A charmed life: How Anna Dimond created Palas Jewellery

Name: Anna Dimond

Company: Palas Jewellery

Location: Adelaide, South Australia

It’s not every day you come across a jewellery designer who doesn’t wear much jewellery, but that’s Anna Dimond. From a graphic designer working in advertising to the head designer of a jewellery brand stocked in over 600 stores, it’s been a fascinating 20 years for Dimond.

In the mid-1990s Dimond co-founded Palas with her sister Eran who had been studying visual arts. The pair had been working as buyers for a retail store when they went travelling together around Europe and Asia.

While on their travels, Dimond discovered the “strong artisan skills” of the Indonesians when it comes to manufacturing things from silver. Dimond and Eran, both in their early 20s at the time, realised there was a gap in the Australian market for quality, affordable silver jewellery.

The pair took one year to design their first range of 30 earrings and went through almost 40 manufacturers in Indonesia before settling on one they were confident with. At the end of the 12 months the sisters launched Palas Jewellery at a trade show in Sydney, whilst still in their own full-time careers.

At the show, Palas Jewellery was picked up by 30 stores. At the time it was a disappointing number for Dimond, but on reflection a good achievement.

Being young was both an advantage and a disadvantage for the pair. They were fuelled by “passion and excitement”, but lacked the financial experience which comes with age. However, one of their biggest challenges early on was because of their gender.

“Being young females in the Asian business culture we had to make serious adjustments to how we dealt with men. It wasn’t a negative, it was just a challenge, we had to not be intimidated,” Dimond says.

“When you’re young and don’t have much experience you can get a bit fearful, but we got to a point where we knew we were right and I stepped up and dealt with it head on.”

In the past year the business has experienced 55% growth and now turns over $2 million annually and is stocked by 600 fashion and lifestyle stores. SmartCompany spoke to Dimond about reinventing the brand, recovering from the loss of a loved one and infusing her jewellery with spirituality.

Mornings

Dimond wakes daily at 6.30am and gets her two daughters ready for school.

“I have two daughters, Coco, five and Lola, 11, and a husband and a dog and cat. I’ll drop Coco and Lola at school and then I’m at the office by 8.45am,” she says.

Daily life

Despite being the head designer, Dimond doesn’t spend much of her time designing.

“The designing is absolutely the tiniest part of my year. We bring out two new ranges each year in February and August where we’ll have 100 new styles,” she says.

“I pull the whole thing together in about two weeks.”

Day-to-day, Dimond spends more time focusing on the financial side of the business. Currently she is endeavouring to delegate more work to her chief of operations and outsource some digital strategists and designers to help with the running of the business.

“Once the designs come into play, it’s all admin, marketing, management and attending trade fairs in each state,” she says.

“But I am always thinking about the design and what will be good in the next ranges.”

The first of two big transitional periods for the business came in its sixth year of operation. Dimond noticed more businesses starting to appear at trade shows and sales starting to decline.

This called for an urgent response, and the sisters rethought their business model. They went back to basics, responding to customer desires and shifted to a lower price range, exclusivity to fashion and lifestyle stores and a broader range of jewellery.

“We were looking like quite an expensive brand and it wasn’t such a niche. I felt like it wouldn’t have been sustainable. We needed to be responsive to what our customers wanted and they were saying they wanted more for their money,” she says.

“Buying something for $30 rather than $300 isn’t a big decision, but they still wanted something nice which was accessible and good value.”

Over the years Palas Jewellery has supplied all kinds of retailers from pharmacies, department stores and stand-alone retailers, but now Dimond believes not every retailer is right for the brand.

“For a while we were suppling newsagents and pharmacies, and they were good orders, but it wasn’t right. Now that we just do fashion and lifestyle stores the brand loyalty is much stronger. It’s the bread and butter range for a number of the stores,” she says.

The second shakeup came in 2007 when Dimond’s sister Eran died suddenly, leaving her without a loved one and business partner.

“I was at a trade fair at the time and I flew back to Adelaide straight away. I remember looking at the front door and just wanting to run away. Things were tough,” she says.

“At the time sales were dipping and things weren’t fun, so I really thought about just running away, but then I realised I had to make this work, we’d put our hearts and souls into it.”

When Dimond started to come to terms with her sister’s passing she pulled the business apart, whittling it down to just herself and one other person, and rethought everything from the processes to the concept.

“I was moving forward and it kept me busy. It was an opportunity to show myself how strong I could be. I couldn’t design like she could, but I threw myself into spiritual readings and the messages and affirmations helped me,” she says.

“I’d never really been through a tragedy, but it gave me a lot more life experience and showed me what doesn’t break you does make you stronger.”

Story continues on page 2. Please click below.

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