In Conversation with Setting Out Participant, Aishleen Lester
With our Selling Pop-Up 'ALL SET' just around the corner, the Centre caught up with one of the 8 jewellers participating in the event – installation artist turned jewellery designer, Aishleen Lester. The founder of the promising new brand LeSter Jewellery, Aishleen is also a recent graduate of our Setting Out programme.
Can you tell us a bit about how you got started in the industry, and what made you want to start your own business?
My journey into the industry is a bit long-winded. I worked as an artist, making large-scale work, like three-metre high installations. I wanted to start working on a smaller scale, and so enrolled in an evening class in soldering at Kennington and Chelsea College. I wasn’t looking to go into the jewellery trade, but whilst on the course I realised that I really enjoyed working with metal, and I liked the fact that what I was making would be worn, and that started me on a completely different journey - one that I hadn’t been expecting.
How confident were you in your business skills before Setting Out?
Not confident at all. I was very at home in a creative space, at designing and putting things together, but in terms of business I only had snippets of information that I’d picked up from friends, or from jobs. I think what the 16-hour programme does is gives you a complete overview of business, and helps tie all those little ends together. It enabled me to grasp all the threads and see business as a complete whole.
You have a very distinctive design style - what are some of the main themes of your work and what inspires you?
Whenever I start designing something, I always begin with keywords, images or phrases and expand from there.
So, for example – the phrase ‘a confidence that lasts longer than lipstick’. That kind of opens the door for me, creatively, to begin working.
This collection that I’m working on at the moment is inspired by pop art, explosions, bangs, the way a firework leaves its trace in the sky. It’s about bringing two different kinds of imagery together – one graphic, one much softer, more feminine, but the overall idea is confidence and empowerment of the individual.
Do you find creativity translates into business skills?
Creativity is a space you go into without any expectations – you’re exploring, there’s a playfulness to it. And I think you need a degree of that with business, but you need to apply it to a much stronger framework. So, you might have an initial idea that’s very creative, but then you need to fit that to considerations like, is it going to reach the right price points, who is the target audience, how do you talk about it?
What are your main aspirations over the next five years?
The next five years are about putting into practice some of the things that I’ve learned, trying to get my work into some key stockists, learning which designs work and which don’t, and who they resonate with. I’m hoping to begin developing my own online community. So really, I’m focused on just establishing my business and getting to know my audience.
What advice would you give others thinking of starting their own business?
I'd say, be passionate, do it because you love it. But you’ve also got to pair that passion with patience and resilience, because this industry is competitive, it's difficult, so you need those attributes alongside the passion and creativity to enjoy the journey. And get as much advice as possible from people within the industry, because there's lots of advice about business in general, but that doesn’t always apply to the jewellery sector, which can be quite different. The Centre is good for that - the support and advice that’s available here is amazing.