An artistic family heritage set Hannah Paine on her own creative path, founding épanoui, a handmade jewellery company inspired by contemporary and vintage influences, making timeless designs destined to become heirlooms
91 Magazine contributing editor,
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Hi Hannah, how would you describe your business?
épanoui is a working shop and jewellery studio with an all female team, nestled in the heart of Bedfordshire. We are a creative business with jewellery at the heart, designing and making collections for our wonderful community of silver and gold aficionados. We love connecting with both our physical and online community through conversations on our love of the workbench process and beautiful design. Our bricks and mortar store not only houses our studio and jewellery collections but also a variety of carefully selected artisan brands that complement our pared back style.
What inspired the idea of setting up your business?
As a child I had always been creative and tried every craft going. When I graduated from my fashion communications degree, I decided to embark on a short jewellery course and from there I was hooked! For years after, I made jewellery as a hobby but it wasn’t until I tired of my London-based PR job and the endless commute that I decided to really take the plunge to set up épanoui.
From my kitchen table the business grew and the time came to search for premises. In doing so I stumbled across a gem of a unit that was being carefully renovated by a local landlord, who offered me the flexibility of the space being both a shop and studio and we have been there ever since. The concept of a small lifestyle store and jewellery studio combined with an online presence really worked well, and at the time there was nothing like it in our town.
Over the last eight years our small business has grown into a much loved brand with a strong online community, and more recently our expansion into the wholesale market with stockists now up and down the country. The business has grown quite organically over the years as the team has grown. I’ve been a fan of the slowly slowly method, so as not to bolt too soon on phases of the business that needed love and care, which has worked really well for us.
What did you do before setting up your business? My career began in entertainment PR across live events such as festivals and theatre productions. My last role before I left the PR world was at The Walt Disney Company. All aspects of PR were a brilliant grounding and gave me a great basis for how to work with brand stories and how to really create something with a heart. I feel my background in both fashion and working with lifestyle and entertainment brands really helped me harness the heart of épanoui. My background has been so beneficial in enabling me to tell our épanoui story over the years.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
Through nature and galleries. I get some of my best ideas by getting quiet and being amongst Mother Nature. It often takes me a while to let ideas percolate, but it always comes together in the moments of quiet. I also find galleries of all shapes and sizes incredibly inspiring, again I think it’s the process of getting quiet and absorbing yourself totally in a different scene that enables your brain to switch off from all of the noise.
How would you describe your style?
Pared back and simple. A concoction of vintage and timeless with a nod to heirloom elements.
Are there themes or influences that run through your work?
We always try to find what is at the heart of each new collection, and nine times out of 10, each new piece will pair or layer with another from our collections. By keeping our style simple and pared back we like to think to each design seamlessly transitions to the next.
Tell us a little about your work and creative process…
I generally start with an idea for a new collection and flesh that out through sketches and creating inspiring mood boards. Then we move to the bench and between myself and Jade, from our jewellery making team, we work to create samples. These samples then get lovingly road-tested by us to see how we feel wearing them, and if there is anything we want to tweak. This then leads us to lots more workbench time, creating our final pieces before we launch them with an event both in the store and online for our community.
How did you first discover your love for what you do?
I’ve always been interested in physical craft, from running around tailoring rooms with my dressmaker grandmother, to fleshing out watercolours with my mum, so the love of using my hands to create has always been there. It wasn’t until I completed my short course at Central Saint Martins that I found my love of jewellery and it all went from there!
Can you describe a typical working day?
Each day is different, that’s the joy of running a small business. I currently split my time between our shop and studio, with the team and my garden cabin. Every day is an interesting mix of serving customers in the store, working on new design development, dealing with accounts and suppliers, connecting with our amazing stockists, fulfilling their latest orders, and responding to customer requests – no two days are ever the same when you work in a constantly evolving customer-facing business!
What is the ethos behind your business?
épanoui means to blossom, to grow and to flourish in French and this is something we aim to harness in our jewellery. Our pieces are created to encourage our wearers to do just that and to be comfortable in their own skin.
Is there an element of your work that you love the most?
I really love the styling element of each part of the business – merchandising the shop, creating seasonal windows, arranging new jewellery designs, and styling photo shoots. I adore getting to the core of what makes each new piece tick and discovering what makes it special through the visual elements.
Is the online community important to your work?
Incredibly so, we love our bricks and mortar store but the connection we have with our online community is just as valuable. We love that we can work with clients and customers from near and far to create timeless gifts for their loved ones. The community we have built through social media has been wonderful, sharing moments from our bench and asking followers’ opinions on new designs really helps keep us in tune with what people want.
Working as an independent – what are the joys, and what are the challenges?
I love working as an independent. The freedom to discover new brands and create exactly what we want within our store is something I cherish above all else within the business. To be able to be creative every day in one way or another is a real gift. It does of course come with its challenges, not knowing what each day will bring and what hiccups we will need to deal with – be that financial, customer, or bricks and mortar related for instance, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Do you have any creative hobbies?
I love antique hunting, so much of our style is inspired by vintage pieces of jewellery, furniture and fabrics!
What does the next year hold for you?
We will be celebrating the shop and studio’s birthday on the weekend of the 14th/15th October with a shop event and and online presence. Over the weekend we will be launching a brand new and very exciting collection called Heirloom, just in time for Christmas – we can’t wait!
The next year is going to be a very exciting one for us as I am expecting my first baby in November. I’m looking forward to a new adventure and seeing how the new addition will inspire me and challenge me in equal measure. épanoui will continue to run as normal with our fantastic team, and I’ll be dipping in and out – I won’t be able to stay away for long!
QUICK-FIRE QUESTIONS Books I love: A Frame For Life by Ilse Crawford. Creative Heroes:Ilse Crawford and Annie Leibovitz. Shops I love: Liberty (the holy grail), and The Hambledon in Winchester. Inspirational places: France (a rather large place, granted!). The moment I cross The Channel I can’t help but feel lit up by their way of life – beautiful aged architecture, rolling countryside and bustling cities, slow Sunday markets, long lunches and the hidden treasures in brocantes. I try to visit a few times a year to get my dose of inspiration.