In the second in our Diversity in Fashion series of features, we explore the issue of women at the head of businesses. According to Forbes magazine in October 2016, the global consulting firm PwC set out to quantify the perception on gender-diverse executive leadership in large corporations. “Despite research consistently showing that companies with more diverse boards and workforces have stronger financial performance, there’s a strong divergence of thinking on the topic.”
The study finds that “only 24% of male board members think having a racially and gender-diverse board improves company performance, compared with 89% of female board members. This divergence is especially important because as of 2015, women made up only 20% of boards among S&P 500 firms.” This way of thinking appears to match the landscape of the jewellery industry in 2017. Of a list of 20 top global jewellery companies, only two of the CEOs were women.
It may seem odd that the industry that is consumed most by women lacks equal representation in the organisations that puts out the product. In recent years there have been a rise of female-led and designed jewellery brands, several of which are based here in London. One such designer, Sabine Getty, speaks with The Industry on her experience creating and leading her own brand, Sabine Getty Jewellery.
When speaking with Sabine Getty about her business, she is poised and polished (like a gem!), she is also confident while humble; a striking balance of being a leader within a creative industry. Though these adjectives are true in describing her, you may not hear these terms typically used to describe a male executive. Within an industry occupied largely by male leaders Sabine is taking an organic approach to business. “I’ve learned you have to be tough and stand your ground though you may be naïve. I wasn’t really of aware of it being dominated by one group” (males) “for me it was about what I want to design.”
Sabine’s creations are rooted in what she knows. Her personal background provides the inspiration of the brand. “Lebanese and Egyptian jewellery is casual where women wear luxury jewellery every day. I make refined pieces for customers but I grew up watching women be opulent with their jewellery.”
The Gemological Institiute of America was the first step in her process to design what she wanted but giving her a knowledge base to be credible as well. “I need to know what this world is about. I need to be able to trust which stones to select so people will trust what I sell. [Trust] is super important to the design though designing is innate.” Her approach is centred on “what can I create for my demographic” that will be interesting.
Her training at GIA provided a good balance of design and the “savoir faire”. The only drawback she’s faced in the jewellery industry occurred when trying to go work for someone else. “I created the company to be able to do my own thing. I had previously attempted to get an internship at Van Cleef & Arpels in New York City. There I would be placed in the marketing division. It’s rare to be placed in the creative side. A company could have great design talent but the company is so large that they don’t allow the creative talent to do other things.”
“The difference with being small means I have to learn how to put in the infrastructure. It’s like I’m two people. It’s a bit tough but I get good advisers help,” she explains. Within the last decade or so it has been apparent that the companies that do well are those that rely on the internal talent by allowing cross-training and opportunities for upward mobility. This strategy is only successful if the right mentors are in place or if teams showcase some diversity in the skillsets of each member. For Sabine, the latter is what affords her to do what she wants. “On our own you need to have an ally that can assist while you’re free to be creative.”
What’s next for Sabine Getty Jewellery? Finding the right stones to inspire new collections akin to her current “Memphis” line. There is also the continuation of her first collection called “Baby Memphis”. Those pieces are for simple everyday wear served as a diffusion line and sold mainly on the e-commerce site. Both lines are vivid, unique, and can make your run to Waitrose in jeans and a tee a glamorous affair. In any case, Sabine has forged her own path creatively and commercially. She is proof that you need not follow standard practices.