09 Jul Theo Fennell takes control of iconic jeweller and silversmith for the first time in 40 years
ONE of the UK’s leading designers, Theo Fennell, has taken control of the iconic, eponymous jewellery and silverware business and its name for the first time in 40 years.
Mr Fennell, 69, said of the completion of the sale of Theo Fennell to TF Topco Limited, a newly incorporated vehicle backed by him and managing director Neal Sussman, represented the ‘fulfilment of a long-held dream’, adding: ‘It means we can do what we do best, concentrate on unique design and craftsmanship. We can be ourselves.’
Mr Fennell has been designing jewellery since 1975 and opened his famous jewellery shop on the Fulham Road in Chelsea, London, in 1982. Since then the company has become known for its highly original, often quirky designs which are all handmade to exacting standards in the firm’s workshop.
Celebrity customers have included music stars from Sir Elton John, Lady Gaga and rapper Post Malone to international royalty. Iconic pieces, ranging in price from around £1,000 to over £250,000, include their iconic crosses, keys and hearts, flora and fauna work inspired by nature, as well as beautifully made classical pieces. Their rings and lockets with secret compartments and carved gemstone domes, opening to reveal hidden miniature paintings, sculpted figures or messages to a loved one are highly prized. As well as jewellery, Theo Fennell make a broad selection of beautiful, quirky silver objects including his famous Marmite jar silver lid cover, a cigar ashtray with a bust of Winston Churchill at its centre and a Jack the Ripper letter opener.
Highly sought after in their own right, Theo Fennell’s pieces are increasingly recognised as investments in the art world. During lockdown, a watch designed and made by Theo Fennell and Roger Smith, which sold in 2006 for £25,000, was auctioned by Phillips in Geneva for an astonishing $600,000.
Despite always being at its creative heart, Mr Fennell has not been in control of the firm and its name for 40 years. Over the last four years, private equity firm Endless has been in charge of the firm, and working with Mr Fennell and Mr Sussman has invested heavily in its future to lay the platform for its continued growth.
This has included updating the firm’s digital presence with a new website and customer relationship management system that launched last year.
Mr Fennell said: ‘Endless have helped to establish really solid foundations and ensured that we have come through the Covid pandemic in a strong position. I’m delighted that they have now afforded me this opportunity to own the Theo Fennell name for the first time in 40 years.’
He said that the pandemic had seen a surge in demand for bespoke and customised pieces, with clients using online video technology to engage closely with the different stages in the creation of a piece, a trend which he expects to continue once lockdown is lifted.
‘We have always had a thriving bespoke business, but the increase has been amazing during the pandemic,’ he added. ‘People have had more time to get really intimately involved in a piece of jewellery or silver being made for them. Clients have told us it has been a much more rewarding process to follow the creation or customisation of a piece from start to finish, rather than just walking into a shop and buying it.
‘It has been so successful that we are going to continue offering people the chance of following the construction of a piece over Zoom or whatever technology they want to use, taking them right into the heart of our studio and workshop.’
Mr Fennell said other future plans for the business included more bespoke rings, watches and silver, adding: ‘People have got bored of the big brands making the same thing everywhere. We are finding that work like our rings which open up to reveal a unique secret inside have enormous appeal, as do the bespoke pieces of silverware which people once again have the style and money to commission .’