Sunday 23 October 2016

Chloe Townsend: 'I finally feel like people are recognising my jewellery now, rather than just Stuart's sister'

Jewellery designer Chloe Townsend tells Joanna Kiernan about her royal fans, family and the future

Chloe Townsend and Joanne Kiernan
Chloe Townsend and Joanne Kiernan
Chloe Townsend

Jewellery designer Chloe Townsend (26) may hail from a family of high achievers, her brothers are Hollywood A-lister Stuart and writer, director and fellow actor Dylan, her father Peter is a former pro-golfer and her late mother Lorna was a model and artist, but the Howth beauty has fought hard for her own, very well-deserved place in the sun in recent years.

These days Chloe's jewellery label Willow & Clo has become something of a household name, and with a huge resurgence in the trend for buying Irish design and supporting young entrepreneurs over the last two years, Chloe's business has flourished. She has even picked up some celebrity fans along the way.

"It's been really nice to feel like I am being recognised now on my own rather than it being because of my family or who my brother is. As much as I love and adore him it was hard to make a name for myself rather than being 'Chloe Townsend, Stuart's sister!'" Chloe beams. "I finally feel like people are recognising me for my jewellery now, rather than for my name."

We are sitting in Chloe's small, but incredibly beautiful atelier on Dublin's Wicklow Street, with the sun beaming in over the latest Willow & Clo collection.

Chloe is just back from her latest of many adventures abroad, on which she sources the semi-precious stones used in her work. Each of Chloe's pieces represents some often hidden message or journey- her last collection included the use of the ancient Irish Ogham writing and inscriptions of sound waves rather than words.

"I am just back from a two-month trip to get new inspiration and new stones in Central and South America. A lot of my opals come from Peru so I went over to have a look and see if I could find more unusual shapes and colours," Chloe chirps.

"I love the stones. I find it amazing how the universe works to show you these people and you meet them and you have these incredible experiences.

"That's what I really what to show in my jewellery too - those experiences and how that piece got there. It's not just something that is made and that there is no thought behind it, there is so much thought and memory and adventure behind each piece and I try and get that across as much as possible because that is truly what I love about jewellery, that depth."

Chloe studied to become a goldsmith in Rome, where she learned the lost wax method, which she now uses. She then moved to London where she studied gemstones, before travelling to India to get some experience at source.

"I got really excited about the stones while I was in London and I decided to go to India, a friend of mine here gave me some really good people to meet there and so I went over and I just learned so much," Chloe explains.

"The inner magpie was truly let loose!" she laughs. "I learned so much it has inspired quite a lot of my collections and still when I go over I get inspired."

"People want something that feels precious and if they look after it will last. Costume jewellery has its place, but I wanted to create something that people would treat themselves with or buy gifts for someone that would symbolise a moment," Chloe tells me.

"I wanted to use real gemstones and semi-precious stones, so that they last and it is something precious, which people can keep, but also it is not of such huge high value that you have to keep it in your safe!" she laughs. "You know you want to be able to wear the jewellery."

"A lot of the stones have very important properties too, they have a lot of power in them and I do consider that when I am doing the collections," Chloe adds.


"Diamonds are beautiful and sapphire is my birth stone, so I do love it, but I wanted to also go for the stones which maybe are a little less known, but can sometimes have really strong healing properties."

There is something incredibly infectious about Chloe's love for her work. This is not some desperate saleswoman trying to pedal mass produced wares.

Chloe's entire being is consumed by her craft, honing her skills and pleasing her customers, no matter who those customers might be. Yet her excitement at the mere mention of some of the well-known people who have been spotted wearing her jewellery is so pure and genuine that it further lights up her already beaming face.

When Princess Eugenie attended last year's Met Gala and was pictured hugging Kate Middleton with a pair of Willow & Clo earrings dangling from her royal ears, it was a giant fashion coup for the young designer.

Amy Huberman, Sharon Corr, Miriam O'Callaghan, Susan Loughnane have also worn Chloe's work and helping Willow & Clo to gain the international recognition it now enjoys.

"It's huge and every single time I still get butterflies from the excitement," Chloe smiles.

"There are all of these moments that make it feel really worthwhile. I see that this famous person has decided to wear my piece and it is very exciting. But even when I walk down the street and I see a person wearing something of mine, to be honest I get such a kick out of that too. I don't think that will ever fade either, no matter who is wearing it."

Chloe agrees with the observation that the attention to detail, creativity and craftsmanship she puts into her pieces is not always the case when it comes to a number of other jewellery labels these days, no matter what the price tag might be.

"I suppose there is such demand now all the time for new, new, new, something disposable and that drives the big fashion houses," Chloe says.

Chloe's jewellery is in a number of Irish stores including Brown Thomas and is also stocked in 17 retail outlets across the UK. She hopes to expand into the US very shortly too.

"I have an agent in American, so I am really hoping that something will come from that," she smiles.

Chloe grew up in Howth and now lives with a number of house mates in Rathgar. She describes her childhood as 'a very nurturing environment.' "I suppose creativity especially in schools is not always celebrated," Chloe says. "So to grow up in a creative household, where that was a great thing to do really helped me. It really helped being around my brothers, they were amazing and they are still amazing," she said.

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