Gizelle Renee has created a new wave in British luxury accessories. Starting with gloves before branching out to umbrellas and scarves, her mission to make her customers feel empowered, sexy and energised has continually been reflected in her passion for quality and style evident in each accessory. We talk to Gizelle Renee about how she built the brand and what’s yet to come for her accessories collection…
Was it always your ambition to have your own accessories brand?
When I was at school I wanted to be a Psychiatrist. I studied Psychology at Bristol and truly believed this was the route I was going to go down. I have always been interested in people and the world, so psychology has always been a way in which I try and understand them more. When the company started six years ago as a glove brand, I think it was my obsession of studying people and behaviour that I started to recognise the way in which we use our hands in everything we do; conversation, gestures, avoidance, acceptance…everything. I always feel most at home and alive when I’m studying fashion; be that practically on the sewing machine or window shopping, it sets this fire inside of me that makes me feel empowered and alive. No, I never went out to start an accessories brand, but it doesn’t surprise me that I have merged the two things that I enjoy most in this world – people and fashion.
What inspired you to launch Gizelle Renee?
When I was 22, I moved to Africa and lived in an orphanage for six months. There was a huge amount of personal things happening at the time and I needed some time to myself. It was there that I started to sew the children’s clothes and I started to realise that I felt most happy when I was creating something truly unique and for a purpose. When I returned home I started the charity, Orphans of Ghana, a charity I still run today. Orphans of Ghana gave me the framework I needed to believe in myself as a business woman. Someone capable of implementing change and making their little stamp in the world. That’s when I knew I needed to work for myself and anything I did, I had to be truly passionate about. So I started to look into fashion…
Gloves are the foundation of your label, how did that come about?
I had this friend at school called Jo Jo and every year we would be quietly competitive over who got the best Art grade. I would like to draw objects and one of the things I really enjoyed drawing was hands. I think hands are as much of a gateway to the soul as the eyes are. I’ve always been a fan of gloves because the hands are the first thing to age on your body so I always wanted to protect them. They are the very things we embrace our loved ones with, hug our children good night and carve out our lives… it makes sense to protect them. So I was walking down the street one day with my boyfriend and I asked him where we should go to find a nice pair of gloves? He names a department store and that’s when I turned to him and said, ‘I’m going to be Britain’s Luxury Glover’ And that’s what I did. I also married him some years after.
How do you make your accessories stand out from other brands?
Everything is handmade for a start. We do not skip corners. It takes eight people to make one pair of gloves. And six people to make an umbrella. The attention is in the detail. For example, whereas most gloves are made up of two pieces of leather sewn together, we only use one piece and roll it over the index finger. It’s a traditional method which results in a glove fitting perfectly. Each of our gloves use only the finest of leathers and every glove is embellished with a material from world leading design houses. Even our umbrellas have a level of detail that can only be truly understood when you’re standing in front of it holding it. The enamel in the butterflies have been hand poured, left to dry over 48 hours and then turned round and hand poured again leaving to dry for another 48 hours. Everything is well thought out, takes time and is made with a level of precision that makes the accessory truly unique in its shape, composition, and aesthetic.
Your vision is to make your customer feel empowered through your accessories – how do you feel this is achieved through Gizelle Renee?
We accept rawness. The most important message we aim to get across for 2017 is to be truly Raw. By this, we mean, be You. If you’re too shy to wear a red dress but you feel you can wear a black dress with a pair of red gloves then you can still feel sexy, we can still empower you through our products to reach your desired mind set. Our accessories are made from start to finish with the customer in mind. From the cute Penelope bow gloves that are feminine, understated and demure to the bold blood orange Bega driving gloves which are powerful, daring and pushing the boundary. Accessories are a really simple and key way of putting your personality out there without having to explain who you are. It’s a fun and cheeky glimpse into your character.
Gizelle Renee umbrellas and scarves were the next step for the brand, what was your inspiration?
I wanted to continue down the accessories route and widen the product offering to my customers. I then wanted to create accessories that were truly unique and I starting obsessing over these different concepts and shapes that can be made with the umbrella and scarf. I wanted an umbrella that was a statement piece, something that made you want it to rain as an excuse to use it. I then wanted to create an umbrella with a certain amount of sexiness to it that made a stranger want to know who was under the umbrella. That sense of mystery inspired me. I sold an umbrella recently to a customer that just looked at me and said, ‘I don’t want this umbrella, I need this umbrella’. It’s those comments that make me want to keep creating. The accessories empower my customer to feel bold.
How do you overcome obstacles of the changing consumer behaviours over the different seasons?
This is a tough one and there is no easy answer. Firstly, it’s always cold somewhere! So affiliate platforms and online is important for my brand. Secondly, this is why I have needed to branch out into other accessories. Otherwise, I am always limited and reliant on the weather.
What are your favourite items from the current Gizelle Renee collection?
I love the Philomena gloves, they are a classic glove with material between the fingers that give a glimpse of creativity and colour without giving away too much. They give off a visual illusion of making your fingers look long and slender. I really love these gloves. The frilly Nirvanas are by far my most favourite umbrella…heads turn when that umbrella is in use; it oozes power-meets-femininity. And the beautiful grey and pink scarves with a five-end unique shape and 15cm fox balls hanging from each is luxury at its absolute finest. This scarf is big enough to be warn as a shawl or as a cosy neck scarf. People literally ask to feel it in awe of its colour, depth and textures of the rare silk. It’s a very special scarf and handmade by the same seamstress I used when I first started my company.
What do you anticipate being the next step in the accessories world?
This is an exclusive… we are launching a seven piece accessories leather goods range at the end of the year. From passport holders to handbags, we are creating a range that is absolutely beautiful to touch, see and wear. I can’t wait.
What has been the secret to your success?
There’s no secret unfortunately. I believe in hard work, tenacity, being kind and knowing your worth. Through the years I’ve learnt that it’s important to put yourself out there, be your own brand ambassador and to stand up for what you believe in; including when people have not held up their promises also. Business is a two-way relationship and I try and make the most of every opportunity I can. The biggest thing is support; make sure you surround yourself with like-minded people who care about you and your growth. Even when you have lost your way, that’s okay too. They are there to give you a nudge back on your path to success. The best advice ever given to me was ‘it’s okay to feel scared’.
What British Designers do you follow/are inspired by?
Victoria Beckham is someone I absolutely adore. She is hands on in her design, her wearing, her staff and her shop. In 2016, I was using a model in my shoot who had been on a shoot the week prior for Victoria Beckham; She spoke of how kind she was, how focused and how her expectations for her brand were incredibly high. She’s a real business woman, a great wife, a beautiful mother and someone that chooses her friends carefully. She seems pretty funny too. I can’t help but fall in love with her brand and I feel empowered when I wear something she’s designed.
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