their sweet daughter Gigi to the Meadowlark throng – all making for a busy busy work/home juggle!
2013 marked a big move for the business. It was time to leave their home base look for a space which would allow the entire team to work under one roof and act as a true headquarters, fully reflecting the ethos and culture of their brand. This second floor studio was found in Auckland suburb; Newton and as you can see from the images and video – fits them like a glove!
Looking back over the 13 collections from the past 8 years its exciting to see the development of their style and the emergence of some signature pieces. The Meadowlark cocktail rings’ verge on cult status and they faithfully fuel the fire with new versions in each range.
They have been working with Auckland based Ciel PR since 2008 and have continued their future focussed attitude by expanding their stockists to 40 retailers in Australasia and their own online store which sells internationally. The beauty of their jewellery and business model means that every piece from every collection remains available to order at any time.
In addition to Claire and Greg, Meadowlark now employs a team of full and part time staff members who manage everything from sales and dispatch, marketing, international sales and accounting to production jewellers constantly crouched at their workstations in the studio.
Like all creative businesses they have juggled inspiration and design with the realities of production, staffing and sales. The success of their brand to date is fully reflected in their ability to remain focussed on their own aims and despite being born in a small island nation; they are constantly looking outward and upward. It’s both inspiring and exciting to watch.From left: Helen, Yeshe, Claire, Greg and Isaac.
Not pictured but valued! Lani, Emma and Matt.
All photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home. Big thanks to Matt House for the video!
WHAT I LEARNT FROM MEADOWLARK:
Think big and then work backwards from there.