Scarlet In Chains Jewellery – With An Extra Link Of Kink!
For five years Scarlet In Chains have been proudly wielding their stainless steel craft and creating unique, beautiful statement jewellery that was built to last. The husband and wife super duo cater for tastes from all walks of life and still remain true to themselves and their brand. Nickie Hobbs caught up with Drew and Sophie to talk origins, how their diy business has kept afloat during a worldwide pandemic, fashion predictions for 2021 and the brands side collection ‘Scarlets Satanic Panic’ that was recently released.
Scarlet In Chains have been on my radar for quite some time – husband and wife duo Drew and Sophie have together generated a solid business creating and customising Stainless Steel chain jewellery and accessories. The brand is based around BDSM, Goth, mythology and occult themes. Tell us how and when you guys turned this idea into a reality and explain about the business in a little more detail.
Drew: “Well, there is a whole story about a broken bra…but that has been heard many times however, that was my start into experimenting with fashion. Following from that, we wanted a collar for Sophie and just couldn’t find what we wanted. So I bought some chain and realised that there were no tools you could buy to allow us to make what we wanted in high quality Stainless steel so I ended up adapting and making some new tools (Using my Grandad’s skills who used to be a tool maker) So we could work with the hard metals but still be able to add detail. After, I had made the collar (Which became our ‘Valkyrie Collar’ still available today) we added decorative chain loops to it which then became our ‘Valhalla Valkyrie Collar’ which we may bring back at some point. Friends saw Sophie’s collar and wanted to know where we had bought it from. So in 2015 (5 Years ago) we started making the Valkyrie collars with cuffs and anklets to match along with some other designs we had come up with too. However, at this point, I was working at various companies on some high profile iPhone apps so Sophie took to running the businesses during the day with me helping while not at work. It was during this time that Sophie came up with some of our most classic designs, the Luna Spirit and Princess Items that look absolutely stunning. Just over a year and a few months ago, I was frustrated with how badly app developers are treated. Crunch periods etc. really caused havoc with my Migraine and Cluster Headaches and we decided to take the plunge and take Scarlet in Chains to the next level. It was scary and exciting. We plunged everything we had into events such as London Edge and many markets and pushed as hard as we could (As we still do today).”
Sophie: “Scarlet in Chains is now very much about custom jewellery made out of 304 Stainless Steel Chain. It can be made to any size that is needed, with any additions or tweaks to our regular designs and we offer free resizing for the lifetime of all our items (You only pay for the postage back to you if resizing is done through post)”
You state that all the items are handmade in your UK Dungeon – please tell me there is an actual dungeon! You guys are multi-talented souls who also have backgrounds in engineering, silversmithing and design. Can you tell us more about your process – from design to forging the items?
Sophie: “We sadly outgrew the dungeon as i had pretty much taken it over with chains before Drew came back full time. So there was nothing left to do but take over most of the house and garage. We were looking at moving into a commercial office just before Covid started. We decided to keep Scarlet in house though as it means we can spend more on developing new lines rather than office rent. It literally depends on the design, for some, we experiment, old school drawing ideas and designs on paper, others we get the chain out and try different loops, links, cuts etc. sometimes to see what complements a specify charm for example. Our latest ventures have involved design software, sending them to be laser cut in Stainless Steel and etched (While praying we got it all right!”
What are some of your best selling items? And how would you describe the majority of your customers?
Drew: “Our top 5 best-selling items are the Luna Phase Collar, the Micro Luna Collar, the Princess Collar, the Micro Chain Heart Collar and the Luna Spirit Collar.”
Sophie: “Our customers are absolutely wonderful and such a range, all kinds of styles from Suit and Tie wearing to fully tattooed Goth, witches and alternative. Though I would say that the majority of our customers probably fall more towards Spiritual, Goth and metal roots.”
You recently bought out a brand new side range ‘Scarlets Satanic Panic’ featuring an original line of Occult, Obscure and occasionally obscene stainless steel jewellery – how was this new range received? And how do these designs differ from the usual items sold through Scarlet In Chains?
Drew: “The Scarlet’s Satanic Panic range definitely went down well. I think people really took to the meanings behind the limited items. The biggest surprise was how people really took to the Luna Moth design and the meaning behind it.”
Sophie: “Scarlet’s Satanic Panic has been an awesome journey. The main difference is that these ranges are limited in quantity as they cost so much to produce. The designs are also more occult themed which we’ve wanted to do for some time but couldn’t find the components we needed in stainless steel. So we started searching for a way we could create small batches of charms within the UK that would be as hardwearing as our chains. This was the 1st time we had used software to design charms, talking to manufacturers to work out different methods etc. It was an awesome but scary journey as the method used to create the charms is a one off procedure so you don’t get any test items. So once the designs are done you have to really hope the final items come out how you expected.”
Drew: “Sophie was also able to stretch her graphics design muscles and produced art cards showing the design and also explained about 4 of the items that are limited quantities.”
Sophie: “We also really wanted to add meaning to our charms, as though occult symbolism is a staple of fashion now. Few take the time to explain the design and the meaning behind it. We really wanted people to connect with the designs and symbols we created in a meaningful way as in quite a bleak year we wanted to bring some joy. Also maybe spark some curiosity about occult symbology in people that are used to seeing occult imagery in music and fashion. Not forgetting it gave the chance to immortalise our beloved cat Sabra as a pendant, she is affectionally known as “Demon child” by her cat sitter and a few of our friends, so seemed appropriate. As for the obscene our Baphomet pendant has had some interesting fan mail so far, considering that wasn’t one of the yet to be released obscene pendants. My morning email catch up might get more dramatic when we release those. Who would have thought there would be easily offended Christian kinksters? We apparently ruined someone enjoying an Instagram feed worth of sex toys and kink with our vile satanic imagery. That to this day is still my favourite complaint email.”
Drew: “We are both very much looking forward to designing the next Scarlet’s Satanic Panic ranges.”
You sell all of your goods through your own web store but also through Etsy and eBay – did sales blatantly come direct from one site or the other during the last few months? I thought it might be interesting to see which avenue people purchased from since the world changed due to Covid 19 in March 2020?
Sophie: “This year, we have been very lucky to both be able to continue working on Scarlet in chains full time. As we genuinely didn’t know what this year would bring we are so thankful for the support of our amazing customers. Our new website has really picked up since covid began and lots of people now prefer to shop through there rather than Etsy which is really nice. As though Etsy is still very important to us as it’s where we started slowly focus is heading more towards our website. I think because we can organise it more clearly than our Etsy shop its helping customers discover some of our older designs that get buried on Etsy. Our eBay shop is quite quiet these days but it’s not really well suited to customised items and personalised service in comparison to Etsy.”
Drew: “Before the pandemic began, we were traveling the country at markets on the weekend and making stock / fulfilling online orders during the week. I won’t deny that working 7 days a week, we were knackered but it was wonderful being able to custom fit or customise items at our stall, people could sit with us as we tweaked and changed items individually just for them and I would like to think that we weren’t just selling some jewellery, we were giving an experience, the chance to be able to see the customisations happen there and then. We still really miss being able to do that but with technology we’ve started to be able to bring some of that online, with video clips and making full use of our social media channels.”
Speaking of the invisible but dreaded disease – how did Covid impact your business over the last 8 months and what ways were you able to adapt and overcome during this time frame?
Drew: “As soon as the Lockdown came, we lost two thirds of our income in an instant. It was horrible. There is no other way to put it. We had almost nothing to help us from the government as the figures they used for their support was based on 3 years ago back when only Sophie was working on Scarlet in Chains full time so we had to think fast and work hard. I like many self-employed fell through the system entirely having only been back with scarlet full time for 9 months when covid hit. We reached out to influencers we knew well and used every resource we could think of to push our online sales which luckily, we had both Etsy and our own website already in existence and our customers were very supportive in swapping markets for online shopping.”
Sophie: “We even released a couple of pod cast style videos on our YouTube channel so people could keep up to date with us which we’ve been really bad with recently as we just haven’t had chance to sit down and film as on top of work it’s been a year of house disasters so any spare time has been spent trying to fix those. With luck, hard work, determination and some amazing support, we have managed to survive and are very grateful to our amazing customers, influencers and friends.”
Being a husband and wife team – how do you both feel working together? Are there many conflicts of interest over design or the creative development? Or are you on a creative equivalence with one another?
Drew: “Ha-ha, we have been asked this a few times. We are very lucky, we work very well with each other. In 11 years of living together, we have only ever had 1 argument (That involved an outside source) the important thing is being able to talk and even more important to listen. If we have a different view on an idea (Which is quite rare to be honest) the secret is to listen to each point of view and together decide. If one of us is really passionate about going a particular direction then we will go with the direction of greatest passion. It’s quite amusing but when people meet us they often see us as one entity.”
Can you explain some of the positive ways in which Scarlet In Chains stands out from other stainless steel jewellery makers in the UK. What in your opinion gives you the competitive edge?
Drew: “I would say it is a few things. Customisation, we can make any item any size and with any alterations that are wanted. As all our items are handmade, I’d like to think the love, passion and touch of magical energy we put into our work shines through. Also the quality of materials we use. We learned so much about the various grades of metals, allergy information etc. which is why all our chain is made from 306 grade Stainless Steel so you can even swim in our jewellery. Some components, for example our new charms are made from 316 Grade Stainless Steel which is implant grade. So anyone with metal allergies will be absolutely fine wearing our jewellery.”
Sophie: “Also our innovation with things like our Satanic Panic collection as though occult jewellery isn’t new, we noticed most people took an approach of not explaining the symbolism or meaning behind them. Also they are often made in materials that some can’t wear due to allergies or lifestyle, I’m personally very hard on coated jewellery as are many of our customers. So we wanted to give people some gorgeous occult jewellery that was as accurate as possible for those well versed but still inclusive to the curious.”
Have you had many issues with copyright or copycats over the years? And how do you tend to deal with them and the issue when it arises?
Drew: “We have had some people try to copy our designs. We have only had to intervene once when we had someone point out our designs had been found on wish so we showed wish our trademark and pointed out that the pictures on wish were of my wife (I think that one, they really didn’t want to argue about). They were all taken down but we did buy 2 items out of pure curiosity. There is a video of us on YouTube where we compared the quality. It was awful. (Laughs). I broke one with my little finger. We then showed how much stronger our necklaces are by playing tug of war with the necklace using both our weight. It was very funny but showed the difference in quality very well.”
Sophie: “As with most small jewellery brands we have had some much larger alt brands take a little more than inspiration from our work, which is frustrating. Especially when you spot a piece out in the wild or on social media thinking it’s one of yours only to realise it’s a copy from a well know brand. We are lucky that the designs we have had copied in our opinion have always been poor imitations. Not a single one has anywhere near the strength or quality that our items do.”
What are both your views on the alternative fashion and accessories scene in 2020? Do you have any tips or predictions for next year also?
Sophie: “Current fashion in 2020 is really interesting as in the last few years with the rise in large alternative stores really dominating alt fashion. Whilst accessibility is brilliant there’s a risk of things becoming repetitive. In 2020 a nice balance has been hit with people using larger brands as staples but mixing them with diy and smaller brands. Which has given birth to some really brilliant individual looks. With people letting statement items, custom pieces and unique accessories turn a standard outfit into something truly their style. As for predictions i think alternative fashion is becoming even more ethical and environmentally friendly with lots of people taking up DIY fashion / up cycling again something I’ve always loved doing since my days of charity shop hunting as a teenager. There’s also a fantastic growth in made to measure clothing and accessories. With items that are really made to last and often have the little practical touches such as pockets in skirts / dresses and more sturdy fabrics as a pet hate of mine is when maxi dresses and skirts are see through when they are not meant to be. It’s really positive to see made to measure make a comeback as we know just from the jewellery side body’s come in all shapes and sizes some complete with hidden and visible disabilities. It’s also been amazing how much more inclusive many small alt businesses are becoming. Being more than happy to make tweaks to designs to accommodate fluid and Trans people, Drew especially has been really happy to find so many places happy to make changes to designs so they are gender fluid friendly such as longer arms and high necks. The fact that many amazing alt designers are helping everyone to be able to wear what they want with size, ability or gender being no barrier is amazing. Hopefully we will continue to see this well beyond 2021.”
Where do you source your product materials from? Are you conscious of using ethically sourced or UK based manufacturers?
Drew: “As we make everything ourselves, there is almost no waste as it means we don’t have any stock lying around. We try to use UK companies for almost everything, failing that, Europe. For a couple of reasons. First, we believe very strongly in supporting UK companies but also, we know that all of our materials are held to very high standards that aren’t upheld by some other regions around the globe. Since we work from home, we are not pumping more resources into the atmosphere going to and from an office. We also are paperless. In this modern age, there is no need to use paper for everything. This is also the reason we offer our lifetime resizing so if you need to make changes you can get items altered rather than having to re-buy as our items are designed to last. We try to be as ethical as we can about every decision we make. It does mean that we pay more for our components and that we can’t sell designs as cheaply as some other companies can but we will always support local businesses and ethical practices.”
I know things have been a little quiet of late event wise but do you usually take Scarlet In Chains on the road? Where have you traded before? Got any events pencilled in for next year?
Drew: “Since we started, we began trading at the Birmingham Bizarre Bazaar in Birmingham and so long as it returns after COVID, we will continue to do so as it was our start point. We have so far traveled as north as Scarborough and as South as London. We were so tired from markets every weekend that we have decided that when they come back we will do less but we will still continue to do them so long as the new normal after Covid allows us to give the service our customers deserve. Who knows what the new rules will be when we return to whatever the new normal will be?”
Sophie: “This will allow us to spend more time innovating new designs, products and ideas as when we were constantly travelling new releases were much slower so more balance of travel and innovation is needed for 2021. One thing is for sure that we will still travel and to new places and new events just not every weekend. So far in our books for next year is Leeds Festival of Gothica.”
If you guys could custom make an item for anyone either dead or living – who would it be for and why?
Sophie: “For me it would have to be Papa Nihil from Ghost. I’d love to do a Satanic Panic style chain saxophone strap, I’d have a lot of fun with that.”
Drew: “I would have loved to have designed for Zeromancer, particularly back in their ‘Clone Your Lover’ days, looking at their style and having styled for bands such as Weak13 before, my eyes start drawing out where chains would look awesome on their outfits.”
As designers I am sure you always sketching ideas preparing for the next release…will we be seeing any more designs surface early 2021?
Drew: “Oh we have plans! There will be some new Scarlet’s Satanic Panic Limited edition releases and some new ideas that we have never tried before!”
And last but not least – as it is our festive edition – what are your new year’s resolutions both personally and for Scarlet In Chains?
Scarlet in Chains: “More new designs and releases. Before 2020, we spent so much time traveling that we didn’t balance as much time as we would have liked for designing new ideas so 2021 there will be more releases and more innovation.”
Sophie: “I’ve had a rough year health wise, though I’ve made the changes necessary for good physical health. More self-care is very much needed as i tend to put my needs and feelings last so i need to be a bit kinder to myself!
Drew: “I definitely have some retro gaming electronics projects I am planning to work on. Who knows, I may get back to music again, I’ve definitely enjoyed writing the music for our adverts.”
Interview By Nickie Hobbs
Interview Originally Appeared Inside Issue 48 of Devolution Magazine