Ahead of her visit to Cork this week, Chupi recalls teenage summers in the county, a place close to her heart, she tells Vickie May.
It’s taken a few days to get Chupi on the phone - when you are the woman at the helm of one of Ireland’s most successful jewellery lines it’s understandable time is precious. When we finally do talk, I’m immediately apologising.
With small kids.
I’m saying sorry before I ask a single question, knowing I’m likely to be interrupted at any moment. Chupi Sweetman, just as her name suggests, doesn’t bat an eyelid. That’s just life, she says laughing - it’s the way work should be. How can we only be creative from Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm? “It just doesn’t make sense,” she says.
This attitude to work, to life, goes a long way to explaining her success as a businesswoman. The jewellery line began as a one woman operation during the recession. Today there’s a team of 36, many of them people that have stayed with her from day one. Staff turnover is minimal.
She took a gamble walking away from a successful gig, a designer at Topshop. She was at the epicentre of disposable fashion. And it didn’t feel right. When her teenage sweetheart proposed to her nearly a decade ago, something clicked. The engagement ring, designed in New York and created with recycled gold, was one of a kind.
She fell in love, she says, with “the why”. She quit her job at Topshop, and Chupi the brand was born. She still loves the why, the stories behind the jewellery she creates - the people who buy pieces share engagement plans with her, then weddings. She is even about to meet her first “Chupi baby”.
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Do you know what people said when I told people that I was quitting my proper job to make modern heirlooms? 💎 . The results ranged from rather worried (well at least I could always get another job) to downright horror (a dear friend said to me had I thought about the fact lots of other people make jewellery and would anyone want mine). Funnily enough it never worried me! . I really truly believe in beautiful things made with love; in hope and magic. In the idea you can run a company built on kindness and still be strong 💗💪🏻💫 . And 6 years later you guys have proven it’s possible, last year we made 24.5k pieces of jewellery in Ireland that you guys bought in 64 countries around the world 🌎 You have told me your stories and shared your most precious moments with us, I can’t thank you enough ❤️ . So on our sixth birthday (or close enough, I can never get the party on the date!) thank you for believing in me and us 🥂 And also if everyone is telling you that you are wrong, don’t always listen. You have to believe in your dreams ⚡️ . PS Poppy always looks this cross! But she’s keeping a close eye on the macarons 🤩
She’s excited then to visit Cork tomorrow for her third visit to the River Lee Hotel. Time slots are prebooked and while it’s a chance for customers to meet Chupi, it’s also an opportunity for the designer to meet the public. It’s very important to her. “We have our store in Dublin but a lot of our work is digital so it’s amazing for me, for the team, to meet the customers in Cork.”
Chupi doesn’t do many events around the country, but makes an exception for the south. “Cork has a special place in my heart,” she explains.
As well as bespoke pieces, Chupi creates two collections a year, though she is never driven by trends.
She is, she says, ecstatic though that one in three diamonds are bought by women - as we still strive for equality we are choosing our own rings, she says. And sometimes it isn’t even connected to a wedding proposal. It’s to celebrate our own successes - the degree, the promotion, the child.
The international market is significant for Chupi too - there have been pop ups at Macy’s, but watch this space. A US stand-alone store is in the planning stages. “People love to try jewellery on,” she says simply. But in the meantime the company is working on the creation of augmented reality where people can virtually try out a ring.
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This is one of my absolute favourite times of year 💗 . All of the beautiful Grey Diamonds we bought in NYC are being set by our incredible goldsmiths, alongside some ridiculously gorgeous blush pink Morganites and truly sparkly Moissanites 💎 . What would you guys like to see more of? . 1) You Me Magic Two Carat 🥂 . 2) Sparkle in the Wild 🌳 . 3) You Me Magic One Carat ✨ . 4) Love is All 💫
Her husband, “a proper nerd” she says, laughing, is driving this new technology.
Watch this space. What Chupi dreams becomes reality.
“I always knew I’d create something big,” she says. How right she was.
Chupi is at the River Lee Hotel tomorrow. Tickets are €25 + fees and include a glass of prosecco and a Chupi goodie bag.
See eventbrite for tickets