Karen Walker is a brand that never stops; Jade Leigh Kelly has found she is constantly challenging herself to be better. Kelly is the Head Designer and Brand Manager for Karen Walker’s jewellery and accessories. During her time so far there, Kelly has learned never to be complacent or to settle for anything that doesn’t feel right.
“You have to be open to change, embrace the new and be excited to explore the unknown,” she added. One of her favourite parts of the job is that she never gets bored. “There’s always something new happening within the company and new challenges to tackle.” Another highlight is working with Karen and Mikhail, from whom she has learned a lot over the years. Kelly also gets to travel to see suppliers, attend events and photoshoots. “I’m a gypsy at heart so experiencing new places and meeting new people really fuels my creativity,” Kelly explained.
Kelly grew up in a small town in northern England, she loved her childhood and how she experienced the world at such a young age. Her mother took great pleasure in making up creative stories to tell Kelly. “What I now know are petrol and oil puddles on the roads, I believed were the start or end of rainbows.” Both her grandmother and her mother are very creative, her grandmother used to teach nuns how to sew and taught Kelly’s mother too. “The pair of them made everything and anything. They loved to make my sister and I matching outfits,” she said. Kelly went to Manchester School of Arts where she completed her BA Hons in Fashion Design. Although she had always made clothes and loved using clothing to express herself, she wasn’t 100 percent sure she wanted to do fashion. “Before my degree I did a year focused on the arts, which included fashion and textiles, fine art, photography and moving image. In the end I’d realised that fashion is where my passion was.”
A normal work day can vary greatly depending on what time of year it is, she aims to maintain a balance between creative time and admin time. On a normal day before she gets into work, she clears any emails that might have come in overnight. “Working globally means the work is still happening even when I’m asleep,” she said. Kelly then jumps straight into creative work, maybe completing some designs she had already started or getting a fresh idea down on paper. Kelly’s inspiration can spark from anywhere. Surrounding herself with people she finds interesting, talented and most importantly people who challenge her to open her mind to new things. “What drives me with design and ideas is a want to create something that fun and interesting people want to wear.” So when Kelly starts drawing and designing, she makes sure they have as much detail as possible and then shows them to Karen while she’s working on them. “Once she’s happy, we hand them over to our jeweller. I spend a lot of time working with our jewelers, it’s a labour of love and quite a magical journey seeing a lump of metal turning into an exquisite piece of jewellery.” Other times Kelly can be found working with Mikhail on upcoming campaign ideas and different ways to communicate what it is they want to share with the world. “Then after all that thinking and idea generating it’s back to the emails,” she added.
In the future, no matter what Kelly is doing, she wants to continue to explore things that she is passionate about and to create things that others find joy in.