An Interview with Erica, our Founder

Ever wanted to know more about Molly Brown London and how it came to be the global brand it is today? Well, we managed to nab a few moments out of her busy schedule to have a chat with the founder and designer, Erica Illingworth to give us a bit of insight.

  • An Interview with Erica, our Founder
  • An Interview with Erica, our Founder
  • An Interview with Erica, our Founder

You started MBL in 2006, but what prompted you to create a jewellery brand for girls?

I used to work in Financial Services Executive Search and having reached a crossroads in my career, I was considering new opportunities. I have a daughter and at the time, she was age 11 and off to a party. I suggested she put a necklace on and she replied that the necklaces she had made her neck turn green (!) and so, I set about looking for some quality children’s jewellery for her. I was disappointed with what I found, it was very ‘babyish’ and I knew that soon she would firstly grow out of it and secondly, she wouldn’t want to wear it. So, the seed for the idea was sown, I would create a jewellery brand for girls that was adjustable and so it would grow with the child and also, the designs would be simple, but sophisticated. I also knew how important it would be for the gift wrap to be luxurious and reflect the quality of the jewellery materials. 


So where exactly does the name Molly Brown come from then?

We had a sweet little spaniel called Molly, she was chocolate brown and so the brand was named after her. I also liked the idea of chocolate brown ribbons with the pale pink in the packaging and so it seemed to work. 


MBL has been around for more than 14 years now, what do you think has made it so successful?

Even though we are predominantly a brand for children, the designs aren’t juvenile and this makes them wearable keepsakes for any age. The designs are classic, made with quality materials, we only use sterling silver, 18ct gold vermeil, coloured gemstones, diamonds and freshwater pearls. The brand was lucky enough to be described as ‘Tiffany for girls’ by VOGUE and the commitment to high quality has cemented Molly Brown London as the leading brand in the sector. We recently launched an older girl’s range and this has been particularly successful.


Talk us through your design process?

We have 2 launches a year, Spring/Summer which focuses on classic, signature pieces and then Autumn/Winter which tends towards design-led pieces for the upcoming gifting period. I spend a lot of time reviewing the collection and this helps to identify gaps which are a good starting point. I also analyse our best sellers and look at the opportunities to launch them using variations in metals and stones. I also research historical textbooks and if I am travelling, I always make a point of visiting museum jewellery rooms looking for inspiration. 


Who’s on the MBL team?

We are an all-female workforce in-house, with a team made up of lots of nationalities. I’m pleased that we are a very supportive team, everyone is happy to step in and step up to help a colleague. 


What’s your favourite collection?

The Monarch Butterfly Collection, I love the delicacy of the butterfly and I think we have captured a super sweet shape with the topaz stone detailing. I have gifted pieces from this collection to friends and they have all loved them. 


Can you give us a sneak peek into what you’ll be adding to the collections next, and when can we expect them to drop?

We launched a teen girls range last year, which has been so successful, we will be adding more pieces to it. Also, we are seeing a high demand for gold vermeil, so more of our classic, signature pieces are going to be launched in 18ct gold vermeil. Finally lockets, lots more lockets next year.


The world’s pretty crazy right now, how has COVID-19 impacted MBL?

Thankfully, we are an e-commerce business and so the team can all work from home and are able to refocus; I’ve never had so many Zoom meetings but we have all adjusted and it’s working well. The warehouse team was incredibly nimble and they carried on without a blip which was fantastic and a great relief. It’s also really nice to see how people are thinking of how they can reach out to each other while they haven’t been able to physically be there. We’re seeing lots of love for birthdays and welcoming new babies to the world.


Most of the pieces in the collections are personalised, what makes this such an important part of gifting?

Customers are able to add their own personal touch to the jewellery and more often than not, choose to engrave a name or a special date. We also see lovely inscriptions such as Our Angel, Sweetest Sister, Love Daddy x


What is the most treasured gift you’ve ever received?

My wedding ring and a giraffe made for me by my youngest son. 


What do you give the person who has everything?

That’s a hard one, particularly since I always seem to be shopping for this person. Probably vouchers to a lovely restaurant or theatre tickets. 


What are you most proud of that MBL has achieved?

Being a Jewellery Brand of the Year finalist on two occasions, competing alongside Swarovski and Links of London. I am also very proud of the global reach of the brand today, we get orders from all over the world and that is particularly pleasing and exciting at the same time. 


What’s next for Molly Brown?

World domination and even more sustainable packaging, we want to be as responsible as possible for the next generation. We are about to start working with a global e-commerce partner that will enable us to create local shopping experiences, allowing customers to shop in 150 different currencies and also use local payment processes and local languages in checkout. 


Anything else you’d like to let our Molly B Girls know?

Finish every day and be done with it. If you have made mistakes, put them behind you and move on positively and with kindness towards yourself, and others as you can be. And thank you, thank you for loving our brand as much as we do.


Want to know more? Read our story here or write to us through our contact page, we love hearing from you!

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