Former Dragons’ Den star Kelly Hoppen MBE talks business, jewellery, design and why craft is crucial
30 Nov 2017By John Gatimu
London’s world-famous queen of interiors and former Dragons’ Den investor, Kelly Hoppen MBE, talks to Angela Sara West about how craft is crucial!
Her big break came at 16, when her father’s friend asked her to design his kitchen. “It was my first assignment and I haven’t looked back since,” Kelly tells me. “The passion grew stronger and the projects bigger!” Having achieved iconic status, Kelly’s contemporary stamp is emblazoned on numerous high-end properties, private jets and superyachts, along with countless commercial projects worldwide.
Constantly in demand, creative Kelly’s currently working on around 50 international assignments and, whenever she’s not donning her interior design hat, she’s busy creating product designs for her online store and QVC, writing books, or championing entrepreneurs and investing in innovative new businesses.
A simple design philosophy
Famous for her taupe colour palette and minimalist taste, the internationally-acclaimed designer typically works with neutral colours, a trademark of her vintage-inspired “East-meets-West” style.
“I like the palette’s simplicity,” Kelly says. “Not only is it easy to work with and pair different colours, textures and fabrics to, it also screams luxury. These tones complement any splashes of colour or excitement you want to add to the room.”
Telling your story through “home jewellery”
The flame-haired Queen of Taupe’s beautiful homeware collections include furniture, soft furnishings, wallpaper, vases, candles and numerous other decorative pieces. Adding a touch of elegance, her inspired pieces of “home jewellery” can totally transform the home.
“I like to feel a sense of harmony in my house, cocooned in comfort and surrounded by gorgeous pieces that I have discovered and acquired over the years, in order to create that sense of calm and relaxation within my home,” Kelly explains.
“For me, that’s what accessories do… they act like jewellery; they’re the finishing touch bringing everything together, telling your story in your home.”
Her exclusive K by Kelly Hoppen collection for QVC, featuring jewellery, cushions, throws, bedding and accessories, also showcases her inimitable cool and contemporary style. “I’m a purist and I’m all about clean lines, harmony and symmetry. I also like contrast, whether it be with pale and dark colours, juxtaposing textures, or blending vintage with modern. Taupe is my favourite colour, of course!”
As for materials, she has several favourites to work with. “Linen, velvets and leather are materials that I use a lot and I love using accessories in these textures to add the perfect amount of sensuality and depth.”
Kelly’s hot-off-the-press jewellery collection for the retail channel was designed and created to make women feel more confident in themselves. “Along with confidence, it gives them different options and styles that could work in a variety of different scenarios. Women crave flexibility, I feel, whether that be in work, home, fashion or design etc. It’s important that they have options to build their own paths, looks and designs. Jewellery is such an important part of my daily routine and I adore it; I love the way it can make you feel when you get dressed each day.”
A couple of jewellery designers in particular influence Kelly’s charming designs. “I’m a huge fan of Stephen Webster’s intricate designs, as well as the effortless glamour of Diane Kordas’s pieces. My collection can be worn by anyone, but I think it will appeal to those who are fans of understated jewellery that can be built upon, such as delicate gold chains, filigree and muted gemstones.”
She says her pieces were designed with layering in mind. “Some are simple, some are bold, but all can be worn together to create an overall look that can appear different each time, just by the way you wear it.”
Any firm favourites from the collection? “One of my personal favourites is a gold disc pendant featuring a quote that I live by; “Learn from the past, live in the now, visualise the future.” It was inspired by a piece I was once gifted and it’s great as it can be worn as a standalone piece, or layered with other necklaces.”
What’s hot right now in the jewellery world and what should we be looking at investing in to ensure we’re on-trend this winter?
“Monogrammed and inscribed jewellery pieces are popular right now… anything with a personal touch. People are moving away from bold statement designs, and investing in classic, meaningful pieces. Designs are becoming more intricate, with precious metals leading the way.”
Setting up a business? Tips from the top!
Having clocked up four decades in the design industry, the interior goddess’s unique flair has won her numerous accolades, including the “Oscar” of the industry, the Andrew Martin Interior Designer of the Year award. She says her greatest achievement, however, was receiving her MBE for her services to interior design. “It was a huge honour to meet the Queen and be presented with such an award.”
Kelly has plenty of tips for entrepreneurs… “First and foremost, you need confidence, self-belief, and the determination to get back up and try again when you inevitably face a setback,” she advises.
“Do your research, know your market and your unique selling proposition and be credible. If you have a dream, chase it. Stick to your vision, be creatively inspired by everything around and follow your gut. You need to be passionate about your product, and what it is that you uniquely can offer.
“Most importantly, have self-belief. If you don’t have faith in your project or yourself, how will anybody else? If you have confidence in your ability and designs, paired with determination, you’ll go far!”
Her top tip for crafters looking to create the designer look on a budget? “It seems like an obvious point, but so many people forget that they need to budget from the very beginning. Work out how much you would like to spend, and how much you realistically have to spend, and start from there.”
Inspiration, inspiration, inspiration…
Along with her home town, London, Kelly’s trips overseas always influence her work and have played a key part in her success.
“Travelling brings me so much inspiration! I travel to such wonderful places through work and everywhere inspires me. I travel regularly to the Far East, America and Europe for work. I love the Eastern philosophy, sense of tranquillity, harmony and way of life. I also adore Europe. I take inspiration for my designs from many places and generally from daily life! I am constantly inspired by travel, music, food, culture, the people I meet.”
Kelly says she has no career regrets. “I’m happy with how things have turned out. I’m very fortunate to have a great business doing something I love and any mistakes in the past have been nothing but a learning curve to get me to where I am now in my life.”
She reveals the secret to her success is actually quite simple; “Hard work and passion. I love and am proud of what I do, so it’s easy to put all my efforts into it. I work equally hard on every assignment; they’re all so different and unique. When each is finished, I get a sense of immense pride.
“There’s a lot to do but I enjoy every bit of it and my family and amazing team’s support makes things a lot easier. I think it’s about working hard, putting all that you have into your projects 95 per cent and making sure the five per cent relaxing time is the most incredible holiday or time out!”
Life on the ocean wave… cruise & craft challenges to come
The interior design visionary recently collaborated with Celebrity Cruises on their ground-breaking new cruise ship, which promises an assortment of “firsts” for the cruising industry and the world with the ship’s refined, outward-facing design. Pushing the cruise ship interior design boundaries, the transformational Celebrity Edge will set a new standard on the market, thanks to its state-of-the- art, revolutionary design. Before it sets sail, there is plenty more to look forward to from this inspirational interior designer.
“I have just celebrated 40 years in the industry and have never felt so in love with my job or excited about what is to come! I’m currently working on lots of exciting, design projects that I can’t wait to share, and would love to explore craft some more in the future. Watch this space!”
Craft-loving Kelly is clearly all about creativity and there’s one trend in particular that she’s currently enjoying… “For me, one of the biggest trends at the moment is terrazzo, but not your usual large, junky terrazzo… Terrazzo has had an upmarket makeover, with bespoke pieces available that use chips of marble for a truly dramatic effect.”
According to the queen of design, craft is crucial. “Craft, like design and art, is extremely important, and plays a vital role in our economy, not just in terms of trade and employment. This is why I am actively involved with the Great Britain Campaign, helping small businesses in the UK to showcase what they have to offer. I’m a huge supporter of craft in Britain, and would hate to see this tradition die out. Creativity is what makes the world go around!”
Kelly’s range of luxury products for the home are available from her retail store: www.kellyhoppen.com
K by Kelly Hoppen is available from QVC: www.qvcuk.com/KellyHoppen
Kelly Hoppen Interiors: www.kellyhoppeninteriors.com
Kelly is an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, cultivating young talent and inspiring young people to pursue their business ideas. She’s also an ambassador for the UK Government’s GREAT campaign, which showcases the very best Britain has to offer.
Keep an eye out for Kelly’s latest book, House of Hoppen.