WJN x VALERIE DEMURE
WJN: Describe how you came to work in the world of jewellery…
Valery Demure: My journey into jewellery was purely by chance. Although I have always loved fashion, objects and interiors, I wasn’t so into jewellery, I never wore it before I was offered a job to manage and buy for a small independent jewellery boutique in Soho. So, I taught myself everything. I met many jewellers and was inquisitive about them, so after a few years working for this company, I was encouraged by a stylist friend to start my agency to promote jewellery. This is how it started. When we opened, we were the only agency of this kind. I guess we have inspired others, and competition is great — it forces you to push yourself, to reassess constantly, to question what you do and whatever you do, you do it your own, you create your own signature. You have your very own vision.
WJN: Can you recall a key piece of advice you’ve received or major learning curve in your career to date?
VD: There were many formative moments, one of them was before I opened my agency. I was told by a PR friend: ‘Young designers are a difficult breed, be careful, they expect everything and are often not grateful or loyal.’ I felt a little sad to hear this, but you don’t do this job to expect gratitude or loyalty. I feel very passionate about craft and design. Designers are also human beings, they are not perfect. I have met amazing people and some less amazing people along the way, but just for these amazing ones it is really worth it. I would not be who I am today without all these encounters.
Another formative moment was when I was about to set up my company. I was offered a good job with a great pay and perks from a diamond company and I had to decide quickly to either work for this company, be on a very good wage, take this job with many new challenges and lots of travel, but I was really unsure. Something didn't feel right and my best friend said to me: ‘Follow your heart, do what feels right deep down, or you will regret it’ And I declined that job, started my agency, made sacrifices and she was right — always follow your heart and your gut instinct.
WJN: Which women figures have been most influential on your career to date, and why?
VD: Too many women have inspired me, and continue to inspire me. All strong, individual, passionate, fierce, generous women. Artists, craftswomen, writers, musician. The sad thing is that my mother never inspired me and I kind of regretted this for many years. I have now learned to let go and to be a different mother myself, and I hope I can inspire many things in my own daughter. But would I be who I am today, had I had a different mother? Maybe not.
WJN: You work closely with designers as they start to grow their jewellery brands — do you have a piece of wisdom or advice for designers at this stage?
VD: Yes, bear in mind you will need to be active on all fronts — including PR, marketing and design — and if you cannot do it all, surround yourselves with people who show honesty, integrity, loyalty and passion. Always keep a dialogue with these people, let them challenge you and question what you do. Stay humble, there is always more to learn. Don’t let your ego run everything.
WJN: Valery Demure is such a vibrant business — how do you strike a work/life balance?
VD: When my daughter was born, I had to quickly reassess my priorities in life. It has given me much better focus, I spend less time getting angry, frustrated and annoyed. When I feel disappointed or upset, I teach myself to move on. One sure thing I have really learned is to avoid toxic people or situations that give me headaches. I think I also take things less personally now. When somebody behaves badly, I just don’t get involved, I stay at a distance and let that person be. I no longer try to change people around me.
I am a curious person and I include my daughter in many of my hobbies. I have started a ceramic class and I find it both challenging and relaxing, using my hands, going through a process. I have also registered for a floral art class in January for a week. I go to galleries a lot, I travel a lot with my husband and daughter. I love to meet people and engage, learn, discover new things, from art to food and music.
WJN: Finally, what does success look and feel like to you?
VD: Success is a weird concept. I think it is overrated or it is often the wrong goal. Do we not learn much more from our failures? I think we do. I see life instead in terms of developing as a human being — learning, growing, having empathy, curiosity, having an open mind, being nurturing. I have a great but small social circle and I have learned to surround myself with great creative, passionate, generous people. I have a beautiful 7 year-old daughter who is super creative, super inquisitive, kind to others — this is success I guess. I love being a mother and inspiring her to learn, to be curious, to have fun, to enjoy the here and now. We travel so she can learn about other cultures and be open minded. I work to teach her that success is not everything: most important is the learning curve, the effort and the time.