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Inspiring women: Founder of jewellery label Stones That Rock

Leah Lambert, owner of independent jewellery label Stones That Rock, chats to us about growing a jewellery label from scratch and her future plans. (Hint: she’s thinking big.)

It’s wonderful to finally meet Leah in her spacious Bukit Timah condo for this interview, and to find out a bit more about the brains behind one of Singapore’s best-known independent jewellery brands.

Our appointment has been a long time coming. With her packed business schedule and other commitments – she’s a mum of three! – Leah’s been busier than ever. We’ve got lots to catch up on, so we get right to it (over delicious homemade cheese and onion scones!).

jewellery singapore

It Started in Shanghai

Before starting her entrepreneurial journey, Leah’s career was a varied one. “I have a degree in business and marketing from VictoriaUniversity in Wellington, New Zealand, and have worked in retail in the US, and then in recruitment back in New Zealand,” she explains. Her family’s expat stint started back in 1997 with a three-year posting to Sydney, and then again in 2005, when they uprooted themselves from Wellington to Shanghai.

It was while living there that she became fascinated with the beauty of Asian-inspired art and style. Glancing around her spacious living room, I can see a clear influence of this in the numerous eclectic trinkets, ornaments and antiques picked up during her travels over the years.

“I’ve always had an interest in fashion and design, and I was so inspired by the abundance of markets offering a wonderful variety of pearls, semi-precious stones and crystals in all colours of the rainbow,” she says. So she started designing jewellery for herself, and then began giving pieces to friends and relatives. Before long, she was selling to boutiques in New Zealand, and friends were hosting sales parties for her in both New Zealand and the United States.

After moving to Singapore in 2008, she found she was making several trips a year to Shanghai to keep up with the demand for her designs. “In 2011, my friend Anne-Lize Tsinonis and I decided to join forces and officially launched Stones That Rock from my kitchen table, and the business has grown from there!”

Leah and Annie’s partnership continued for five years, but now the brand is under the soul guardianship of Leah who is determined to carry out the vision the two women started together.

Singapore jewellery
“My designs are tactile and evolve organically while I mix and match, playing with combinations and colours until my instincts tell me the piece is finished.”

Creative Inspiration

For Leah, designing is all about the shape, feel and look of the raw materials. “I always come back to the way they feel and look on the body. I love to travel, and so a great source of inspiration is the countries I visit, their scenery and the dynamic contrast of colours,” she says. “I also get ideas from the people I meet, the clothes they wear, their energy and what makes them tick.”

While the process has evolved over the years, she has always designed concentrically. “I actively research contemporary colours and trends and am lucky to have trusted suppliers with whom I work closely,” she says. “My designs are tactile and evolve organically while I mix and match, playing with combinations and colours until my instincts tell me the piece is finished.”

While the process has evolved over the years, she has always designed concentrically. “I actively research contemporary colours and trends and am lucky to have trusted suppliers with whom I work closely,” she says. “My designs are tactile and evolve organically while I mix and match, playing with combinations and colours until my instincts tell me the piece is finished.”

She releases new collections twice a year, using materials that she sources in an ethical and ecologically friendly way. Her latest range features a mix of silk tassels, carved gemstones, crystals, metal beads and pendants in a palette of classic champagne, silver and black with pops of green, blue and red.

Browsing the jewellery and trying pieces on, it’s hard not to feel like a kid in a candy store. Leah brings out designs from her own personal collection – it includes everything from versatile necklaces of different lengths to everyday semiprecious stone bracelets, which catch the light beautifully and go with practically any outfit.

It’s very rare that I, a style-conscious so-and-so in her twenties, could easily pick up something for myself (a leather braided bracelet with pearl detailing), my mum (in her sixties – classic pearls are the order of the day), andmy older sister (midforties, who would love the elegant lariats), all at the same time. The label has a fantastic appeal for women of all ages – and that’s the jackpot for any fashion business.

Stones for a Cause

In 2013, Stones That Rock began to work with Ladli, the vocational training arm of charitable organisation I-India, which provides educational opportunities for women and street children. Their first project was the creation of a fundraising necklace, and then in 2014, Leah and Annie spent time in Jaipur for a week to work directly with the team to create a unique stone lariat.

This experience made a profound impression on Leah. “The vocational centre is a wonderful, calm space, where everyone is trained in a skill and is valued. We worked with the jewellery team, who were trained and managed by a highly skilled master jeweller, who was endlessly patient and kind.”

A percentage from the sales of these pieces was donated to the Singapore Committee for UN Women, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to supporting programmes that empower women and promote gender equality in the region through a wide range of fundraising activities, public education events, membership drives and more.

A firm believer in joining forces with likeminded designers and small business owners, Leah is well known for participating in and organising fantastic events, such as fashion lunches and dinners, The Well Women Lunch and the famous Glamorous Giving, a huge biannual fashion and accessories sale in support of UN Women.

“I believe in giving back to the community that has fostered our own growth. Collaborating for good, while having fun and bringing people together, has a positive impact on everyone involved. We learn and grow together.”

jewellery designer
“A courteous and friendly attitude will take you a long way”

On the Journey

The biggest lessons Leah has learnt from her entrepreneurial journey so far? Be kind, be professional, and follow through on commitments. “A courteous and friendly attitude will take you a long way, and having respect for the ideas, knowledge and experience of others is also important; it leads to innovation and a desire to learn.” Believing in yourself, she adds, and the service or product you offer, is another key stepping stone to achieving success.

In terms of her future plans, Leah has her eyes set on becoming a permanent fixture in at least one or two leading department stores in Singapore. “I’d also like us to expand our presence in Australasian, American and European markets. It’s an exciting time in the global retail industry, with the explosion of online marketing and social media. I believe that with the right drive and planning, our market is potentially limitless.”

This article first appeared in the November 2016 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy for the full article, or subscribe now so you never miss an issue!

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