Interview by Vasare Butkute
Photos: Ruta’s personal archive
“Challenges drive me” – admits Ruta Eva Cepulyte. You can’t disagree on this one – previously livedin several European countries, now she calls her home London. Living in the city that never sleeps, Ruta is trying to bring innovation to the industry of jewelry, which has been cherishing its traditions for a long time. Luxurious and minimalistic – these are the first words that pop into my mind when I look at Ruta’s new jewelry brand Praba750.
It seems that you can’t stay in one place for a longer time. You lived in Denmark, Germany, now you’re staying in London. What determines such constant moving?
Perhaps my character’s features – I constantly have the feeling that it’s not enough of what I’m doing and I need to run everywhere, see everything, to understand and to learn. When I stay in some kind of place, country or city, and squeeze everything I can from it, I start to feel guilty. I want to move on, to look for new opportunities.
So, London won’t be your last stop?
Definitely not! I don’t know what that means but, as I said, I can’t stay in one place – I see unfulfilled opportunities everywhere. I change my mind very quickly and so I move quickly. London is a very complex city, there’s no stability. Well, there weren’t much stability in Denmark or Germany either but while working there I would simply form a routine and then get bored of it. Meanwhile, in London, although I’m here now for two years, I’m still not tired of the routine. Everything is constantly changing and I don‘t fully understand this capital.
Why do you think London is such a complex city?
I always need to visually understand the architecture and the society and where are its centers. In Lithuania everything is very clear – there are certain people who have businesses, engage in creative work or etc. The media writes about them, they’re surrounded by people similar to themselves. Therefore, it‘s quite easy to create some kind of a plan, a business idea or a project and come up with how to implement it, so you would find yourself among those people. And in London there are no centers or rules, you can’t create a recipe, you just have to try. If you fail, you have to adjust to the situation once again, because the dynamics of London are unbelievable.
This city is like a living organism that is constantly changing its shape, and this is the first time I see anything like it. That’s why London is complex, and I have difficulties adapting to it – no matter what you’ve accomplished before, when you come to London you become no one. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to live where I have achieved everything – then not only I wouldn’t make any progress, but also the degradation would begin. That’s why I like London – I feel the pressure to continually grow and develop as a person.
Not so long ago you found a new startup Praba750. Why did you choose jewelry?
When I thought about a new project, it generally didn’t matter what area to choose from. This is neither the first nor the last of my startups – I like to go deeper and understand the most diverse industries. It’s always a challenge, and challenges and are my engine.
Considering which field to choose, there were several important aspects. First of all, I wanted to find a niche market, which would be difficult to get into but in which I would find a great interest. And then shake it up – bring innovation, flip it upside down. And finally, I wanted that the business idea would benefit the society. Jewelry manufacturing is certainly not easy, and it is difficult to enter the market.
Nowadays there appear more and more new, unique designers and boutiques that have a wide selection of jewelry. Why Praba750 is different? What is its concept?
We manufacture our pieces from the so-called scrap gold. We buy jewelry from various people, melt the gold and then produce our jewelry. The truth is that in the market there circulates so much gold that it’s more than enough to be processed into new products. There is no reason to continue to dig it and it does more harm than good. With Praba750 we want to show that we are a company that doesn’t use any additional resources. Our business is sustainable. We use, recycle, and create from materials which already exist. This is one of the factors that allows to reduce the prices of the products.
Compared to other jewelry in the market, yours truly is cheaper. What else determines a smaller price?
I noticed a trend that more new brands contact with buyers and sell their products directly, rather than through some other stores. It’s a fact that every product has a markup but from the company’s side it’s a necessity for it to be able to keep the business and allow it to expand. However, other markup is the store’s where the products are sold. If a company puts on a 50% markup, and the store puts on the same markup, then the total markup is already 100%. It must be borne in mind that this is just an example – often markups are even higher and can reach up to 600%. That’s why the consumers overpay a lot. So, this is the second factor that allows us to sell cheaper jewelry – we contact directly with buyers and there is no second store markup.
However, our own markup is also very low. When I started Praba750, I had in mind a specific price and while working I would always go back to that price. There were many times when my business partner said I was crazy and we can’t produce products at such price. I said that yes we can, and so from day to day, for many weeks, we gradually worked until finally we created products which matched the price I had in mind.
You mentioned previously that you seek to shake the industry of jewelry. How are you going to do that?
When I did my research on how the jewelry business works, I realized that everything is very old-fashioned. All people are very conservative. Now there is a lot of potential for new, young designers to create but the whole market is dominated by a few major firms such as Cartier and Tiffany & Co., and they don’t really want to let in individual designers. But their methods are very unfriendly to the environment, and while I’m looking at their jewelry and brand image, I don’t really understand why, let’s say, girls’ living in the United States one of the biggest dream is to get that little blue box from Tiffany & Co. Also, I find it hard to understand why these companies generally have acquired a respectable status in society. It seems to me that women, girls, especially the Y generation, the millennium generation, will now want to purchase jewelry that are environmentally friendly and it will be important how they were produced. Of course, the jewelry style of major brands is a classic but it seems so boring and I think that there are a lot of opportunities to change the image of how jewelry is now perceived. We want to create a product that resonates better with the millennium generation.
Jewelry manufacturing has its deep traditions – is there even a possibility of any innovations?
The biggest innovation now is 3D printing – it allows to realize highly complex designs. But this is very expensive and I think that jewelry industry is not yet so developed that it could work with 3D printers and it would be worth it. But I think this is one of the more interesting innovations and it will be fun to watch how everything will end up. At the same time it raises a number of questions, for example, although 3D printing can reduce production costs, but perhaps it will reduce the value of jewelry as well? Now jewelry is still often handmade, making it takes time and so on, but that piece instantly acquires a certain value. However, so far everything is going slowly, 3D printing is a limited and complicated technology, so we will see how it will go.
When creating Praba750 jewelry, do you look at current trends or do you search for your own unique voice?
The answer that we don’t look at trends wouldn’t be right, because you still see what’s happening around you, and one way or another it affects your work, even if you don’t feel that. However, we try not to copy anything and we design jewelry which we would like to wear ourselves or our friends would. We also design in a way that the products would have long-term value while being unique, non-classical.
And who is dictating trends in jewelry? In the fashion world everything is simple – there are fashion weeks, designers, models and runaways… What can be distinguished in jewelry industry?
Most trends don’t change too much because everything is developing very slowly. If you look at, say, Tiffany & Co., the design is traditional, but it’s very outdated. They don’t introduce anything new. Cartier is a bit more innovative and introduces little more interesting pieces. I wouldn’t say they copy something but they have designers who between conventional products also create a few it pieces. There are companies like Swarovski, who work with students – organizes competitions and so each year there comes a number of designs that are interesting. Then Swarovski very often copy them and adapt to their own products.
Like in fashion, in jewelry we pay attention to street fashion – now there is a need of minimalism. It seems to me that it comes from Scandinavian designers. I think that in general the Scandinavian designers are the best around the world and I am most impressed by their style. Also, their designs are seen as quality designs and when they are chosen not only by customers but also by a wide range of celebrities, other companies, seeing that it is attractive, begin to copy. Who looks at Praba750, also says that we are a reflection of Scandinavian jewelry. Clearly, however, the main trend is always dictated by the buyer – until there is a demand, there will be a supply.
So, the main trend in jewelry as well as in fashion remains minimalism?
Yes it is but there is a need of minimalistic designs as much as possible. As for earrings, people want not two identical, but many small and minimalistic, which can be worn at one time. It’s the same with rings. That’s how combining various options, through jewelry girls and women express some part of their personalities.
There’s also a tendency to buy jewelry in general. While talking about jewelry, there are two segments: ones that are created from precious materials and those which are created by fashion designers. The latter doesn’t include neither silver nor gold or diamonds but these pieces are also extremely expensive – they are made of leather, silk, and ect. Experts say that such accessories demand will fall in the future, and more people will begin to focus on the jewelry of precious materials. Moreover, they are starting to be seen as an investment. Experts say, that by the year 2020 there will be sold 30-40% more jewelry. However, people want their jewelry to be compatible. Nobody wants to buy a fancy ring but instead wants to purchase 10 minimalistic, which can be combined.
Which of precious metals are your personal favourites? Maybe you have some recommendations?
Previously, I thought that I was charmed by silver and I thought that only silver suites me. However, when I started to work with jewelry, when Praba750 appeared, I began to try on a variety of jewelry pieces and saw that I’m too pale for silver. Looking at fellow Lithuanian girls I can say that we all share that same pale skin. So, I recommend paying attention to rose gold.
At Praba750 we don’t sell silver, but we sell white gold – its value is much higher than silver’s. Silver costs pennies, although pieces made from are very expensive. A gram of silver costs one pound while one gram of gold already cost £31. However, when you buy products, you can’t see that – well, silver is less expensive than white gold, but not nearly as much as it really should be. That’s why people often choose silver.
From my perspective, in the future I would suggest buying white gold – it has a very high value. As I said, gold is an investment, and its value is slowly growing again. I can predict that in the future the prices will rise. Gold prices are now relatively low, so the time you should buy it is now and in the next 5-10 years it will be worth a lot of money.
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