Tatty Devine accessories

 8 February 2011

Tatty Devine crafts unique, handmade accessories inspired by rock 'n' roll, 50s Americana and everyday objects. Rosie Wolfenden met her co-founder, Harriet Vine, studying Fine Art.

Tatty Devine's 3D Specs Necklace' was inspired by Americana.
Tatty Devine's 3D Specs Necklace' was inspired by Americana.

Starting out in jewellery making

"The story of how Tatty Devine started is quite funny. Harriet and I met at college and we graduated in 1999. We used to go scavenging in skips to find materials. One night, after we'd been at the pub, we found 14 bin bags full of leather samples. We took them home and they lived under Harriet's bed for three months.

"About this time she had cut up a belt and was wearing it as a bracelet. We realised we had about 1000 bracelets under our bed so we made them up and started to sell them at Spitalfields market. They were successful and people from shops, wholesalers, started coming to our stall asking to sell the bracelets in their store.

"At this point we had not even considered this concept of commerce! We wanted to be painters and we were very naive."

Choosing a name

"We are always promoting what we do. Before we do anything, we do consider the marketing potential."

"It was only when the wholesalers got involved that we realised we needed a name! At college Harriet's nickname was Ms. Devine, also her gran called her Tetty. So we were playing with the name Tetty Devine which no one really got. Then we came up with Tatty.

"We are both into vintage and second hand, and we like the idea of keeping things forever, loving them and cherishing them for so long they become a bit tatty. Also we both liked the fact that Tatty Devine could be a person, in fact, people do call up asking to speak to Tatty!"

Building a business

"Market stalls gave us a grassroots introduction into the world of business. It was very good experience. I was also working in a vintage clothes shop one Friday when a stylist came in and commented on my necklace. I told her it was from my own collection and she asked me if I could bring the collection to her company on Monday. Her company was Vogue! So that weekend Harriet and I stayed up all night and created a collection!"

"The Tatty Devine brand really kicked off when we started to use Perspex. This happened after a visit to New York, where we had been visiting trade shows. We found some Perspex and just loved it.

When we got back to London, we investigated and found a model maker with a Perspex cutter, so we began creating laser cut Perspex shapes. These are now what our brand is associated with – so they were a big turning point for us."

"We were spending about £1000 a week to use the model maker and he turned round one day and told us we were being ridiculous! "Buy a Perspex cutter! Invest!" he said. So we bit the bullet, invested probably the largest sum of money either of us had ever spent, and bought the cutter. Being able to manufacture in-house changed everything."

Achieving success

"We were lucky in that we were incredibly successful almost immediately after graduating. We graduated in June 1999 and by September we were selling in Whistles and Harvey Nichols. We had a high level brand before we understood what this was. We operated following a stream of unconscious ideas.

"In 2000 we got into London Fashion Week, which again was a new move for us because we came from an arts background, not fashion. Then we opened our first store on Brick Lane. Originally it was just a studio space for us, but because people kept knocking on the door, we decided to open up for business.

"We opened our second shop in Soho in 2004. Both stores are about the experience. You go in, the music playing is music we like, we employ people we like with exhibitions on the wall. "

Advice for a career in crafts

"We are genuinely passionate about our products. Everything we like inspires them: film, music, art, friendships. We just put together a 'best of' catalogue and every piece has got a story behind the making." 

"We invested the largest sum of money either of us had ever spent. Being able to manufacture in-house changed everything."

"Our audience is very diverse. We are always shocked at the range of customers: mostly women, but of every ilk! We have always celebrated this and do not gear our range to any one style. "

"We held, and went to, lots of events. We are very people-orientated so I suppose we are always promoting what we do. At first this was not conscious but now, before we do anything, we do consider the marketing potential.

We hold two collections a year and we began to hold monthly exhibitions in our shop, inviting our friends and people we liked. These were always more like parties and word of mouth has been really good."

"Another key point is that we have always collaborated with other people. One of our first collaborations was with the band Chicks On Speed, designing for their tour. We have also designed pieces for the V&A and Tate shops as well as collaborating with the artists Gilbert & George."

Advice for starting a crafts businesss

  • Have confidence. Believe in your product and tell people about it.
  • You don't need to spend pots of money – do as much as you can yourself. You can learn how to build a website, you can learn how to design and manufacture and even if you do use other people, you need to be on top of all these things.
  • Buy the magazines you want to see your product in, ring them and ask to speak to the fashion assistant, or person who deals with your type of product, send them samples, invite them to events.
  • Keep it fresh, keep people guessing.
  • Work really really hard. All the time!

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