Popular with celebrities, British jewelry label Robinson Pelham is taking off in the US.
If you want to make an impact in America, it helps to have an influencer like Gwyneth Paltrow batting for your team. The actress and wellness entrepreneur’s stylist introduced her to popular British jewelry brand Robinson Pelham a few years ago. A devotee of the neck-mess look, Paltrow took to wearing the brand’s Identity gold chain-link necklace, stirring up such a positive reaction that she shrewdly started stocking it and some of the company’s bracelets on her Goop website.
It was three powerhouse women — Vanessa Chilton, Zoe Benyon and Kate Pelham Burn — who founded Robinson Pelham 25 years ago, initially creating bespoke jewelry for private clients. In 2012, they opened a shop in London’s Chelsea neighborhood as a home for the ready-to-wear jewelry they wanted to make. The world took note when Kate Middleton, now princess of Wales, wore the brand’s earrings for her wedding in 2011 — an incredible honor that the founders prefer to downplay when asked.
In 2018, Robinson Pelham exhibited at the Couture show in Las Vegas for the first time. “We were flying solo to test it out, and it was an eye-opener, having not dealt with the American market before, in that you cannot treat America as a whole,” reflects Chilton. “It is much more regionalized, with New York, California and Texas [clients], for instance, liking different jewelry. This we took away to remember for next time.”
Benyon agrees that “it has been a geographical lesson for us, with retailers in areas that we wouldn’t have imagined having the buying power — so never assume.” She cites Kansas and Puerto Rico as places where they have seen success.
For its Couture debut, Robinson Pelham brought its Ear Menu — a broad selection of colorfully bejeweled charms that attach to its tiny Orb hoops, curated into stacks for multiple piercings. “As we didn’t know how to tackle the market, really, we took the Menu, which is a good entry-point collection and not terrifyingly expensive. And with our instant eye-catching booth, visitors recognized us,” says Chilton, referring to the brand’s signature orange décor.
One of its first customers was Alexandra Lippin of California retailer Elysewalker. “You couldn’t miss the booth, with their bright orange fixtures and jewelry in every color of the rainbow,” Lippin recalls. “Once I understood the mix-and-match concept, I knew immediately that I wanted to [order] the line.”
She bought into the Ear Menu’s EarWishes range of charms, then added the Orbs and studs to her selection. Store founder Elyse Walker has since hosted piercing parties in four of her locations, with Robinson Pelham on hand to advise.
At the show, Robinson Pelham focused on one aspect of its repertoire. “When you dip your toe in for the first time, you’ve got to be careful with the statement you’re making,” says Benyon. The Ear Menu is “totally about the styling,” she explains, noting the differences between Californian clients with multiple piercings and a 60-year-old Texan who might wear the same earrings in a different way.
The brand hired an American agent to help it tend to the market in 2019 and then weather the Covid-19 storm and its travel restrictions. The team returned to Couture this year with more collections, including the chain-link necklaces and bracelets Gwyneth Paltrow popularized, its Arena statement rings (amethyst, yellow beryl and other semiprecious gems set in ceramic color), and its geometric Entwined rings. With its mix of rainbow sapphires and diamonds, the Entwined line typifies the Robinson Pelham look, and American buyers snapped it up.
“One of the things we do is underplay serious stones so that people can wear them out,” says Chilton. “If you add diamonds, you are immediately saying, ‘Look at me,’ but if you put rainbow with everything, the ingredients are just fantastic and informalize the look.”
This use of color resonates with Katherine Jetter of online jeweler The Vault Nantucket. “I’m a colored-gemstone lover just like they are,” she says. “I love how vibrant their collection is, and the quality is exceptional. Also, I enjoy representing unique designers from overseas who aren’t overexposed in the US. People are loving it here. But it’s important to explain the quality in order to fully appreciate the brand.”
Robinson Pelham has taken its 25th anniversary in stride, though it admits the milestone gives US customers confidence in the brand. Its pieces are also ideally suited for gifting, points out Lippin, and luxury e-tailer Net-a-Porter started selling the brand to US customers in August. Jetter sees a lot of potential for the label in America, declaring that “their latest collection is a testament to their continued evolution.”
Image: Robinson Pelham