Venetia Falconer chats to Fenton & Co. x HURR
Women working together WILL change the future. This is why we’ve partnered with ethical jewellers Fenton & Co. and our mutual friend, climate activist Venentia Falconer to celebrate the launch of their new piece, The Shield. As part of the collaboration, Venetia sat down with Fenton & Co’s founder, Laura Lambert, and our very own Victoria Prew to talk about all things sustainability, women in business, the people who inspire them, and how to make positive change in the world. Keep scrolling to read the conversation between these three fabulous women.
On the collaboration…
Venetia Falconer: We all believe in the power of women supporting one another, tell us how this collaboration came to be…
Laura Lambert: We were looking for some other companies to partner with for the launch of our five new designs which are all launching in Q1 this year. When we say design, we actually mean a sort of starting point for a customer to create their own bespoke ring because you can customise each of our designs. We wanted to work with other companies that really encapsulated our values and similar audience that we could talk to for some fun activations and conversations, so we reached out to Victoria. It’s always nice to meet other founders who are in the same mindset.
Victoria Prew: From our side, Venetia put us in contact and said we’d get along and she was right. We have a similar conscious customer base who is looking to buy less and buy better.
LL: The new designs we are launching are meant to build on our principle of creating modern heirlooms and that’s what I love about HURR’s work is that they don’t see clothes as transient and throwaway and fast fashion, which is really sad when you’re a clothes lover and see how much craftsmanship and detail goes into some of the pieces I’m looking at. I love that they’re treating clothes as these precious things that are going to have different stories and different chapters and lives of their own.
I think that’s how a lot of people see the jewellery industry and its products are much more than something transient. You expect it to live through multiple generations. For us, it’s about paying homage to different periods of design. The Shield is this Edwardian-inspired piece that is meant to give protection to the wearer (hence the name). I just fell in love with how different it is… the metalwork detailing which we’ve switched up with some modern parts so it doesn’t feel to heavy and there’s a lovely pop of colour with the emerald. Of course, you can choose any gemstone, but it gives a lot impact without being to clunky or difficult to wear.
VF: I absolutely love this ring! I feel like it’s a real statement piece that definitely garners a lot of attention and makes me feel strong. I would to hold onto it forever!
LL: You don’t need help to feel strong! That’s why we asked you to be a “Fenton Friend” because we are so excited about the work you do.
VF: I feel like a long-term fan but I guess neither of these businesses have been around for a long amount of time which is pretty incredible considering how much change and disruption they’ve managed to cause within their respective industries. As soon as I met Tori (Victoria Prew) from HURR and she told me about the rental platform she was creating I kind of couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and I was super exited for it to launch. Seeing it grow and transform has been just incredible to see.
Then similarly when I heard about Fenton (& Co.), I felt like I was learning a lot. I didn’t realise how unethical a lot of the gemstone industry was, and I love that they have made engagement rings and beautiful special pieces like the one that I’m wearing more accessible to people.
VF: We are giving our followers the opportunity to win a donation for their chosen charity. If you were to win, which charity would you choose and why?
VP: It’s an impossible choice to choose a favourite charity, but HURR and in a personal capacity, I’ve partnered with a charity called Malaika, which is run by a HURR Girl called Noella Coursaris Musunka. She was born in the Congo where she now runs a school with 350 girls that she puts through. The charity pays for their entire education, with the view to end gender inequality in the Congo, which is their biggest problem. I’m planning a trip out to the Congo and we are about to partner with them on a more corporate level as well. She’s absolutely fabulous—she founded the charity herself over ten years ago and is still the CEO and the most hands-on charity owner I know. She’s just phenomenal.
VF: Wow, I can’t wait to meet her and hear more!
LL: Me too, I feel like there’s a similarity in theme here as I would choose the Five Foundation. It is very much Nimco Ali’s cause which is trying to end FGM. I went to see a documentary last week about an FGM activist in the States called Jaha and it was about her story and her drive to successfully change the legislation around FGM in Gambia. It was just…you sort of come out of there thinking “I’m an idiot” and with shivers because there’s so much you don’t know. I really feel very strongly about those kinds of causes, the ones you drift around the world no knowing about. There are people here in the U.K. every single day that have suffered from FGM and girls who have been taken back to their parent’s or grandparent’s country to be given FGM over the holidays and brought back. It’s strange how we know so little about this. We should all be talking about it more.
VF: Absolutely. I’d donate to, to plant based community cooking school Made In Hackney. They are an incredible charity who teach communities how to grow and make healthy, affordable plant based food. Having volunteered with them in the past, I’ve seen first hand how they help people live happier, more connected and environmentally sustainable lives. I’m so grateful for their brilliant work.
VF: It’s a new decade and we’ve seen a seismic shift in conscious consumerism and a growing demand for brands to work towards a greater good. What are you each doing in your respective areas to continue to drive positive change and script the status quo?
VP: Showing the message of owning less and renting more. That’s why we exist! We’re trying to educate the market. Renting is still a new concept in the UK, even though it’s been booming in the States for a long time. We’re educating the UK consumer on why they should be renting and building a capsule wardrobe full of all the basics that they can justify and renting the rest is really our mission.
We’ve had great success—it’s still early stages but in terms of sharing that message and hopefully making renting aspirational and cool, rather than a hidden secret (which is how it started). We want it to be something that people are really proud to support; we have incredible support from the change makers and tastemakers across the industry. Venetia being our #1 HURR Girl back in the day, long before sustainable fashion had ever been spoken about, Venetia was there supporting us and I am forever grateful.
LL: I like that question because we have batted around a lot the fact that one capsule collection does not a sustainable brand make. I thought it was very refreshing to see that photo of you [to Venetia] outside H&M doing your one-woman protest. I completely agree with what Victoria said in that it’s not about doing one thing in your life that is sustainable. Buying one “sustainable, organic” T-shirt does not make you a conscious consumer. I think it is impossible for consumers to know where every product that they touch has come from in terms of supply chain but actually I think that responsibility is on brands to change the way we think about these systems and inform us better, and take accountability for our ow supply chains. I think what you’re doing with sustainable fashion is great because we all need to buy less. The problem with retail is that whichever way you cut it, buying less is the only thing we should be doing. Less, but better. And renting is kind of the epitome of that.
In our world, people aren’t going out there and buying mad amounts of engagement rings, so we don’t have that problem. It’s more that the people who make them have historically gotten away with large-scale human rights and environment abuses in the supply chain. We’re trying to, as our very first step, is open up the supply chain and say, “This is where your gemstone comes from, this is the factory where it was made” and just some very simple things. Just by doing it ourselves we show the gulf between us and other retailers who have completely closed, opaque supply chains as an industry secret. I think that contrast is going to force people to start looking at it differently. If we can be a start-up, that’s barely a year old with a handful of employees globally, that are answering these questions, then why can’t some of the big players?
VF: It feels like we’re in the most exciting time. I feel like this conversation is so at the forefront at the moment which has just been really incredible to see. What I do is I call out brands. I call them out on their bullshit and I ask them to be more transparent and be honest about some of the practices that they maintain they are not doing via their greenwashing, but we really know that they are.
Then I take a stand by protesting as much as I can, and I make changes in my own life. As much as its about demanding actions from brands and corporations and governments, it’s the changes that I make in my own life daily that encourage me to do more every single day. I have made quite a few changes over the years, but this year I’m really focusing on how I travel and where I put my money and my pension. Those are quite big changes that I’m focusing on. I’m really trying to fly as little as I can, make the most of trains, public transport and, of course, my legs. Financially I’m switching to an ethical bank—Triodos is the best one I’ve found—and then I’m also looking into my pension and looking into putting it somewhere ethical.
Who’s doing it right…
VF: What are the brands whose values you admire?
LL: Being here today has made me really think about the brand I used to work at, Bicester Village, because they were some of the first people in the world to say don’t burn your excess stock, luxury brands, you can sell it with us. They’ve created a completely different route to market with all of those products. What you’re doing [to Victoria]… you’ve created a channel that didn’t exist before in the retail ecosystem.
The brand that’s influenced Fenton the most is from an ethical standpoint and inspiring how radical we could be when we were staring out because there’s always that insecurity, is Everlane. They absolutely changed the game for a generation of brands because they were brave enough to say “Look, this is our actual factory.” It just throws the people who are operating sweatshops under the bus basically, overnight. They’ve done it in a very elegant and positive way.
VP: Similar answer over here. I’d say Reformation because sustainability is great, but the consumer has to buy into it. And for me, they really blazed the path on making sustainability cool and, you know, even having a “Ref Scale” for people to understand their environmental impact and the carbon footprint of an item… nobody was doing that five years ago. I think in terms of elevating content and making really cool clothes, which at the end of the day what the consumer buys into, was pretty innovative in that space. And then my second, would have to be All Birds. I got a pair of their shoes for Christmas and I never, ever had something like them. They are the comfiest trainers I own, and they are making huge strides in sustainability as well.
VF: I love Lucy & Yak, they are making ethical and sustainable clothing that are really accessible and affordable. I love what they do, I love their clothes, I love how they are accessible to people of all genders and sizes, and also they have a really good price point. I love their charity collaborations, I love their founders, I love how transparent they are. I love that when you receive a delivery from them, it comes in an upcycled little silk bag from India. They absolutely nail it.
Steps to the future…
VF: As consumers, none of us are perfect. What steps can we take to undo what we know as the norm and change learned habits?
VP: Educate yourself! Education is free, follow people who are talking the right answers. Watch documentaries about fashion, meat or whatever it is you feel passionate about. And remember that the power lies with you; you as the consumer choose where to put your pound, who to support or not support. Use that power!
LL: I totally agree with that. I don’t have a lot of experience in the field of environmental activism, although I’m definitely trying to learn more. But I think a lot about supply chain transparency and jewellery production, which I’ve sort of dug into a bit more. What is really strange to me is that you can walk into a jeweller and they will tell you, for example, that this a ruby is Burmese…and, you know, right now there’s a genocide happening in Burma and in the past money from gemstone mining has gone into funding military activity, which is why there was an embargo for so many years. And yet, you can walk into a jewellery shop and that’s advertised as a positive? I think that for customers to take a step back and ask questions is overwhelming but key.
VF: My husband, Max, always says to start by accepting that there’s a problem and kind of sit with that, which I really like. Accept that there’s problem, we’re in a crisis and we need to make change. And then what I would say is: find your why. Why is it that you want to make change? Is it because you’re passionate about people or aren’t being paid a living wage? Because you’re passionate about the planet? Is it because you are fed up with all of the plastic in your supermarket? Do you want to feel better mentally? Because I think making these changes, minimising your consumption, is really good for our mental health. Find your why. What’s the reason for making change? Come back to that as often as you need to in order to make the necessary changes in your life. Start small, don’t get overwhelmed. Make one small change a day.
So, ladies, thank you so much!
VF and LL: It’s been a pleasure.