Victoria Houghton

A Q&A with the first female to have held the role of CEO at iconic Scottish jewellery brand Hamilton & Inches in its 150 year history. 

Congratulations on your appointment! Can you describe the career path which has led you to this point? 

I have a strong background in the retail sector, including initiating negotiations to take on the country-wide franchise for Next in Romania and firmly establishing it with four profitable stores in Bucharest. I also held the role of Fashion and Accessories Buyer at Next plc, River Island and M&S, and relocated to Bangkok, Thailand under the position of Product Developer for Next plc. I was appointed by Q5 Business Management Consultants working with Burberry on their strategic business transformation and change management project. My Honours degree in Cultural and Historical Art, as well as A grade certificate in Gemology, has been very beneficial to my understanding of the business since joining Hamilton & Inches in June 2018 as a non-executive. 

What’s next for Hamilton & Inches?

We have an ambitious five-year plan to double turnover and our strategy includes investment and support in the existing team, as well as designing new fine jewellery collections and developing the Hamilton & Inches watch offering with partners Rolex, Patek Philippe, Bremont and Urban Jürgensen. The launch of the Scottish Gold collection in October, in addition to the renovation of the showroom is also part of the strategy. 

How do you intend to balance a respect for Hamilton & Inches’ strong historical identity with a modern ethos?

The renovation of the showroom will be sympathetic to the original design and the introduction of a new contemporary style for the brand will be tightly bound to the preservation of Hamilton & Inches’ rich heritage. There will be investment in the existing team, as well as the appointment of new craftspeople in the jewellery and silversmith workshops. 

How important do you think it is to nurture and retain artisanal skills in the face of modern production practices? Do you think it ties into to a greater sense of Great British heritage and identity?

For 150 years Hamilton & Inches’ talented craftspeople have passed their knowledge and skills from one generation to the next. We are fortunate to have a number of specialists in a variety of fields, who continue to keep the crafts alive through the Hamilton & Inches Academy. This includes training, scholarships and apprenticeships to nurture and champion British craft skills. We will continue to invest in our team for the next 150 years through further training and development to retain these artisanal skills.

Can you describe how you want people to feel about the Hamilton & Inches experience? 

Hamilton & Inches understands that its clients want to buy into a future heirloom; they appreciate heritage, history and craft. Increasingly, modern consumers are turning away from throwaway fashion and accessories, preferring to invest in longevity and to blend the past and the future with bespoke pieces that express their individuality: Hamilton & Inches absolutely fulfils this need. As for the showroom experience, we want to make it more open and welcoming with a contemporary feel, while preserving the beauty and history of our iconic showroom. Expectations around luxury have changed and clients now want elegance combined with warmth, and they place similar values on service as on product. The investment in the showroom will be the first in 20 years and will include private viewing rooms allowing clients to enjoy privacy whilst purchasing engagement rings, as well as the opportunity to sit with the jeweller and designer to create bespoke pieces. We want clients to enjoy every second of their time in our showroom, shopping, relaxing and enjoying a memorable visit that suits their contemporary lifestyles. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

To believe in yourself, take risks and push yourself out of your comfort zone. If I could advise my younger self, I would tell myself not to worry about defining your career and future at such a young age – it’s equally important to enjoy studying, gain confidence, build life experiences and create networks. 

Are there any other women you’re particularly inspired by? 

Female entrepreneurs inspire me, such as Estee Lauder and Natalie Massenet. Princes Grace of Monaco is the epitome of style and elegance, while Francesca Amfitheatrof, artistic designer of jewellery and watches at Louis Vuitton, is also hugely inspirational. 

How do you balance the responsibilities of work with your personal life?

Quality time with my husband and my two young sons is vital. They’re my biggest inspiration, reminding me of the true values and how the simple things in life bring the most pleasure. I always balance my creative working practice, with family life, and with my absolute commitment to the business. I also enjoy running, which allows me the freedom to think creatively with regards to Hamilton & Inches. 

You’ve spoken glowingly about Edinburgh’s burgeoning popularity as a tourist destination. Dividing your time between there and London as you do, can you recommend any of Edinburgh’s hidden gems – restaurants, boutiques, cafes – that you love.

  1. Dusit restaurant on Thistle Street, which offers delicious authentic Thai food and reminds me of my years living and working in Bangkok, Thailand
  2. W. Armstrongs & Sons, a treasure chest of vintage finds
  3. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, home to Scotland’s outstanding national collection of modern and contemporary art

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