The jewellery market is a pretty crowded place to be. From the booming luxury market brimming with international brands to the fashion jewellery markets spruiking low-cost, low-quality pieces, usually good for just a season’s worth of wear, there isn’t a shortage of places to buy an adornment. But lack of options wasn’t what gave rise to Juliah Smidmore’s entrepreneurial spirit: it was a lack of options for quality yet affordable everyday jewellery that led to the creation of her own brand, Esq Jewellery.
“So many girls, including myself, wanted pieces to wear all the time, without the massive price tag,” Juliah tells us. “Girls wanted on-trend pieces to wear every day because realistically, who really wants to take it off? But there is a high-price tag that comes with that aspect of jewellery. I thought, with all the relationships and knowledge I had built in the last seven years, I could fill this gap in the market and offer girls high-quality pieces without the price tag.”
Juliah, who has also studied psychology and philosophy, was already well versed in the market before launching her own label, having spent seven years working for a boutique jewellery brand. During that time, the now 25-year-old became familiar with jewellery production, as well the wider industry and materials. Despite this solid grounding, Juliah was more than aware of the uphill battle she’d have launching a company amongst the deluge of already well-established brands.
“These are brands I buy from too, so I know, as a consumer myself, that it’s not easy competition as there are some amazing and unique brands out there.”
Crucially, though, Juliah has adopted a direction that focuses less on what others are doing and more on carving her own path in the industry, which has already proven to be a solid secret to success.
“I’m not trying to compete with other brands,” she says. “I know where the gap in the market is and that’s where I’m putting all my focus. It’s a difficult market, but it’s all part of the process and I’m happy to roll with it.”
Another key part of her strategy is knowing her customer intimately – especially seeing as they’re just like her.
“I try and stick to what I personally feel is important,” she explains. “I want high-quality, I want every detail of a piece to be perfect… and I want it realistically to fit in the price bracket for girls my age. I know what it’s like to study full-time, pay rent, have high expenses, learn to save and still want to treat myself. That shouldn’t fall short for jewellery. All I can do is make Esq the best reflection of myself as a consumer, in order to relate to the girls out there who favour high fashion and high quality without the high-end price tag.”
The result is a range of delicate and fine rings, earrings, necklaces and bracelets made of quality materials of real silver and gold for long-term wear, with prices beginning at $40.
“Keeping the price point low was very important because I want every girl to be able to feel good about where they spend their money and not have to worry about saving weeks and weeks for something that makes them feel beautiful. Luckily, I can do this because of who I’ve met in the industry in regards to jewellers and manufacturers from my previous job. By gaining their trust and familiarising them with my vision for Esq, I’ve been able to design pieces at a much lower price point.”
Despite initially launching online just a year ago, Esq Jewellery has found such a following that Juliah has managed to expand to a physical space in Sydney’s Double Bay, bringing the brand to a whole new clientele.
“I can depend a lot on foot traffic with the store, whereas for online customers what you see is what you get,” she explains. “We are online every day, so I know brand trust is vital to the experience. They can’t see and feel the product, or try it on. So [from] that aspect, I feel like it’s much harder to sell to customers online unless you are already distinguished.”
The standalone store, Juliah adds, has given new customers access to the pieces to prove how you can produce quality jewellery that’s affordable.
“Associating ‘affordability’ with a brand can in some cases cheapen it,” she explains. “Customers are given the chance to see that in this case, high-quality and affordability are definitely two aspects that can work in conjunction with each other.”
Juliah’s now looking to expand the brand in a way that helps others.
“My 17-year-old cousin Luke passed away in tragic and sudden circumstances in the early hours of the day I opened Esq Boutique,” she tells us. “I think the time now is right to give back to a fund that supports their patients, like they did my cousin. It’s only small in the greater scope of the devastating circumstances that occurred, but doing small things like this is good for the soul, and I feel it’s at the core of who I am and what I give out to the world.”