Sophie Theakston is a jewellery designer based in West London. She talks exclusively to 35 Thousand about her love of India, being creative in lockdown whilst juggling family life, her love of nature, meditation and her 5.15 am starts when husband, (presenter Jamie Theakston) leaves for work.
Tell us about your work…
“I am a jewellery designer, designing fine jewellery using 18ct gold and precious and semi-precious stones. I work from my home in London which is where I have a studio and showroom, but I have my collections made in Jaipur, India. I have a wonderful team of people who work for me over there and I have a great assistant based here in London too.
The thing I most love about what I do is travelling to India. I am obsessed with that country basically! Everything about it speaks to me; the people, the food, the design, the elegance and beauty, the richness and opulence amid the craziness and chaos. It is an over-used expression, but it really is an assault on the senses. I have travelled extensively, but nowhere is like India. It inspires my soul… Alongside the travel, I am lucky enough in my work to see the vision of what is in my head come to life in gold. I will never tire of that creative process.”
What was your normal day-to-day life like pre COVID-19?
“My day consists of a very early start at 5:15 when my husband goes to work. I immediately check in with India on everything they’re working on for current designs. Whatsapp in my pyjamas! I then feed and walk the dogs and have breakfast before taking my two boys to school. It’s then straight back home to more coffee and work, in India, but also keeping on top of sales, orders and general admin back here in the UK. If my assistant is working with me we have lots of planning discussions and will stop for a bit of healthy lunch and a non-work catch up, although quite a lot of tea and chocolate is also eaten throughout the day! If she isn’t with me, I just grab something at my desk. I also have days when I might visit stores and regularly have private clients come to have a look at the collection and buy. Its a busy and varied day with nose to the grindstone right through ’til the boys come home from school.”
What is your day-to-day life like now?
“The boys have been at home which has really changed things a lot, so my time has been very stretched between looking after their needs and running the business. My husband has continued to work (Jamie is the co-presenter of the Heart breakfast show on Heart FM) but he has been home earlier to help. Apart from that, India was hit really hard by COVID. It has been terrible to hear about conditions out there and how it has affected people’s livelihoods. My team in Jaipur were pretty much unable to work so the manufacturing stopped for a few months. It did mean that I went into over-drive with design though! A slower pace and fewer deadlines and time-pressures has actually made that part of the process really breathe and flow. It has felt like a very creative time for me…
Running your own small business also means there is CONSTANT flow of administrative stuff to deal with. Not my favourite thing at all. My assistant has been pregnant during COVID (quite anxiety inducing for her!), but we have managed everything remotely. And customers have been buying well remotely too. I think Instagram was an absolute Godsend for lots of small businesses like mine, basically.”
What’s your context outside of work?
“I have two boys Kit and Sidney, (10 and 12), two dogs and two cats. Oh and a husband! We live in Chiswick, West London. Apart from the weirdness of home-schooling, we have all been outside on lots of walks together which has been really lovely, and, again, inspiring from a design point of view. Nature really is my go to for re-connecting and checking in with myself, so the part of lockdown that has seen us take a daily woodland stomp, has been incredibly restorative. We are a stones throw from Richmond Park and have the fabulous hidden gem of Chiswick House & Garden right on our doorstep. I like to pretend it’s my garden if I’m honest!
My hobby really is my work. But I do try to separate myself from it otherwise I become obsessive. So apart from that grand passion, I devour books (especially biographies), classic movies (anything with Bette Davis in it) and I regularly visit galleries here in London: Tate Britain, V&A, RA are my favourites. I try to do at least one every fortnight if I can. Obviously eating and drinking out in London is always a treat too. As far as wellness goes, I do meditation and yoga at home too.”
What are you finding challenging right now?
“I think just the lack of a new perspective when I look outside. In spite of the beautiful outdoor spaces here in London, we are largely in an urban environment, so I miss being able to breathe in a new location and see something other than houses and roads! But we are very lucky that we have a garden and space so I mustn’t grumble. I do miss direct contact with my co-workers too and, of course, the face-to-face with my team in India and seeing the work in process. I am itching to get back to the heat and beautiful craziness of Jaipur! But obviously you cannot rush these things.”
Do you feel that Lockdown has changed your outlook and if so how?
I have definitely found – like most working people – that we are able to do most things remotely pretty efficiently and whilst face-to face is lovely, it really isn’t absolutely necessary. And that can only be a good thing for the environment. I will definitely re-think the amount I travel after this.
I have definitely slowed down, and taken time to be with my family and not to get too sucked into my work life. I am a bit of a workaholic if truth be told, so this has been a great time to re-set and re-connect with life outside of that. Nothing is more important than my boys and my husband. And we are so privileged to have had no family members or friends fall seriously ill, so I have learned to really live in gratitude for that and all that we have in our lives. Some people have suffered terribly during this period and I cannot imagine what working in frontline NHS or having lost a loved one… so Lockdown has taught me to say my prayers and count my blessings.”
What raises your stress levels and how do you manage that?
“I don’t tend to get too stressed out… since I started yoga and meditation several years ago, it has really helped me manage anxiety and accept that there are things you can fix and things you just can’t. So a sense of perspective is vital in that.
My assistant, Tori, is also brilliantly calm, competent and efficient, so I speak to her whenever things might be feeling stressful. I think working life is always going to throw you challenges, missing deadlines on something, people or situations not quite matching your expectations, or you not matching theirs, but that is just the nature of business and LIFE, quite frankly.
You have to work to solve the problem and if the moment has passed for you to fix something, you need to work together on an alternative plan. I think its so important to have positive, calm people around you who give good advice and have got your back. I am super lucky in that respect. My husband is also always there with sound advice and a bear hug if things get really bad!”
Who/what has been the biggest inspirations to you in life or in your career?
“I was very inspired by my parents who were both successful in the jewellery business. They had their own retail outlets but they were also very creative themselves in design…so I think my lifelong obsession with jewels was started from being around them – it was in my DNA.
As far as business is concerned, my career before jewellery was working as Global Membership Director for Nick Jones at Soho House, so I was fortunate enough to to travel the world and meet and work with lots of fascinating and creative people . Nick is like no one else I have ever met. He is driven, passionate, takes no BS and sticks to his vision on a project. Not only is he a visionary, he is also hilariously funny and extraordinarily kind. He has been a huge part of my life and I will be forever grateful to him for giving me the self-belief to follow my true passions that has allowed me to go for it and do what I do today.”
Are you travelling currently?
“I have put all my plans for travel to India on hold for this year. I think they all need time to heal over there as the virus is just at the point of peaking. If and when I do get on a plane ( I haven’t yet) I think I will be pretty relaxed though. I will take all the necessary precautions obviously, but I do think we have to, at some point, get the world moving again and the economy growing. I will take all the advice on what to do, when and how, but I will definitely be first in line to try and get back to some form of normality in our lives.”
What do you wear to work?
I am pretty obsessed with clothes. Not buying new ones necessarily, but styling and putting looks together. They make me feel better and I love how my mood can change depending on what I have reached for that day. I wear the same style of clothes whatever day of the week it is and whatever I am doing. My husband loves to point this out on our country walks!! So I don’t really have weekday wear or weekend wear.
I like flowing things, beautiful fabrics, things that are well-made and definitely not “in fashion” necessarily. It is really a mishmash of favourite designers, vintage market finds and some very old favourite pieces… I literally always have a cashmere wrap within reach too, all year round. I have them in all different colours and have them hand embroidered in Delhi. I don’t want to admit how many in print…”
If you had to edit your wardrobe to 10 items what would you keep?
“A Vintage Missoni Coat, Dosa Silk Trousers, Dosa Camisole Dress The Row Cashmere Rollneck, Metier Suede Hold-all, wrecked GAP boyfriend jeans, Dries Van Noten Long cardigan, Forte Forte Leather Boots, Isabel Marant Slides…. and as many cashmere wraps I can smuggle onto the list without you noticing. I would look like a (luxe) bag lady, but I think that tends to be my look anyway so bring it on!”
What are your handbag essentials?
“Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream, my purse, business cards, Smythson diary and pen, Liberty Notebook and pencil for design and work notes, house keys, Lindt chocolate balls, Charlotte Tilbury’s Beach Stick to add much needed colour if I am starting to fade…. obviously now I add a protective mask to that list.”
What are your home-working essentials?
“Lindt chocolate balls, bowls of nuts and dried apricots, sparkling water on tap, my iPad, tons of Liberty notebooks all over the place, each for a different thing . I love to write and draw, I am not at all good with virtual organising of my thoughts and ideas. I am terribly old school…”
What or who do you rely on for managing life’s juggle?
“I have a very considerate and generally lovely husband who is usually home by lunchtime after a VERY early start, and he is brilliant at helping with school runs and sports matches if I have something that means I can’t do it. I also have two brilliant women I work with both here and in India who pick up when I have to drop. And of course some truly wonderful friends who will always be there for me if they can, when I ask.”
How do you manage your mind and well-being on a daily basis?
“I walk my dogs in the woods and think… but actually try to not to think, which is much better. I also practice Yoga and do daily mediation and am a total Eckhart Tolle nut. Podcasts for mindfulness are really big news for me. I am also am a HUGE believer in gratitude lists. I have been making my boys do them since they were about five and I love looking back on what has changed in their worlds and mine.”
How do you stay healthy?
“I gave up eating meat and drinking alcohol about 2 years ago, and I can honestly say I feel superhuman in comparison to how I felt before. I also try to be with people who are kind, laugh a lot and have my best interests at heart. Good people are the key to a good life I believe.”
How do you relax?
“Reading, films, music, art, cuddling my boys and of course my ever-present pets. I always have some fluffy animal at my feet. Usually a few of them….”
If you could speak to yourself when you were just starting out…?
“I would say stick to your dream and don’t listen to naysayers. You only have one life and if you have a burning passion to do something creative, go for it. You may stumble sometimes on the journey, but pick yourself back up and stay focussed on the vision. If you try to just enjoy the journey, the destination will take care of itself. Creative fulfilment is out there for everyone… you just have to reach for it with all the energy and passion you have.”
To see Sophie’s designs head to www.sophietheakston.com
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