A brand in the spotlight: Molly Brown London and its founder, Erica Illingworth

Last year I was a big hit with my girlfriends and their daughters, as I gifted Little Bu nail polishes as Christmas/ New Year gifts. Recently I was looking through the twitter feed and saw that Little Bu was running a competition with Molly Brown London. Molly Brown, I thought to myself, what a cute name…. It turns out that Molly Brown is a line of beautiful designer jewellery for little girls and the wonderful thing is that each piece ‘grows’ with your daughter, niece, granddaughter, goddaughter or girlfriend’s daughter ( there is also Molly Brown Couture for little girls’ mothers ).

Molly Brown was started by Erica Illingworth, a former headhunter and mother of three. As I was curious about the brand, we agreed to meet up, so I could learn more about a creative power-force behind it, however a day before we were due to meet, my babysitter cancelled and I was mulling whether to go or to re-schedule. I wrote a quick e-mail to Erica, explaining my predicament but she said it was fine to bring my daughter with me, if I was comfortable with that myself. I felt slightly embarrassed, as I didn’t want to be unprofessional, yet thought it would be great to meet Erica now, before the festive stampede.

Erica Illingworth Hot 100 2012 - Copyright Professional Jeweller and ITP

Molly Brown headquarters are based in Chiswick, in an industrial looking building that seems to be heaving with activity, people going in and out and creative discussions going on in the little cafeteria on the ground floor. Erica, a blond slim woman approached me with a gentle smile. She radiated peaceful calm and my daughter smiled back at her-so far, so good, fingers crossed, I thought to myself. I shouldn’t have worried-Erica even brought some little pencils and paper with her, so my daughter could entertain herself while we talked ( my daughter actually kept a curious eye on the beautiful Molly Brown jewellery that Erica was showing me ).

Erica used to work in a highly competitive field of headhunting ( for investment bank sector ), which she acknowledges was a tough environment when you are also raising three children. So as time went by, Erica was thinking more and more about finding something that would give her greater flexibility in balancing her professional and personal duties. She set up a research firm but quickly realised that it was zapping her energy and time in the same way that the previous job did. Erica smiles when she admits that she considered herself to be ‘secretly creative’ and says that she always had a special penchant for jewellery. The ‘light bulb’ moment occurred with the help of Erica’s daughter, who was going to a birthday party and wanted to wear sa necklace that was pretty and simple, with Erica suddenly realising that there was nothing that really fitted the bill. Most of the jewellery for little girls is made out of cheap plastic ( with an odd exception of pretty wooden necklaces and bracelets but then they are more suited to little girls rather than girls who are over five years old and are fast becoming fashion and trend led ). Erica started working on ideas, quickly realising that she found her niche and her calling-she wanted to create beautiful, affordable yet sophisticated jewellery that will make girls feel special without letting their mothers cringe. So Molly Brown ( named after the family’s chocolate Labrador and a cute dog paw on the clasp ) was launched in 2006 and within a short time Erica pitched her brand to Harrods and Selfridges….and was accepted by both of them.

alphabet-creative

Molly Brown jewellery is sophisticated, yet quite endearing in the sentimentality that you feel looking at each piece. It is suited to girls from about four or five years and is often worn by girls in their teens and even in their twenties ( there is also Molly Brown Couture, a line of jewellery for stylish mothers-so like outfits, you can have matching necklaces or bracelets with your daughter ). It makes a perfect and lasting (!) gift for birthdays, Christmas ( check out Santa’s secret treasure charm ), christening or even to little bridesmaids. You can buy a Molly Brown signature silver bracelet with coloured gemstones or fresh water pearls or a sterling silver bracelet with charms, some of which are made using hand-painted enamellings, a la Faberge eggs and then continue adding the charms to it for each special occasion or milestone. As time goes by, the bracelet becomes a holder of happy, special moments, bringing a smile to both of you, or as Erica put it to me ‘jewellery can be full of memories of life’ and looking back at my own experience, I couldn’t agree more with her…

The first collection that Molly Brown was launched with ( Vogue magazine came to the brand’s launch and called it ‘Tiffany’s for little girls’ ) was called Jelly Bean ( which has since become an award winning range ) and then expanded to include:

 –Alphabet collection ( where you can have the first letter of the  name or you can build the name or nickname ),

 –Aurora collection ( ‘each Fairy brings a precious gift of beauty, love or song’ ),

 –Princess collection,

 –Fairy wish collection,

 –Angelina Ballerina collection,

 –Hearts collection,

 –Signature collection ( ‘epitomises essence of beauty & style’ ),

 –Secret treasures collection,

 –Lulu Lockets collection,

 –Collection 12 ( birthstone bracelet collection ),

 and the latest one, called –My first diamond collection.

You can choose from extensive choice of bracelets, necklaces, earrings and charms-both for little girls and for their mothers too. 

Creative Jelly Beans

Erica works really hard and hasn’t lost any drive or motivation since the brand’s launch in 2006. If anything, she is ready to expand her wings and get more representation around the world in the cities like Paris, Madrid, Milan and US ( I was surprised to learn that as yet she doesn’t have Russian stockists, but then Russians are obsessed with well-known brands, and often gift young girls Tiffany’s or Cartier pieces from early on ).

When it comes to Molly Brown necklaces, each one is measured at 14 inches and as the girl grows, each piece can be re-adjusted to 16 and 18 inches. Erica told me a story of one of her customers, who called….because her son needed advice on choosing a piece of jewellery for his girlfriend.

Each Molly Brown item is placed in the protective pink mesh pouch which is then placed, like a Matryoshka doll, into a beautifully designed Molly Brown pink box, tied with ribbon- so it becomes a keep sake, a little treasure for the little girl-even I felt childishly excited when looking at the designs and packaging-nicely done and thought out, with no cutting of the corners ( Molly Brown Couture has brown packaging, marking its more grown-up identity ). You can also order the gift for someone living in another country and it will arrive with a handwritten message-to be honest, that’s the first time I came across such a ‘complete’ experience when it comes to jewellery for little girls. 

MollyBrown gift-wrapping

At the moment there are five people working for Molly Brown and all of them are women, who deal with anything from customer service to branding to making sure that package looks perfect before it is dispatched.

Molly Brown does two types of earrings, with diamonds and with pearls ( Erica’s daughter was 13 when her ears were pierced and I have Latin American girlfriends who pierce their daughter’s ears at birth, as it customary-one of those friends actually sent my daughter a pair of beautiful tiny pearl and gold earrings for when she was born ).  

Erica makes me laugh when she tells me a story of a particular male customer who called Molly Brown office and sounding very nervous, explained that he was a best man at his friend’s wedding in the past and was recently asked to be a godfather to the couple’s newly born little girl. He sheepishly told Erica that he needed her help in order to choose a perfect gift-my guess is that his best man’s speech didn’t go down the storm with the bride…. Well, clouds were lifted and the woman was absolutely overwhelmed when she saw the christening gift for her daughter from Molly Brown.

MB55-1 Pink Bangle

Molly Brown website, via which you can place an order, is very easy to navigate. Erica pays particular attention to colours and made sure that the visuals are perfect. Historically it has been Erica who has been coming up with the designs ( her eldest daughter inspired the creation of Tinkerbell bracelet and her youngest son makes occasional drawings that he puts forward to her to use ), as it has been hard to find someone who is completely on the same page, understadning the ethos of the brand fully but lately she has started collaborating with Ally, who is a freelance designer and who seems to understand what Erica is looking for when it comes to Molly Brown jewellery pieces.

Prices for Molly Brown jewellery start fom £35 ( there is an absolutely beautiful friendship cord bracelet that I actually have an eye on for myself. I have recently bought one from a well-known brand but had to return it within days, as it kept on getting loose on my wrist-the one from Molly Brown is not only beautiful, be it for two little girls who are best friends or for someone like me, but it is stylishly practical too )-to £1000, so you can choose the piece that is suited to your budget, as well as finding something perfect for someone special. I agree with Erica that in daily life, once a woman puts a piece of jewellery on, if she really likes it, she tends to wear it again and again, particularly when it comes to classic, timeless designs, be it a pair of earrings or a necklace ( each piece of Molly Brown jewellery is manufactured in the Far East, as unfortunately manufacturing in the UK is very expensive ).

MB16 Pearl Station Bracelet

While Erica comes across as very focused, she is also warm and genuine in her desire to create something that will make any girl feel very special and seeing how relaxed and kind she has been with my daughter, who darted around the cafeteria, I very much appreciate her work as a professional mother who creates something meaningful.

I looked at each pieces that Erica showed me, from a charming friendship bracelet that seems not flimsy, but solid and smart, to a fairy wish collection necklace where each fairy figurine has a tiny pearl as well as enamel detailing or a mother of pearl cross necklace. Erica herself was wearing a necklace from ‘the First Diamond Collection’ and it looked very pretty and grown-up on her-I very much appreciate the chain detailing of Molly Brown, as not all bracelet or necklace chains are made equal.

MB159-1 My First Diamond Necklace

In the current times, when people are becoming more aware of the cost of living and how they spend their money, Molly Brown jewellery gives you a perfect opportunity to buy a gift that is meaningful and beautiful in equal parts-the price point is very reasonable and the packaging is luxuriously decadent, but it isn’t over the top either, so you make a conscious choice and it makes you feel on top of the world-after all, buying a gift for someone you care about and seeing their joy sometimes is so much more precious then actually receiving one.

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http://www.mollybrownlondon.com/

Categories: Interviews, Kids

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