Liverpool’s little Harley Street, with its private consulting rooms for doctors and dentists (and growing number of media types), has found an unusually twinkly neighbour opening her showroom doors.
For many in the city – and beyond – Benna Harry is a name synonymous with beautiful jewellery; a magpie with a discerning eye for selecting timeless and sometimes, funky pieces that women want to wear. And, as a trained jewellery designer studying at the prestigious St. Martins in London with contemporaries Stella McCartney, Alice Temperley and Giles Deacon, Benna is something of an expert.
The eponymous online store, benna.co.uk has been operating successfully for more than three years but now the Rodney Street showroom has opened, accessory lovers can make an appointment to try on and buy pieces quicker than saying ‘One Lara Bohinc Coco Cuff, please’.
“I wanted to grow the store organically because I haven’t had financial backer,s so I always wanted a steady growth and it’s been going brilliantly,” explains Benna, who previously had a concession in Kirsty Doyle’s Liverpool One shop and continues to sell through Philip Armstrong, the city’s big-name fashion designer, who’s dressed everyone from Gaga to Kelly R.
“The showroom is a means of building new customers and offering the sort of exclusivity that some people prefer when they’re buying jewellery. It’s like having a jewellery shop all to yourself for a while, so you can try on, try new things, ask questions…
“When clients are in front of you, I can take the time to talk through pieces and find out what they like so I can advise them more easily, whereas online customers tend to know exactly what they’re looking for.”
Flick through any of the women’s glossies: Vogue, Elle, Tatler, Grazia and you’re bound to come across some of the metaphorical – and some literal – pearls at Benna’s.
Sometimes, the jewellery has been worn – and thus, endorsed – by celebrities, models, stylistas. It might be a chunky statement Mawi necklace, subtle earrings or a get-noticed (Sydney Evan / Rihanna) ring – the choice really is quite amazing, especially considering the Rodney Street environs. And that’s after the initial impact of the showroom itself, which has a very cool interior design.
It’s no surprise to learn that some of the costume jewellery made famous by programmes such as Sex and the City – like the Otazu pearl necklace – has brought instant demand. Luckily Benna had bought them long before their TV appearances.
“On both occasions, I couldn’t understand why there was a sudden rush to buy these particular necklaces until someone pointed out they’d been worn by someone from the series; it’s often when a celeb wears something that it starts to really fly out.”
There’s nothing overwhelming or flashy about Benna’s collections, either. Everything in the showroom has been carefully selected through an intuitive fashion sense that has brought her credibility in the jewellery world.
“It’s eclectic and cherry-picked. I’ll choose beautiful, classic things or unusual pieces.
“Because I can tell when they have that indefinable quality I will sometimes buy new designers but that’s done without being too ‘out-there’ experimental or bang-on-trend and if pieces then come into trend it’s a happy accident.
And this is largely done when Benna makes the annual trips to Paris and London Fashion Weeks where she’ll source emerging talent.
Established jewellery designers such as: Alex Monroe, Selim Mouzannar, Monica Vinader, Zoe and Morgan, Mawi, Kenneth Jay Lane and the ever-popular, architecturally-inspired Lara Bohinc are showcased in this slice of urban heaven.
And in this current economic climate, it’s lovely to report there are prices to suit all purses – or wallets. Doubly good news is there’s also a sale section for those of us who like to snaffle a bargain.
But there’s more to this showroom than jewellery because Benna also buys in other accessories such as scarves, belts, sunglasses and even shoes and bags, including Camilla Skovgaard, Repetto – “I had them before Selfridges” – and Pauric Sweeney.
Specialists and vintage lovers will be delighted to hear that Benna’s place takes you one step closer to finding that sought-after collectors’ piece or rare, hidden gem that’s as unique as it is old. And if the current one-off Chanel pieces aren’t quite right for you, tell her what you’re looking for and she’ll keep her eyes peeled.
So for those of us who are faced with that awful indecision on the fabulous occasion we’re able to treat ourselves, or be treated – mine’s the wolf key necklace, please – are there any tips to buying jewellery?
“I encourage customers to go with their heart rather than the head; no wondering ‘will it go with this or that?’ more ‘do I like this?’
“And people shouldn’t feel compelled to make a decision there and then, they can think about it and if they‘re still thinking about it, there’s the decision!”
If you want to make an appointment with Benna’s showroom call 0845 872 0899
or email firstname.lastname@example.org.