An Interview with Katy Valentine
We had the pleasure of chatting to Katy to get the full story behind how she started her collection and how she navigates growth, particularly during the challenging months of South Africa’s harsh lockdown.
Katy Valentine Collections was founded in 2015 after Katy took a month-long trip through India. "I have a connection to India like no other, it is by far the best place I have ever been to and every time I get there I feel like I am home". On her first visit, Katy designed a small collection before going back to Johannesburg so set up the back end of her business and launch in South Africa. Her business started off getting awareness through home based markets and pop ups, but nowadays the business predominantly relies on wholesale, stocking some of South Africa’s most sought after boutiques and game lodges.
Katy is the designer behind every single piece within the collection. She conducts extensive research into upcoming trends and combines that with inspiration she gets from traditional Indian and African designs to create unique pieces that fit the aesthetic of her brand. All of Katy’s production is done in India, which she expressed as being a challenge to begin with, particularly with the language barrier. She has now developed strong relationships with a multitude of suppliers and manufacturers around Jaipur, all of whom specialise in different areas; whether its semi-precious stones, cutting of geometric shapes or gold plating. Katy speaks fondly of her Tuk Tuk driver whom she sees and spends a great deal of time with on every visit. In previous years Katy would visit India two or three times a year, however the global pandemic has obviously restricted this.
The COVID 19 pandemic has not only changed the way Katy runs her production, it has also shifted the direction of her growth. “At first it was extremely tough”, Kate admits. “I was constantly stressed about not growing and losing out on huge wholesale orders my business depends on. I had to learn to relax and focus on what I could do within the circumstances”. But as wholesale dwindled, retail prospered. Over the first two months of lockdown, Katy Valentine Collections saw it’s greatest e-commerce sales it ever had. Katy explains how lockdown in South Africa has led to an e-commerce boom, driving consumers to test this phenomenon, for lack of other options. In comparison to European markets, South Africa’s e-commerce industry is still in its infancy, with digital spending being around 4.2% of that in the UK . This year, the e-commerce industry in South Africa is expected to have a 23% increase in revenue and a 37% in user penetration since 2019 .
Katy mentioned that before COVID, she was always so fixated on growth that she’d never taken a full step back to proudly acknowledge the business she has built. The downtime also gave her the opportunity to channel her energy more creatively by playing around with home shoots, up-skilling and looking for new business prospects. “Rather than growing my jewellery business into something huge, I like to look for fresh avenues to try out, it keeps things exciting” The Katy Valentine Collection has extended to beautiful, long, embroidered cotton dresses pyjamas and gowns. In response to the much anticipated post-COVID baby boom, Katy and her sister, Emily, are also thrilled to announce the launch of their newborn range with a focus on wooden furniture and toys, and hand woven baby baskets designed and made in Swaziland and Malawi. Watch this space, hopefully we’ll also be able to make this exciting range available to Sojourn too!
With a woman like Katy behind the wheel, it is no surprise that Katy Valentine Collections has reached such heights in its' 5 years of existence. We are so thrilled to be representing this inspiring brand within the UK and Europe and we are confident that our partnership will help drive it even further.