A new jewellery brand, Anakao, is named after a small fishing village in the south of Madagascar, which remains virtually untouched by modernity. For Vinay Soudakar and his wife, the website says, it holds a special place in their heart. MICHAEL NORTHCOTT spoke to Vinay to find out more about the genesis of this fresh new brand.
Give us some general background about how the brand came into being
I used to make one-off bespoke pieces for customers, as my background is retail. I built a following of customers who said, ‘you should launch a brand in large scale and distribute to other people’ – the initial push came from my customers. The first one we launched was Manja, which is a silver brand – because of price points and because it is easier to start in silver. Manja is doing well, we have a lot of interest and stockists. Anakao is the second part of the project, a gold brand. We launched last year as Brazen, but we had a trademark issue and had to rebrand everything. We relaunched in September as Anakao at IJL 2015, and the two brands trade separately and independently though I am involved with both.
Tell us about the design concepts of the collections
Every collection is very different. The first collection, Allure is inspired by the lacing of a corset; Devoted is inspired by the solar system; Enchanted is of a sculptural design; Serenity is inspired by the reflection of the ocean; Paradigm and Paragon reinvent the classic cocktail ring. Every collection has been studied and designed properly. Every angle you look at the pieces from, there is something new you are going to discover.
There is something quite modernist about this jewellery?
Yes they’re all original designs and I came up with the concepts. Particularly with the first two collections Allure and Devoted, there is nothing else like them on the market. There’s a lot of physical movement in the designs too, which adds to their uniqueness.
What segment of the market are you going for?
Right now the price points for these collections start at £950 retail, up to £24,000. But for the Jewellery & Watch Show we are interested a new range with lower entry points, because of demand from other stockists. The primary market is higher end. We have an ideal customer in mind when we design the jewellery, which is the modern woman who is confident, successful, bold, independent, feminine and graceful. Someone who wants something unique, and can pull it off.
What has the reception been like the jewellery so far?
We launched properly in September this year – last year was more of a trial, and when we had to rebrand we stopped trading until the rebrand was complete. We currently have two stockists, one here and one abroad, and we’ll see how the next year turns out especially with JWS.
What do you want to get to in a year’s time?
We’re starting with the UK market. We will expand into other markets, but we are targeting high end independent retailers in the UK to begin with.
Which other shows are you going to?
IJL and Spring Fair.
Tell us about the company in general?
The company is very small, just two people at the moment. I have stopped making the bespoke pieces that I used to do – this business is production level. It is foreign made, but designed in the UK. The response has been good in terms of press – we have been picked up by all the trade magazines. We have been pleased with the response from the press and people seem to be liking the designs so far.
What about new ranges going forward?
We’ve expanded two of the collections for the next show, and then in September we’ve got a bridal collection coming up.
What is your background in jewellery?
I come from a family of jewellers from several generations. I grew up around jewellery and I made my first bracelet when I was 13 years old, in my grandfather’s workshop. I then went to City University. I joined the business and realised you need practical skills, not just business knowledge, so I went and got a diamond grading certificate from HRD first, then went to Florence in Italy to get proper training in jewellery design and crafting. I came back and joined my brother to start a new business, and that is where I did my bespoke pieces and so on.
What about metal prices, have they affected your business?
It hasn’t affected us that much because our prices are branded prices – we’re not selling metal. If you look at unbranded, their prices will change a lot. It influences us in our costs, but we maintain the price we’ve set for the year. The prices only fluctuate each year.