IWD Special: Q&A, Dinny Hall, founder of Dinny Hall
Dinny Hall established her London-based jewellery brand in the 1980s and was among an influential new generation of creative talent in the capital at the time. As part of our series of special features celebrating International Women's Day, she talks about setting up on her own and how and the women who have inspired her.
What inspired you when first going into business?
I left Central Saint Martins in the early 1980s when there was a genuine hotbed of creativity going on in London. This clustering of talent gave me the confidence to believe that I could simply set up a jewellery design business without any formal business knowledge at all. I just an understanding of my own creativity, determination and no fear of extreme hard work.
How did your business first come about?
I set up a workshop as luck would have it in Soho and I worked waitressing at night to keep up a level of income. I was lucky enough to have been picked up by the jewellery buyer at Liberty who showcased my work right at the start. It was this leg up in the luxury retail world which opened doors elsewhere and so this is how it all began.
Is there anything in particular that inspired you to start your own business?
First of all there was no one I wanted to work for – I saw a gap in the market and people seemed to like what I was doing so it just seemed natural to set up on my own. There were influential people who believed in me and helped me along the way and once I started designing jewellery for the fashion designer Rifat Ozbek there was no looking back. I began selling more in the United States and flitted back and forth between London and New York, loving every moment! I then had covers of glossy magazines, numerous articles about my endeavours and finally in 1989 was voted “Accessory Designer of the Year” by the British Fashion Council. I have never had so many flowers in my life. I was carried along on a wave of creativity inspired by the people I was mixing with. Right place right time you could say! Little did I know what was just around the corner –The Gulf War, Chernobyl and Global recession.
Are there any people that have inspired you in the past?
I was first influenced by Elsa Perretti who designed for Tiffany in the 1970s. Intrigued and inspired by amazing women who were not just style icons but were brave and talented women such as Josephine Baker, Nancy Cunard or Lee Miller. There were very few women who had made it in the jewellery world especially those who had crossed over the design divide between fashion and jewellery- but that is what I set out to do.
How are you planning to future proof your business?
Never stop being creative and reinventing, never believe that one has arrived at a point where success is yours, because success is fleeting. We must work towards sustainability in everything that we do! It is paramount that we care about the welfare of our suppliers, our staff our customers and our environment. Always by being true to the core values of my company and being open to young talent we pave the way for an ever-changing world of design and retail with eye wide open and without fear.
What hurdles to you foresee for your business in the future?
High rents, too many shopping centres, too many people doing the same thing, a homogenising of design talent all make the future retail potentially boring. So, we have to make retail an engaging, informative and positive experience for people to cross our threshold. Sales staff have to be very well informed and experts in their field. Navigating the marrying of craftsmanship and traditional skills with technology, environmental issues and ever-increasing competition is also a challenge –people don’t like change and change is coming.
What your top tips for other female entrepreneurs?
Where do I start? Be true to your own convictions, understand your own capability, find good partners who compliment your skills, work hard, believe in yourself but don’t be self-delusional and lastly do your sums.
Is there anything you wish you’d been told before you started your own business, that you can pass onto others?
I wouldn't have listened!
Why is International Women’s Day important to you?
IWD has become increasingly important to me over recent years when I realised how far we still have to go on a global level.
How has IWD has inspired you?
I took up the baton of The Suffragettes because they were the women who by their bravery and commitment won us the vote just over a hundred years ago. So, using the emblematic colours of Violet, White and Green The Suffragette Collection was born and we decided to donate part of the profits to Women Aid. Domestic violence towards women has showed no signs of abating there has to be an attempt to end it.
Any final words of advice for future business women?
I’ve said enough -but just one thing. A balance between men and women in the workplace at all levels is what we should strive for especially in the Board Room.
Dinny Hall’s jewellery is available from www.dinnyhall.co.uk, at her stores across London including Notting Hill, Islington, Hampstead, Marylebone and Seven Dials, as well as at Liberty London.