Worth an estimated £14.7bn and employing 400,000 people, the U.K. wedding industry has been hard struck by Covid-19. Many of us will know people who have had to scale back or postpone their wedding plans due to the pandemic. In fact, Sky News estimates that around 220,000 weddings were postponed in 2020 with just 6% of the U.K.’s betrothed managing to tie the knot.
Established in 2011, Michelle Oh Jewellery – one of PW’s newest tenants – designs one-of-a-kind jewellery alongside a small ready-to-wear collection. But their most popular product is the bespoke engagement ring. ‘Wedding rings are really popular right now because lots of people can finally confirm their dates after lockdown, so we’re getting an influx of those clients. We’re really busy at the moment!’ Michelle explains.
‘We’re definitely not seeing a slowdown. People aren’t able to spend money on a lavish wedding or honeymoon, so they’re actually able to divert that money to having the rings they really want. The couples who were trapped together during lockdown were forced into getting married or breaking up!’ she adds.
Though couples once favoured the traditional, single-diamond engagement ring, they are now gravitating towards colour, often picking coloured gemstones like sapphires. Michelle describes her designs as timeless, drawing on historic and contemporary design elements to create pieces that stand the test of time. ‘It’s one of the most sustainable parts of the fashion industry because of how precious the components are. There’s nothing you’d ever throw away; even if you made a ring now and got bored of the design, you can dismantle it and re-use all the components to make something totally different,’ Michelle says.
Michelle Oh Jewellery only uses recycled gold and platinum, sourced by refiners in Birmingham from industries including healthcare and watchmaking. ‘It’s getting more and more common. The consumer really prefers to have something made from recycled metal. It’s definitely a trend in the industry,’ Michelle explains.
Michelle trained at Central St Martin’s in London, before setting up the business straight after graduation. She joined Perseverance Works during lockdown, leaving behind her premises near Curtain Road in favour of more space for her team of three to meet with clients. ‘I’ve noticed a lot of shoots going on – it’s a really lovely environment to be in and I look forward to getting to know people around the building now it’s getting busier,’ Michelle adds.
Although the business focuses on design, the unit also contains a small workshop for re-sizing, cleaning up castings and making small amendments. But the large industrial casting processes happen in London’s historic jewellery district, Hatton Garden.
Drawn to the bright, open space pictured above and the unit’s views across London, her space was once occupied by a father-son silversmith family. ‘I thought that was really nice, historically,’ she adds.
Interior image by GG Archard