Newcastle jewellery brand Kate & Kole looks to New Zealand for the inspiration for its third collection

Sara, how did you both meet Madalynne and what made you think you’d be good business partners?

We met through our partners, who are brothers, so we spent a lot of time together before going into business. We became friends and although we have different skill sets we have a similar aesthetic. We spoke about a joint venture of some sort and started brainstorming ways to meld our passions together.

How did the idea of starting Kate & Kole begin?

I was researching 3D printers and came across a company in New York who offered a 3D printing service with a huge range of materials. One being precious metals. I modelled a test ring and when it arrived I called Maddy, spoke really high and fast and said we should meet. Two wines later we had a name and an Instagram account.

 What is the significance of the brand name?

It comes from our middle names, Kate and Nicole. We both get the names from our grandmothers, which is a bit lovely.

 What was your business model?

We love innovation and clever business thinking so we are trying to focus our business around how we can do things smarter, with less impact and still deliver our customers a beautiful product that is designed locally and at a sustainable price point.

  How did you get started from the initial idea?

After we worked through how the business would operate, and whether we could make it feasible, we started designing. Mood boards, Pinterest, sketches, modelling anything we could draw inspiration from. And then we researched the stories. We wanted each ring in the collection to have a background. For our first range, Explore, we researched females who had been pioneers in their chosen field. We then designed them each a ring and we welcomed Amelia (Earhart – explorer and author), Amy (Johnson – Aviator), Ruby (Voilet Payne-Scott – physicist), Valentina (Vladimirovna Tereshkova – astronaut), Junko (Tabei – first woman to climb Mount Everest), Osa (Leighty – photographer and explorer), Annemarie (Schwarzenbach – writer and artist).

 How hands on are you with the design process?

We start with sketches and move quickly into 3D modelling, each ring is an exploration of the technology and we are constantly trying to push the designs and capabilities of the program and the printers. We love the design phase and with only one collection a year we take a huge amount of pride and care in each ring or jewellery piece we create.

 Explain how your jewellery is custom-made?

Each piece is made using the traditional jewellery making method, however the process of hand carving the wax is replaced by 3D printing the wax. We make each piece to order to ensure we are not over-extending ourselves and responding to demand. We have also been lucky enough to create a few bespoke pieces for people which is always so much fun.

 Why get the end product made in New York and not locally?

Unfortunately this particular technology is not yet available in Australia. There is the possibility of becoming a franchisee of the technology so we are always on the look out for this. Perhaps we will have to bring it here.

 You’ve just released your third collection, inspired by the rivers of New Zealand. What is the connection to NZ?

I am originally from New Zealand, I move here to study design and have lived here ever since. I love Australia, but New Zealand is a beauty and very easy to draw inspiration from.

 What inspires your designs?

Light, silhouettes, the tactility of materials and objects. We create mood boards of trends in architecture, fashion and homewares to influence each collection.

 The hardest bit of running the business?

I think we have seen, and most intensely recently, is that energy in equals energy out. The more time we have to put into the business the more it gives back to us. We both work full-time so extra time is not always available.

 And best?

Holding something in your hand that a few weeks ago was an idea is something we feel so lucky to be able to experience. We love working together and being able to make something that we feel has a purpose and is valuable. The idea that these rings might be around long after we go is pretty lovely.

  Is the business close to being a full-time pursuit or are you both still working in other jobs?

We both work full time in the creative industries, we learn from our full-time work and from Kate & Kole. They are intertwined at the moment, however we do dream of a studio overlooking the water with too many plants to care for and a rose gold stapler.

I modelled a test ring and when it arrived I called Maddy, spoke really high and fast and said we should meet. Two wines later we had a name and an Instagram account.

Sara Spence

 What is in the pipeline?

The moment we launch a collection the next one starts to form, so the 2018 collection is in the inspiration stage. We are looking at negative space and simple silhouettes, but that’s just this week.