South Africa is renowned for its precious and semi-precious stones and for one of the country’s up-and-coming jewellery design brands, Matter of Fakt, these wonderful raw materials provide all the inspiration needed to create unique contemporary pieces.
LoA spoke to Mary Anne Grobler, the creative force behind the brand, and one of the two Matter of Fakt partners, about the entrepreneurial journey so far.
Tell us a little about Matter of Fakt Jewellery and how you got started
Matter of Fakt Jewellery has been in existence for just over a year, so it is a very new brand, based in Cape Town. In terms of how I got started, I have always been a creative - I originally trained as an art director, having studied at the AAA School of Advertising here in South Africa and then went on to work in the ad industry for a few years. But I always knew that I wanted to do my own thing and build my own brand and take control of it and its destiny. I then discovered that there was a shortage of chunky, raw stone jewellery in the marketplace, especially in South Africa generally, and in Cape Town specifically. So, my starting point was to get hold of a selection of stones and I taught myself how to make jewellery, with the help of a family friend who was crafting jewellery pieces as a hobby. She taught me the basics of jewellery design and manufacture and I gradually started to craft my own pieces according to my own style. Friends then inspired and encouraged me to launch my collection to a wider audience through the 2014 Design Indaba here in South Africa, which proved to be a massive undertaking, but as it turned out hugely successful and exposed my work and my brand to a great new audience. As a result, I sold out my first collection very quickly at the event. Since then, my work and my brand has continued to grow.
"I always knew that I wanted to do my own thing and build my own brand, and take control of it and its destiny."
What was your experience of showcasing your work and your brand at such a major event as Design Indaba?
Actually, it was incredibly overwhelming and I didn't really know what I was doing having never participated before at such a high profile event. There were a lot of industry buyers there from Day 1 of the event, which I wasn't really expecting. I had attended the Design Indaba before but only as a visitor, not an actual exhibitor, so my inside knowledge of the event was very limited. I was really overwhelmed by the number of buyers attending and also the really detailed questions being asked by each of those buyers visiting my display stand. So, the experience although so positive, really pushed me to get extremely organised business-wise thereafter. It also reaffirmed my decision to pursue my career as a jewellery designer and entrepreneur, and to build a business and a brand going forward. The initial responses and feedback to my design approach and my products was really so positive, it gave me all the encouragement and inspiration I needed to take it further into a genuine entrepreneurial venture. From that point onwards, I was focused and highly motivated, creating different new jewellery pieces and putting a genuine collection together.
"The initial responses and feedback to my design approach and my products was really so positive, it gave me all the encouragement and inspiration I needed to take it further into a genuine entrepreneurial venture."
Share your creative inspiration and your approach to selecting the stones you work with and the design aesthetic the results in the unique finished pieces.
My collection started with the natural raw stone rings, which are the rough stones, and then branched out with all the basic jewellery pieces such as the metal bands. From a design approach, our starting point is always to make something that is very South African aesthetically, even if we are using semi-precious stones that are cut outside the country, alhough they are mined here. We are also conscious of keeping our jewellery pieces cost-effective and ensuring they are affordable to our customers, and we feel there is a big gap there in the market. We are also committed to creating pieces that are hand-made and beautifully crafted, things that are not machine made. Originally I made all the pieces myself, but now things have become really busy for the brand and, as a result, we now have help in our production process and two new team members who are crafting the pieces, having been fully trained by myself. They have become particularly good at creating each unique piece for the Matter of Fakt brand. We currently have one collection out in the marketplace, featuring the raw stone pieces, beautiful crystals, the natural rough stones, and then the brass dented and plain finished basic jewellery pieces that are created to go wonderfully with the chunkier, more statement pieces. The collection includes rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, all the basic pieces you would want to have in your ready-to-wear collection.
"From a design approach, our starting point is always to make something that is very South African aesthetically, even if we are using semi-precious stones that are cut outside the country, even though they are mined here."
What would you say makes your jewellery designs unique and what can people expect to see from the Matter of Fakt brand?
Our brand personality is definitely inspired by where we are geographically, and especially from the ocean due to our being based in beautiful Cape Town, South Africa. On a personal level, it is a big part of who I am and the designs represent a free-spiritedness that is part of Cape Town. Our designs have an appeal to a more youthful audience, but having said that, we get buyers of all ages who like our designs. Older buyers tend to like the big chunky rings and other bigger statement pieces, whereas our more youthful buyers love pieces like the ear-cuffs which are new to the collection, very retro and very much on trend right now. I really enjoy trend forecasting small items such as the ear-cuffs and find the whole process really interesting, plus it keeps the brand fresh. Our brand definitely tries to be a little edgy and we tend to trend forecast really early on to give us that design and creative edge.
What have been the biggest challenges as a young startup?
The capital needed in the beginning, just to be able to build a brand and make it look professional, is so important. But, we have managed in clever ways to raise that capital and my business partner, Kara Furter, and myself are both creative and we have worked on a lot of advertising shoots in the past, and have therefore been able to pull creative teams together and make it work for us. Also, we started out small in the first instance, we self-funded and everything we made we put back into the business.
"Just don’t give up - if you think it is not working, you just have to keep pushing and never give up on your dream." - Mary-Anne Grobler
Where do you see the business and the brand going in the near future?
We have high hopes and aspirations for the Matter of Fakt brand, and we are definitely looking to take it overseas, both pan-Africa and globally, particularly as there has been so much interest in South African pieces. So we need to tap into this current interest level and maximise the opportunity to get the brand out there. What is good is that we find a lot of people come to us and find our brand, so it makes it a little easier for us, helped by our participation in major events, exhibitions and trade shows like the Design Indaba for example. Also, online stores are another way for us to get noticed as a brand in the wider marketplace. We have our own online store and we are looking to grow our retail sales using this platform. We also use social media consistently, particularly Instagram in order to reach our target market, and our activity in this space is growing, as is our audience rapidly. It also provides a really interesting form of feedback from our customers and audiences.
What entrepreneurial advice would you give to another young startup in Africa?
Just don’t give up - if you think it is not working, you just have to keep pushing and never give up on your dream.
Contact or follow Matter of Fakt
Why LoA loves it….
Having an eye for the inherent beauty of a raw precious or semi-precious stone and seeing its potential, is at the heart of what makes Matter of Fakt jewellery so special. Each individually handcrafted and designed piece celebrates the raw stone and is inspired by the natural environment in which it is made. At LoA, we particularly like the rings that have been lovingly designed and crafted to make each carefully selected raw stone really come alive in a contemporary setting. --- Melanie Hawken, Lionesses of Africa founder and editor-in-chief