Meet our Founder, Lynette Ong
What inspired you to launch Edge of Ember?
I started Edge of Ember in 2014, right around the time I moved from my native Singapore to London to be with my husband. I was working in finance for six years prior to that, but always wanted to do something more creative.
When I finally bit the bullet and quit my job, I took some time out to travel across Asia. During my travels I came across a wealth of artisan workshops selling the most beautiful jewellery – which I became quite fascinated by. I had always loved jewellery, and at the time struggled to find good quality but affordably priced pieces.
So that was the catalyst, that’s where the inspiration came from. I’d been bold enough to walk away from my career, so I thought why not be bold enough to try this.
What fascinated you so much about the artisans?
It was the realisation that there’s so much ‘invisible’ craftsmanship in Asia that was overshadowed by the mega manufacturing landscape and overlooked by the global consumer.
When a western consumer hears that something is ‘Made in Asia’ the immediate assumption is that it is cheap, poor quality, mass produced, and most likely in unsavoury conditions.
And that exists. But it eclipses the abundance of fantastic talent, craftsmanship and tradition that I witnessed out there. Those were the people I wanted to work with, I wanted to shout about them and promote them on a bigger stage.
Did you witness the unsavoury conditions you mentioned?
Absolutely – you can’t ignore it. I met one worker in Bali who said that the local jewellery industry is made up a few men - the bosses – who took the majority of the revenue whilst the workers toil away for hours in really appalling conditions – and for pennies.
And I was witnessing this having spent my post-grad years becoming increasingly disillusioned with ‘big business.’ The corporate world I inhabited was cutthroat and money driven, and I left me feeling like I wasn’t creating anything of much value in the world, so I wanted to do the opposite. I was in the right mindset to want to do something about it, to help in some way.
Was it idealistic to think you could circumnavigate the system that existed there?
The difficulty was that it was in its infancy. Not many other brands were doing this back then. Social responsibility, ethical production – it wasn’t really promoted as the selling point that it is today.
It was just around the time that the Toms and Warby Parker model of “buy one, give one” was gaining traction. So that was inspiration too – I could see that it could be done on a large scale.
So did you dive straight in?
Initially, yes. I set up my base in Singapore and travelled around Asia in search of the right kind of producers, started designing my first collection. Then life happened, I moved to London, got married and had two children very quickly, so Edge of Ember was operating, but not really moving forward for a good 2.5 years.
So how did you start gaining traction?
2018 was our first real breakout year, when my kids got a bit older and I was able to focus more on building the business. Our initials collection gained us most traction, and as it took off we cottoned on to this real desire for personalisation - our customers wanted something that felt totally unique to them.
It was a totally organic discovery and we rolled with it. On the back of that we added our birthstones, and a collection of charms and then launched our free engraving service. It's entirely possible to create a custom piece for a fraction of the usual market cost.
And I love seeing how customers put things together - some people choose their own initials, or wear the initials of their children or partner, there are lovely gifts created for friends with birthstones and engraved medallions - it's genuinely enjoyable to see.
And do you still work with those artisans you discovered on your travels?
Absolutely! We have expanded since to work with a number of organisations. We partner with small-scale groups across Asia and India chosen for their commitment to fair pay, good working conditions, social responsibility, environmental care etc.
We never want to negatively impact communities or the wider world for the sake of style. It’s the heart of the brand, and the reason we started.
Could you give us some tips for running a small business?
Make the foundations your priority - by this I mean make sure you have a good product of a good quality, figure out your logistics and lay down internal processes before being tempted to tackle the sexy stuff like marketing, logos, social media etc.
Be adaptable – stay on top of changing market trends and be quick and flexible enough to adapt in order to remain relevant.
And be SUPER organised – I had to have a total personality overhaul in order to become as organised as I needed to be.
What’s your vision for the future?
That’s the fun part! I see Edge of Ember as a global brand, known for every day, accessible luxury for the modern woman. And I hope to be in the vanguard of brands helping to establish ethical production as a viable option for luxury goods.
And whilst we’re a digital brand at heart, I want to expand beyond our online presence. Jewellery is such a tactile product and can be imbued with so much personal meaning, that I would love to provide a physical space for our customers to experience Edge of Ember in person.
And if you can choose – what are your favourite Edge of Ember pieces?
The Lumina necklace is a personal favourite, it looks like a radiating orb of energy – like a really chic talisman! And the Tube Hoops – perfect for me because they make a statement but are lightweight enough to wear almost everyday (and with everything).