Worn by Ellie Goulding and spotted at Fashion Week, we chat with the Londoner behind flourishing New Zealand jewellery brand, Silk&Steel.
Hailing from London and now based in New Zealand, Sarah Cotterall is the creative mind behind fashionable jewellery brand, Silk&Steel. Fiercely passionate about challenging the conventions of her craft and creating her own style, Sarah’s jewellery is fresh, fashion-forward and perfect for everyday wear, with precious gemstones and delicate details giving her designs edge. Silk&Steel started out as just a passion and has organically evolved into a successful brand, worn by global popstar Ellie Goulding and featured on the runway at New Zealand Fashion Week. We chat with Sarah about how she went from working in advertising to starting her own jewellery line.
When did you know you wanted to be a jewellery designer?
“Jewellery and fashion have always been a big part of my life. From a young age, I was captivated by the beauty of antique jewellery and loved to customise pieces. I collected all sorts - from chains and brooches to rings and earrings. I started making jewellery for myself and for friends when I was a teenager and I knew deep down that one day I would work in the fashion industry. I had a fire in my belly and a passion for it in my heart!”
How did Silk&Steel begin?
“I knew I needed a business head before I could start my own brand. So, after studying art and fashion I went on to study International Marketing Management at university. I then worked in advertising for a number of years, but it was once I moved to New Zealand with my Kiwi husband that my journey as a jewellery designer eventually began! It all started with $100! I bought beads, used vintage costume jewellery and started making one-off pieces, which I then sold to friends and family. It snowballed from there. Every dollar I made from selling jewellery went into buying more materials and creating new designs. Friends and family loved them. Stylists started publishing my pieces in magazines and next thing I know they were on the runway at New Zealand Fashion Week!”
"Every dollar I made from selling jewellery went into buying more materials and creating new designs. "
How is your jewellery made?
“Depending on the collection, Silk&Steel designs are handmade in New Zealand, either by myself or other artisans (for example we use a New Zealand leather manufacturer to make our tassels, cuffs and chokers) or in India, where we work with an amazing manufacturer who handcrafts our sterling silver and fine gemstone jewellery collections.”
Are there any customers you are particularly proud of?
“The client I’m most proud of is Ellie Goulding. I made her an amazing bespoke necklace that she loved and wore on stage at her recent concert in Auckland (and posted about us on her social media!). Funnily enough it was on my birthday that she wore it, so it was quite a birthday present!!”
"Silk&Steel is about empowering our customers to be unique and style pieces in their own way. "
How do you want someone to feel when wearing Silk&Steel jewellery?
“From mixing edgy spikes with luxurious pearls, to wearing a necklace as a belt; I love to customise the way I wear pieces. Silk&Steel is about empowering our customers to be unique and style pieces in their own way. Our jewellery compliments what’s already there, creates a story and emphasises the beauty of the wearer.”
Where do you create your best work?
“I love designing at home in my beautiful environment. I live with my husband and two children Ella (12), Josh (9) and my fur baby Bailey (West Highland Terrier) in the countryside in Coatesville, just outside of Auckland, New Zealand. It’s here that I have set up my design studio. The outlook is stunning: semi-rural and surrounded by established trees. The main house has lots of beautiful art and objects and full of natural light, which is perfect for photoshoots and styling.”
Where did you grow up?
“I grew up in the incredibly inspiring city of London, surrounded by an abundance of culture, art and fashion. I would spend weekends scouring the city for beads, collectable vintage jewellery and clothes I could give new life to! Then, in my early twenties, I lived in Paris for two years, which was inspiring on every level: culture, architecture, art, food, fashion. And I have to say, it’s still my favourite city!”
Who has been your biggest mentor?
“My mother was, and still is, an incredibly supportive and inspiring person in my life. She taught me how to sew and embroider, and would spend hours with me experimenting different techniques to create new embellishments for projects that I would be working on. It was this unrestrained experimentation of techniques that enabled me to think about jewellery design in an unconventional way. She taught me that I could achieve anything if I set my mind to it, and I still live by that mantra every day!”
"Seeing our work being worn and enjoyed is very rewarding, whether it’s by someone like Ellie Goulding or our wonderful loyal customers."
What are your core brand values at Silk&Steel?
“I pride myself on creating beautiful quality, limited edition jewellery, which is individually hand crafted and available at a reasonable price point. The longevity of our products is incredibly important, so we use the highest quality materials we can. Everyone who works on creating our collections has become part of the Silk&Steel family. I am a very loyal person and extremely grateful to have such amazing people making our collections, who care as much as I do about the brand and finished products.”
What’s been the highest point of your career so far?
“There’s been so many high points it’s difficult to say just one. From being featured in fashion magazines and worn on the runway at New Zealand Fashion Week, to working on collaborations with amazing New Zealand fashion designers such as Yvonne Bennetti - it’s humbling to receive all this support and it’s the reason we’ve grown into the brand we are today. Seeing our work being worn and enjoyed is very rewarding, whether it’s by someone like Ellie Goulding or our wonderful loyal customers.”
What does the future hold for your brand?
“I’m really proud of what I have achieved in such a short time. From humble beginnings to watching the brand grow organically, it’s been an incredible journey. There’s still so much to learn and so much to achieve, but I’m so excited about the future. The story has only just begun!”