Stalwarts of the East London creative scene for over 20 years, Rosie Wolfenden and Harriet Vine created their much-loved jewellery brand Tatty Devine back in 1999, opening their first shop on Brick Lane in 2000. Their acrylic statement pieces have taken many forms over the years, from the famous classic lobster necklace favoured by the one and only Kylie Minogue to their new pro-EU range. We spoke to the creative duo and firm friends about Tatty Devine and why their brand is more important that ever.
How did the two of you meet and how did Tatty Devine come about?
We met at the Chelsea School of Art in 1996 where we were studying painting. Tatty Devine came about once we’d graduated. We were living together, and waitressing together, and we didn’t want to get a ‘proper job’ so we started making leather cuffs out of some leather we found and sold them on Portobello and at Spitalfields markets.
Where did the name come from?
At college we called Harriet Ms De Vine, so we liked the word Devine and through our mutual love of all things vintage and second hand we like the word Tatty. We liked the fact that when something is tatty, it’s essentially a loved item that no one has ever wanted to throw away. We also didn’t want to use our names as that felt a little boring, so Tatty Devine was born!
What did you love about Brick Lane in the 90s?
It was so much fun being on Brick Lane in the late 90s. We first had our shop there in 2000 but we’d both lived on and off Brick Lane for years and it’s always felt like our natural habitat.
Who was around in the early noughties and how much do you think the area has changed?
So much has changed and yet so much is still the same. You still see Gilbert and George walking up Brick Lane and there’s still a queue out of the door of the Beigel Shop, but there alongside Prét a Manger now. You see less people creating graffiti art and more people taking tours to look at it. Life always changes, but one thing we have certainly noticed is that our customers and employees can no longer afford to live in the area.
You’ve collaborated with a lot of incredible artists and musicians. Any favourites?
We love working with other creatives, making the Dog On Wheels necklace for Belle and Sebastian was a real highlight but also being involved in the East End Trades Guild and making their membership badge means a lot.
You designed the cake for Selfridges 100th birthday. What was the design?
It was a three-tiered cake covered with Tatty Devine shapes.
How did you feel about the fact that Boris Johnson was the one who cut it?
Your EU and ME range is brilliant, how did the idea come about?
We were/are firm Remainers, alongside many others that work in the creative industries. We noticed that customers were asking for ‘European’ to be used as our name necklaces so we thought it might be easier for them if we made one as a product. That led us to design a maroon passport and the star pieces.
Do you plan on continuing the political theme in your collections?
Our work with the Fawcett Society is very political and we’re excited to launch out new collection for them at POW! festival on International Women’s Day.
Why laser cut acrylic?
We originally made jewellery out of found objects, like tape measures, plectrums, key rings – anything we could find. On a trip to New York we came across an acrylic supplier and found lots of cut shapes that we took back to London and made into jewellery. They were so popular that we sought out a local supplier to cut shapes that we’d drawn. It was the perfect production method for our niche designs and meant we could make as many or as few as we wanted.
What is the production process
The designs are laser cut on our laser cutters and then assembled and made into jewellery by our skilled team of makers. This all happens in our Kent studio where we also fulfil our online orders.
Is it important to you to keep production in the UK?
For Tatty Devine it’s important to keep production in the UK as it allows us to have full control and to be incredibly agile. We incur very little waste or carbon footprint as everything is so local. It also means we know the team very well which helps create a great environment for everyone to work in.
Why do you think your brand has enjoyed such (well deserved) longevity?
We are genuinely passionate about what we do and I think this rubs off on people to feel passionate about it too – it’s contagious.
What or who inspires your collections?
Everything and anything but mostly each other.
Do you ever differ on designs?
We are both very similar but also very different – that’s why it works so well! Tatty Devine is like a Venn Diagram of the two of us. These days Harriet as Creative Director is responsible for designing all of the jewellery with input from me on ideas and editing. Early on we came up with all the ideas together, but as our aesthetic built over the years and our business got bigger we went slightly different ways and now I focus on the Sales and Marketing.
Dinosaur and lobster – both early designs that have stood the test of time.
Very good question!!
Finally, what are some of you favourite spots in East London?
Pavilion in Victoria Park, Dusty Knuckle in Dalston, Mangal 2 on Arcola Street, Holy Shot on Bethnal Green Road, Café Otto, Rio Cinema, EartH, we could go on!
By Leonie Helm