Ethical luxury

As she launches a new pop-up of eco-friendly jewellery and accessories marketplace, Seekd, at London City Island, founder Fay Cannings talks to us about the future of sustainability in retail

Fay Cannings on making positive choices

Given the events of the past year, many of us have conducted meetings and even social gatherings from the waist up. And while comfortable clothing for endless Zoom meetings has seen a boost in sales, so too have statement earrings and eye-catching jewellery.

High-end jewellers have seen a rise in sales despite these uncertain times. Fashionista online cites multiple reasons why, including people seeing jewellery as a safe investment, increases in jewellery purchased as gifts, and people adopting a lockdown ‘sporty and rich’ style; pairing relaxed, informal clothing with more expensive accessories. The website also notes that jewellery can help improve mood, while research conducted by Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) suggests that consumers are ‘connecting, now more than ever, to the sentimental, emotional nature of jewellery.’

No one understands this better than Fay Cannings, a business consultant and founder of Seekd, an online marketplace of eco-friendly jewellery and accessories. Having launched Seekd in mid-2018, Cannings has seen the effects of Covid-19 on the retail industry firsthand.

‘When it comes to fashion and accessories, a lot of people are reconsidering what they already own and are rediscovering their wardrobes and cherished pieces,’ she says. ‘Considered purchases are definitely a big thing, as is the notion of self-care and wellbeing, with jewellery being a real mood booster.’

Fay Cannings, founder of Seekd

‘Considered purchases are a big thing, as is the notion of self-care, and jewellery is a real mood booster’


Shopping habits constantly change, but lockdown has accelerated many trends. Some people have become addicted to daily online deliveries, whereas others are more cautious in their spending. In a report by Retail Gazette online, Retail Economics chief executive Richard Lim said: ‘We’ve already witnessed a significant shift towards online and it’s inevitable that some of these behaviours will become permanent, with digital playing a much more important role.’ However, several economics experts have pointed out that customers miss bricks-and-mortar stores, and that, in order to survive, retailers will be creating more interactive experiences for shoppers, such as in-store events and food and drinks offerings.

‘I think interactivity is going to be key,’ Cannings says on the recovery of the industry. ‘The whole art of storytelling – people want to see the faces behind the brands they’re buying from. Having that personal touch and being authentic is definitely important.’

Another increasingly important cornerstone of retail is sustainability. Since the beginning of 2020, online fashion giant Lyst has ‘seen a 37% increase in searches for sustainability related keywords, with the average monthly searches increasing from 27,000 in 2019 to over 32,000’.

Although people have, in general, been buying more pragmatically over lockdown, with ‘luxury’ taking something of a backseat, the pandemic has made consumers radically rethink their wardrobes and overall approach to shopping. Second-hand selling platforms such as eBay, MusicMagpie and Depop have seen dramatic increases in sales, implying that customers are shopping more ethically by actively seeking out pre-loved items. And according to ethical fashion ratings website Good On You co-founder, Sandra Capponi, the Covid crisis has ‘Shed more light on the problems with fast fashion’.

“I realised that there was no marketplace in the jewellery sector based around ethical brands, but there was definitely an appetite for one”

‘Consumers became even more motivated to support brands doing good,’ she added. As a result, customers are putting more thought into their purchases — buying less but buying better — and luxury brands are following suit.

Sustainability is the ‘golden thread’ of Seekd, and Cannings’ diverse professional background planted all the right seeds to make it a reality. Her career has largely been in community investment and regeneration, and she also worked with small businesses and a charity that helped young entrepreneurs get started, which gave her ‘the bug’.

‘I had the initial idea [for Seekd] and then went out to trade fairs and the theme of ethical and sustainability kept coming up,’ she explains. ‘I realised that there was no specific marketplace around the jewellery sector that was based on ethical brands, but there was definitely an appetite for it from consumers and within the industry. I also wanted to support small businesses and I’ve always loved jewellery. It was something I gravitated towards – the art of craft and the making process.’

The Seekd pop-up at the London Lighthouse Gallery

While sustainability-minded jewellery designers have existed for some time, what makes Seekd unique is that it brings these creatives together in one online community. Just a few months after launching her business, Cannings decided to become more public facing by hosting pop-ups around London. Last December, she held one at London City Island, which went down a storm with locals.

‘London City Island is an interesting demographic – there’s quite a mix of people. You definitely get a lot of design-conscious types; they’ve chosen to live in a place that’s well designed and quite unique.’

This spring, Cannings returned with a ‘curated’ pop-up at the London Lighthouse Gallery & Studio, run by local photographer Sokari Higgwe. The focus is on ‘wearable works of art’ from emerging talent. With restrictions in London easing, the pop-up recently hosted a meet the makers event and Cannings says she is looking forward to catching up with locals (and their pet dogs) and continuing with her pop-ups throughout the year.

‘The whole “shop local” vibe is definitely here to stay and I think places like London City Island are going to be even more of a melting pot of activity. Newness and discovery are key in the future of retail, which is why pop-ups are so interesting. They keep everything fresh.’

“The whole shop local vibe is here to stay and places like London City Island are going to be even more of a melting pot of activity”

Fay Cannings on sustainable jewellery designers to have on your radar, and how to style standout pieces

‘I have too many favourite designers on Seekd, of course, and with fresh collections each season there’s always plenty of diverse choice. It’s also refreshing to see new trends emerge as I meet new designers and see their collections evolve, as well as enjoying their design concepts, which play to different looks when styling.’

Gothic times
‘Personally, I tend to veer towards classic choices with an edge. I’m currently addicted to wearing the Eagle Claw Hoops by Daisy Grice and love the bijou Mond Earrings studs by Lina Wil. The Eagle Claw Hoops feel very empowering to wear with the striking claw metaphor design, and I love Daisy’s work as it’s so original and sculptural with a gothic edge, inspired by elements from the natural world. Daisy is an award-winning designer from a family of Blacksmiths. Lina is also a very talented contemporary jeweller, and her understated designs merge sustainable materials and traditional processes with innate digital sculpting making pieces. The reclaimed sterling silver studs feature a similar surface to their lunar namesake and are polished by hand, so each pair is unique.’

Heavy metal
‘I’m a big fan of wearing gold and new additions to my jewellery box are The Twisted Ear Cuff and Fluid Twisted Ring by All Its Forms. Each piece is designed to brighten up the everyday, which it certainly has during lockdown. I’d been looking for a gorgeous ear cuff so it was perfect when All Its Forms became part of Seekd and I chose this piece as a treat. It’s very chic and I love the chunky, organic, twists and form, it fits so snuggly on the ear. It’s great to wear teamed with different earrings, and I like to mix it up and wear it with silver or earrings with a colour pop, such as the hot pink studs by Caroline Wellesley. I also love the work of Georgina Yvonne [pictured left], who is currently on display at the pop-up. I particularly love her marine creatures range. Her mini sculptures are hand carved from 100% recycled silver and are inspired by childhood memories with her family.’

Form and function
‘Oozing cool as part of our wearable art collection currently at the London City Island pop-up are designers Olivia Taylor and Duxford Studios. Olivia launched her brand in 2019, having graduated from the Glasgow School of Art. She’s created a brand of timeless, contemporary jewellery; statement pieces by an exciting up-and-coming designer. Inspired by stories of travel and architecture, her work reinterprets hard concrete shapes into soft plays of light, landscape and sky. Using traditional techniques she brings geometric shapes and striking line intersections together into organic, wearable pieces. Her range of Ondulee Hoops went down a treat at our Christmas pop-up on London City Island and I’m a personal fan of the Ondulee bangle.’

Modern heirlooms
‘Duxford Studios is the brainchild of Esme Rogers Evans. Award-winning Esme graduated with a First Class honours degree in fine art sculpture and has exhibited nationally and internationally. Working with eco sterling silver and gold vermeil and specialising in lost wax casting, Esme draws on her contemporary artistic grounding to make heirlooms that demand attention and withstand the test of time. Inspired by Memento Mori, the transience and fragility of human existence, the pieces are totally unique and explore the permanence of life as modern day heirlooms. You’ll find me rocking the Asgwrn Necklace in Ecosilver or the Asgwrn Earrings in Ecosilver as real statement numbers.’

The Seekd pop-up is currently taking place at London Lighthouse Gallery; Visit @seekdfashion for more information and to shop the collections.


Words: Gemma Billington

Photography and film: Buster Grey-Jung