Be Unbound with Sarah Austin & Charlie Smith
In early October, Emma and I had the great pleasure of spending a morning with Sarah and Charlie of Unbound – Consciously crafted jewellery for free-spirited individuals.
Much like their partnership, more on that later, I’d felt personally drawn to Sarah when I met her at my local running club. There was something genuine but electric about her enthusiasm for, well, everything! When she waxed-lyrical about her business partner, Charlie, I knew I had to meet her too.
In a room with Sarah and Charlie, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the magic. Their vivacious, creative and utterly passionate about their work. For two women who’ve known each other for the best part of a year, their ability to speak for each other and finish each other’s sentences is clearly a large part of their success as a duo.
I picked their brains on how Unbound came to life and what makes their business brains ‘tick’ – and now, I’m sharing it with you, straight from their Hampshire office.
Firstly, how do you two know each other and what made you want to work together?
Sarah: It was one of those serendipitous things, I think Charlie thought I was a bit mad. I met Charlie at a party and I just had this feeling that I needed to be around her.
Charlie: I thought she was brilliantly mad. A long-time after we met Sarah called me and asked me to help her with a buying trip. It transpired that we ended up going to India together, giddy with excitement. My jewellery background and Sarah’s unfathomable drive came together. It was the meeting of two halves and we work together perfectly, even when we bicker like old sisters. Unbound came out of that trip.
Individually, what are your career stories?
Charlie: I’ve always been creative and loved designing. In my life, I’ve focused on my jewellery designing, but I’ve followed my heart into home styling and I teach private yoga classes too. I’m a spirited woman and I’ve allowed that to flow into my career. Sarah can do all-the-things, she channels my artistry and I love that about our partnership.
Sarah: I’ve been in retail, for the most part. I had a boutique called Coco Bean years ago, then I met my husband and we’ve expanded his stores (Vinegar Hill) across the country. I’ve got a business brain, but I’m also enamoured with colour and creativity – which is the side that Charlie brings out in me.
Tell us the story of Unbound – what do you do and why?
All of our Jewellery is designed in the UK and handcrafted in Jaipur and Delhi. Our crystals and beads are ethically sourced and we take the time to personally visit the craftsman we work with. We have an absolute commitment to responsible and sustainable business practices, including respect for human rights.
Our energy comes from a genuine, heartfelt place where tolerance and equality are key.
We went out to the factories and met the artisans in India ourselves. We actually went to a supplier of a very very well known brand – but there was absolutely no personality in the work. The family-owned factories where there’s laughter and passion and inconsistencies are what we fell in love with. We’re not mass-produced, we’re about art, creativity and passion.
How do you balance your work and your home lives?
Sarah: I’ve just had to let a lot of things go. I used to think my house had to be immaculate all the time, but it just doesn’t. Outsourcing has become so much more important – there are some things that I just don’t need to do.
I think it’s so important for my children to see me balancing work – especially seeing me travel abroad and being brave! I’ve just been away for 7 days to India and the kids were so respectful of my work, they understood what I was doing and even that I was witnessing other children who are far worse off than they could ever imagine. I want them to grow up seeing what’s possible.
Charlie: My work-life balance is so much better than it used to be. I’ve got so much better at saying ‘no’ to things that I just don’t find important. I structure my work hours so much better – mostly because I no longer say yes to those ‘oh Charlie could you just…’ requests. I used to always feel such urgency to help people, often for free! But now I’m so strict with my time because I have to quieten my own head.
Who gives a sh*t whether you made a cake for the school cake sale or if you bought it from Tesco?
What inspires you? How do you stay creative and business-minded?
Charlie: For me it’s feelings – things come out through my emotions and I articulate those feelings in a visual manner. I’ll explain an emotion like “imagine a tap filling up a bucket of water and overflowing everywhere, that’s how I feel right now, I’m full” – you know? It always relates back to something I saw or smelt. People are evocative – what they look like inspires me.
Sarah: Charlie can create a necklace that suits someone perfectly by just looking at a photo of them. It’s remarkable. That’s the ethos behind the bespoke service we’re building, using emotion to make choices and take style risks.
Where can we find Unbound?
Our new website and social media channels have just launched – but that’s very much just the beginning. We’ll be heading into stores in the New Year, with an exciting launch and the unique Unbound Bar… but more on that will be leaked online, so follow us there!
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