Back in school, best friends Tansy Aspinall and Victoria van Holthe dreamed of opening a shop together, but never in a million years did they expect it to become a reality. Yet years later, having studied politics and fine art at university, the friends were drawn together again by their childhood dream—and their shared obsession with jewellery. “We’ve both always been complete magpies!” Victoria laughs.
Tansy and Victoria felt that there was a gap in the market for the kind of quality, quirky yet accessible jewellery that they wanted to wear, so they decided to design it for themselves under the brand name of Tada & Toy, their childhood nicknames for each other. In many ways, it felt like destiny to be carving out their own path. “We’ve always felt passionately about creating something of our own,” says Tansy.
With no formal training in jewellery-making, the friends designed according to their tastes and inspirations—but found the learning curve a steep one. “We didn’t understand the ergonomics of jewellery back then,” explains Tansy. “We had to learn, through trial and error, how jewellery sits on the body, how it moves and feels.” She acknowledges, though, that their lack of experience brought unexpected benefits. “It meant we could think outside the box, creating designs that traditionally trained designers wouldn’t come up with.”
Inspired by India
Tansy and Victoria got valuable support from the Centre for Fashion Enterprise, where they found an experienced mentor who helped them master the functionality of jewellery. And when their business partner Shubhi suggested that their designs could be made in India, it opened up a whole new world of possibilities for the fledgling brand. “Manufacturing in India has turned out to be both our greatest challenge and our greatest strength,” says Tansy. What they face in logistical and cultural challenges, they make up for in the quality of their Indian team’s work, the availability of beautiful materials—and endless inspiration. “The way people wear jewellery in India is totally different and constantly inspiring to us,” says Victoria.
A very visual brand
Since it’s launch in 2014, Tada & Toy has grown up online, with Facebook and Instagram considered to be vital ingredients to the brand’s success. As Tansy puts it, “you can have the nicest product in the world but if you can’t show how it looks on the body, you won’t get far.” They invest heavily in street style photography shoots to help tell their story online and build their distinctive visual brand. “People shop in such a different way now,” reflects Tansy. “When you hear about a brand, you go straight to Instagram to take a look and see if you like the brand’s voice. Often it’s a brand’s one chance to make an impression.”
Making the right impression has become a driving force for Tansy and Victoria. “We spent a year making sure everything about the brand, from the product to the website to the packaging, was absolutely perfect. We wanted to make sure we were really ready before we launched.” They still look for feedback and advice wherever they can get it, regularly meeting with their widening network of fellow entrepreneurs to catch up and exchange ideas. “We get inspired by everyone we talk to,” says Victoria. “People have been incredibly willing to share experience and contacts.” Asked to share their best advice with would-be entrepreneurs, neither friend hesitates. “Get your product absolutely perfect and make sure it’s something you love, so that you can talk about it with real joie de vivre.”
Learn more about Tansy Aspinall and Victoria van Holthe and Tada and Toy: