FK chats with Jeni Oye, about her gorgeous contemporary online jewellery store, Oye Modern
Tell us a bit about Oye Modern and the concept behind it.
Oye Modern is an online store with a world-class collection of unique short-run jewellery by independent and emerging designers. We are one of the leading online contemporary jewellery stores in the world.
I’ve always had a passion for good design, but had trouble finding unique and interesting jewellery. Disposable, mass produced fashion jewellery is contributing to our ever growing environmental issues so I wanted to create a jewellery store that embraced good, timeless design that withstands the seasonal fashion cycles. In the past there’s really only been about ten galleries in Australia that sold contemporary jewellery. I could see a great need to make unique jewellery more accessible to people, and in turn to give designers more opportunity to get their jewellery out to a wider audience. Oye Modern provides the perfect platform for this, with a minimum of 40% of our sales being shipped overseas. For an emerging designer in small town Hobart this is quite an extraordinary opportunity.
We support designers from all walks of life, product designers like F!NK who typically do homewares but have a small jewellery line, animators like Mariette who works for Dreamworks and makes awesome retro jewellery on the side, and photographers like Craig Arnold who recycles old camera lenses into bracelets. Our product range is broad and has some eclectic and quirky designs, in addition to modern contemporary silver and gold jewellery. The two key attributes to all our pieces are good design and quality craftsmanship.
What is your background and what lead you to where you are?
I have always had a passion for good design and I think that is the core ingredient that has led me to where I am today. In high school I discovered I was good at art, maths and science, a funny combination I know, but it led me to do an Industrial Design course at Uni. The course turned out to be the perfect combination of my passion and skills. Unfortunately not much product design or manufacture happens in Australia anymore, so I got involved in this thing called the Internet which was brand new at the time (I’m showing my age!). My first job was coding HTML and from there I moved into various management roles and finally into User Experience Design. I then worked for the next 10 years at world-class web design consultancies such as Sapient and LBi. In 2001 I moved to New York City and continued web consulting, but I was getting itchy feet and that was when I started doing jewellery classes at night and on weekends I would sell my creations on the street and at the Young Designers Market in SOHO.
I got married and moved back to Australia and had my first child. Then I did what a lot of new mothers do, and decided I was done with consulting and I wanted to do something I was 100% passionate about, and Oye Modern was born. It was the perfect culmination of my skills – web design, jewellery and product design, and lots of enthusiasm!
Can you tell me about the team behind Oye Modern and their roles?
The team behind Oye Modern is quite small. Core to Oye Modern’s existence is my husband Phil Oye – he’s the techy guy who designs and builds the website, he’s a self-taught product photographer and a master of design critique. His bar of excellence is so high it pushes everything we do to very high standards of quality and design. When he’s not working on Oye Modern he’s consulting to companies about their online strategy and user experience.
Petina Watkins is Oye Modern’s first full time employee who just started this month. She’s our marketing manager and is focused on getting the word out there to everyone who loves design. She ran her own fashion boutique “I Like You” for 7 years in Melbourne, which also features on Finders Keepers, so she knows the design industry in Australia and will do great things with Oye Modern.
We also have various people who work part time and help with customer service, packaging orders, copyrighting, bookkeeping, and jewellery production, all in addition to the 35+ designers that are the backbone of what we do everyday.
What challenges have you faced running and setting up your own business?
My biggest personal challenge has been growing a startup business whilst managing a young family. We had three kids under two years old for a while, and I remember doing customer service via email in hospital the day after giving birth to the twins. But I have learnt patience and time management and those two things are essential to getting through those early years.
On the business side, the current economic climate is certainly challenging, but I think one of our biggest learning curves has been in photography. Photographing shiny silver jewellery on a white background is extremely difficult, but we have learnt a lot and have almost mastered it now. Our more recent challenge is shooting all our new products on a model, so we’ve had to learn about styling and portrait photography, and next on our list is to get into video, an even greater challenge I am sure.
What qualities do you look for in the jewellery you stock?
There are three core attributes to the jewellery we take on. One, it must have a clean modern aesthetic, two, it must be of a high quality and excellence in craft, and three, it must be unique, different, and not mass produced.
Our jewellery is for modern stylish women who value quality & uniqueness, and good design is embedded in their lifestyle. The jewellery is versatile and can be worn easily in a woman’s everyday life – work, play, family, night out, casual and formal. We also find customers buying for special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, 18th’s, 21st’s, engagements and weddings. We launch new designers and products every week so we are constantly building upon the range and offering more variety and choice.
What advice would you give to jewellery designers about the possibility of being represented on Oye Modern?
My one piece of advice is that it never hurts to submit your designs, if you don’t submit how will we know you exist? All we require are some photos of your work and a brief description of who you are and what you’re doing. We’ve deliberately made it easy to submit via email, and I try my best to respond to all submissions.
What is your favourite part about running your online shop?
Ohh that’s tricky, it’s probably a few things. Being able to wear awesome jewellery every day, dealing with creative designers every day and being surrounded by people who love and appreciate excellence in design. In the last few months I’ve also started to create my own line of jewellery for Oye Modern, again going back to my design roots, I can’t help myself! I have a jewellery collection for bicycle fashionistas in production at the moment, which I am super excited about. We are in full swing gearing up for Christmas, so if you love design and are looking for a unique gift for someone special, please stop by!