“I can identify any new mum a mile off by their bejewelled string of silicone beads and bracelets”.
There are a few things that I never knew existed before having babies. Baby food processors, Bumbo seats, teething jewellery. Wait! Teething jewellery? That’s a thing? Now that I’m a seasoned bringer upper of tiny humans, of course, I can identify any new mum a mile off by their bejewelled string of silicone beads and bracelets. I’m part of the club. And I too can now amaze my non-mum friends with the hidden powers of my mum necklaces.
I’m a big lover of fashion jewellery. There’s nothing like a statement piece to really set off an outfit, even if it is stretch jeans and an oversized tee with a smear of toddler snot on the shoulder. And with the additional rationale that baby needs it too, teething jewellery is a needful non-guilt purchase in my book. But you need to get it right. I purchased my first pieces of teething jewellery when I was pregnant. Excited by the idea that I had struck upon yet another new mum product, I impulsively went straight in and ended up with 2 quite hideous, oversized necklaces that were definitely not my style and not even in colours that I like. The beads were too big for Noa to gnaw on and needless to say, I never wore them.
“I totally didn’t recognise myself emerging from this massive mother metamorphosis”.
Gaah… new mum style is really blimmin’ hard. Not that I was any great style icon in my previous sans kid life, but I liked to make an effort. Yes, I now had a tiny person grafted onto me for 23 hours of the day, but I certainly wasn’t ready to succumb to any sensible ‘mumsy’ way of dressing. I’d been out of the game for the past 9 months already. Jumped up a couple of dress sizes. That’s a lie… leaped up several dress sizes. I totally didn’t recognise myself emerging from this massive mother metamorphosis. Let’s face it, when you’re getting next to no sleep, dealing with thrush riddled nipples and eating chocolate digestives for breakfast, you can barely muster the strength to wash your own hair, let alone pick out a coordinating outfit.
Since then, I have come some way in clawing back my sense of style and have discovered some simply wondrous brands to help remedy that. One of my absolute faves right now is Black & Beech, whose range of stunning teething necklaces are not just designed for baby, but with style conscious mums in mind. Oh hello! Set up by fashion graduate and mum of one, Stacey, her beautiful and complex designs are very much fashion led and akin to something you might pick up on the jewellery stand in Cos.
Stacey’s distinctive asymmetric and geometric formations are lovingly created by hand in Wales, from 100% baby safe, black silicone and wooden beads, hence the very apt name, Black & Beech.
These are definitely everyday-wear with a style to suit everyone. I even wear mine when I’m out-and-about without Alba.
And in homage to exhausted mums everywhere, check out the Coffee & Calpol Perspex necklace.
With all eyes usually on baby, Black & Beech’s attention to mum doesn’t stop there. A new range of care packages have just dropped in time for Mother’s Day, combining their signature necklaces with gorgeous british brands like Hobo Soy Candles, Nom Nom Welsh Chocolate, TeaPigs tea and the legendary YesMum Cards. The parent merchandise will continue to grow with a percentage of badge sales going to men’s domestic violence charity, Mankind. Salute!
I sound Stacey out on a few more things…
How did the idea for Black & Beech first come about?
Well I attended a mum and baby class with some lovely women who became friends and I noticed a few had these colourful necklaces which they explained the concept of. Thought the idea was so useful as at the point my son was very grabby and pinchy during breastfeed and he was also cutting teeth. I had a look around but nothing felt me. I thought what about just all black and if I can’t find it I can make it. So I bought some supplies and had a play around. I made a couple of things for myself and my friends were totally drawn so I made some for them too and I picked up some wooden beads too. The name was born and that was it. Next thing all the supplies were gone so I had to decide if I would place a large order … everyone said go for it, out came the credit card and off we went.
What is your background?
Well I’m Irish but I’ve lived in the uk since 09 when I did an MA in fashion here. So fashion design is my background and I lecture in that here in Cardiff. I guess it’s relevant to my eye for design, aesthetic etc and in fashion I was always interested in design that was useful and solved problems.
What inspires your designs?
Asymmetry has always been in my design handwriting so my styles like Theo, Doris and Milo would be my signature in many ways. I love the kinetic feel of them. I’m inspired also by the contrasting textures of wood and silicone and the high contrast as something useful for babies to engage with. Recently I was asked for coloured styles as the person felt babies would like them more.
First off, that’s covered in the market so there would be better places to check other brands out but also I think babies love my necklaces because they have movable beads contrasting textures and we all know they love black and white. I’m inspired by motherhood a lot and making mums feel good.
Of all your necklace designs, which style is your favourite and why?
Although I’ve said the asymmetrical styles are my signature I’m totally in love with Iris at the minute. It’s so versatile and no one would ever know it’s designed with babies in mind.
Given the choice, which famous person would you want to model your necklaces?
Ohhh never thought about this but off the top of my head new mum Susie Bubble would be amazing as would Paloma Faith. Both are super stylish women.
If you could have a billboard anywhere, where would it be and what would it say?
It would probably say nothing to do with Black & Beech since in the grand scheme of things we are insignificant. I think I would try to use my power for good and it might be political 😉 with international women’s day just gone it might be some facts about just how poor opportunities are for women and girls globally.
How many necklaces can you make in a day?
Great question. When I started I made to order. I now try to make in batches of a style and build up stock. I’m always failing at this though… so I can make some styles very quickly and some take up to 30 mins- cheers Winifred! So I think 30 in a day maybe before I get a welt from tieing knots. I’m also juggling admin Instagram and a million other tasks when making.
What’s the biggest change that motherhood has brought to your life?
Motherhood made me more focused and precious of my time. Every moment counts now. It also made me very tired.
The main thing it brought was crazy unconditional love and also brought a lot more sensitivity to the world which I’m passing on to my son.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A midwife or fashion designer.
What advice would you give to aspiring Mum designers?
Collaborate don’t compete. Sometimes people pop up on my Insta feed advertising their competitor product which just really annoys me. It’s just plain rude. There’s room for us all. How many jeans designers are there? Plenty. Let the consumer decide who they want to buy from.
A better way to work would be to build relationships. There are other brands like mine who work in colour who I would recommend to stores because they are nice women and we have the chats. I work with other brands lots to do giveaways and I would say I have real cyber friends on Instagram, so think about how you can support other brands and don’t trample on them.
Tell us about the good and bad of setting up on your own?
The good is the excitement of each sale, the feedback. The stories of women bumping into each other in Paris wearing Black and Beech and chatting about us or friends who leave a necklace on a doorstep with coffee after a rubbish night.
The worst is cash flow and ordering supplies and thinking every sale might be your last. Setting up the hampers was a huge financial outlay as I took on four brands and had to buy upfront their stock without orders, it’s a total punt and I’m not sure how it happened. I think I just wanted to give mums what I never got— a present for me!
What exciting things are yet to come from Black & Beech?
Well the boxes of loveliness are live now, a range of care packages from under £20 to £56 including our products plus brands I totally believe in. Nomnom chocolate is made by a bunch of rapscalians in west Wales in an abandoned chocolate factory. It tastes unreal!!! Also hobo soy candles are hand poured and I went for a musky unconventional scent. They are so potent and beautiful. You’ll be familiar with yesmum cards which are really helpful. I’ve been using them since I received mine and I think every mom should have them. And finally teapigs were amazing to deal with we’ve got there fab little piglets!
And lastly, what would be your no.1 style tip for new mums?
God that’s tough. Not sure I was a stylish new mum. I wore a lot of layers. I would suggest you avoid “breastfeeding” clothes especially if you have a large bust and just find nice drapey styles, throw on some Black & Beech and a hot milk bra and you’re cool.
As if that isn’t enough to tempt you, you can get a whacking 15% off online at blackandbeech.com, when you enter code ‘DesignMum’ at the checkout.
To stay bang up to date with all the latest from Black & Beech, head over to Instagram and give them a follow.