Jewellery brand Otiumberg offers demi-fine jewellery perfect for curating your own layered look – whether you’re dressing your décolletage or piecing together the ultimate ear party. If it’s a style signature you’re after, it’s time to bling it on.
There is no doubt the way we wear jewellery has changed dramatically in the past decade or so, with gold, diamonds, and other precious jewels being given the every-day treatment. One brand championing that ethos is Otiumberg. Honing in on the trend for multiple piercings, and personalising a look by stacking and layering, their demi-precious jewels have become everyday essentials for the fashion pack, as well as A-listers like Margot Robbie.
We caught up with 34-year-old Co Founder – and former Dubai resident – Christie Wollenberg to talk about the evolution of her demi-fine jewellery brand, co-conspiring with her business partner sister, and the pieces guaranteed to resonate with women in the Middle East.
Have you always been interested in fashion and style?
I’ve always been creative and interested in the arts. I studied Spanish and Business at university, but I spent every break working in the fashion industry doing internships. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a buyer, a stylist or in marketing but what I knew I loved the business of fashion. When I finished university I started my first job at Burberry in the buying department. A year later I went to work for Louis Vuitton in the Middle East, and later returned to London to work for Burberry. I worked across buying, PR, marketing, VIP and events throughout those 11 years and learnt and travelled a lot.
What was the concept behind Otiumberg?
In 2014 my sister (Rosanna) and I were living together and working in London. I was working in luxury fashion, whilst she was working in the arts. We both had our own personal style and loved discovering new designers through the growing landscape of brands launching e-commerce stores and social media accounts. We both had multiple piercings and really struggled to find jewellery brands that spoke to us; brands who catered for our desire to stack and layer and whose pieces were well-made, yet accessible.
How did you begin to create the brand?
We started to see a big gap in the market for what is today considered ‘demi-fine’ and decided to launch an online jewellery boutique. Originally, we sought out emerging brands to sell on a curated online store, however, after a year of trading, we set out to launch our own line. It really was instinctive and began with pieces that remain on the site today such as the Diamond Huggie Hoops. We ran focus groups with friends and drove our family crazy with sample after sample. It took a lot of hard work and dedication but with the initial reaction from those around us, we knew we were onto something.
What made you decide to launch the first Otiumberg collection?
When the first collection was ready, I was also two months pregnant and working around the clock on both jobs. I decided to leave Burberry to focus solely on Otiumberg. Rosanna’s job had taken her to NYC so we were communicating all hours of the day. Looking back it was crazy but we were so determined to make it work! We launched our first collection when my son was just a months old, and after six months of selling Otiumberg, it was outselling any other brand we stocked. In 2016, Rosanna moved back from NYC and we took the plunge to launch the full first collection. We haven’t looked back since.
What is the dynamic like working with your sister?
Being sisters there is a connection, passion and understanding that allows us to drive the business instinctively together. From the jewellery design, to the website, to the campaign imagery – everything is produced by both of us working in tandem.
Who is the Otiumberg woman?
Our jewels are for those who shy away from the generic, who want to layer their life stories and wear their hearts and their loves around their neck, wrist or fingers. Otiumberg is an inclusive brand with longevity, luxury, and timelessness at its heart. Each piece is crafted from traditional and modern techniques inspired by the people, subcultures and life moments that surround us. We never pay anyone to wear our jewellery and only shoot women who we’ve met and who have inspired us for our campaigns. Margot Robbie wears our hoops along with other influential women, but honestly, what brings us the most joy is seeing our friends and our customers wearing Otiumberg.
What are your favourite pieces from the current collection?
Being a mother of two, I felt the need to design a personalised collection. I wanted to wear those I love around my wrists, neck and ears. On the Modist we have some of our Alphabet pieces, from our best selling pearl Alphabet pendants to our solid gold tiny little letter charms that hang on our diamond Huggies and solid gold hoops. The idea behind Otiumberg is that we create building blocks for your jewellery collection. Staples you can layer and add to over time, which I think the Middle Eastern customer will love.
How does it feel to be selling on The Modist and reconnecting with the Middle East?
We’re so excited to be selling on The Modist. Having spent so much time in the region travelling between countries I have met some amazing women who I hope will love our collections.
What do you love about this region?
The vibrancy and style of the women and men is unique, bold and fun. Dubai has changed a lot since my time, but my fondest memory is when a group of close friends went to Oman and took a boat to a tiny island where we camped in and around ruins in the open air. There were dolphins in the waters and it was truly magical. I feel so grateful that I got to work in Lebanon, too. Beirut is also one of my most favourite memories of my time in the Middle East. I have a soft spot for the people and their amazing parties!
How does your personal style influence the brand’s aesthetic?
It is intrinsically linked to our collections and so is my sister’s. We design what we would wear, and that ethos will always stay that way. Otiumberg is incredibly personal for us. It’s an extension of who we are. I use my jewellery and my many piercings to express my personal style.
What part of what you do, do you enjoy the most?
I love the fact we do everything, from the design, to the marketing and branding to the events and meeting our amazing customers. It’s a family business and I consider it my baby. Having worked in the fashion industry for a long time, I always knew I wanted to create my own brand, something that I could grow and build to my taste and desires, that I felt truly passionate about. Luckily for us, my sister has an identical vision and we have never disagreed about the direction of the business and what we stand for.
What’s been the most challenging thing about running your own business?
You never switch off. Having a family and running your own business is the hardest thing I think I will ever experience. My kids are 3 and 1, I didn’t have maternity with my first and even with my second, I never really switched off, nor wanted to. I’m constantly running between the office and home, and it’s exhausting but then I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What’s been the most significant moment for the brand so far?
We are stocked internationally but being part of the Selfridges family in our home city of London was and is an amazing feeling. We also recently opened our own showroom connected to our office in central London. It’s a pure joy to host and meet customers and to show them the collections.
How are you tackling the issue of sustainability?
Sustainability has always been a huge commitment of ours and having worked in the fashion industry for a long time I’ve seen first-hand its detrimental impact on the environment. As a small brand we were able to rethink our approach and do things differently. Rosanna and I refer to this approach as a consciousness – a consciousness that runs across every decision we make, from our packaging, to the materials we use, and even partners we work with. For example, our gold is 99.9% recycled and our stones all ethically sourced. We recently eliminated plastic from our packaging and single use plastic from our supply chain. We are by no means perfect but we are always trying to improve.
What’s in store for Otiumberg in 2020?
We have some exciting launches we are not able to talk about just yet, but watch this space! Having launched in the Middle East and the US, we’re also soon to be launching in China. It’s been a very organic growth for us. We manage everything ourselves and the Otiumberg community is growing every day.
Otiumberg is now available in the Middle East, at The Modist
- Words by Elaine Lloyd-Jones