A stylist, turned florist, turned jewellery designer. Varney Polydor, cofounder of the Marylebone-based jewellery brand Kohatu + Petros, has certainly had a lateral career in the creative industry.
Named after the Maori word for stone (kohatu) and the Greek word for rock (petros), the ethos of Polydor’s Kohatu + Petros is laid bare right there in the title. The contemporary jewellery label focuses on colour, wearability, accessibility and authenticity, delivered through hand-selected semi-precious gemstones wound into bold statement necklaces, adorning stacking bracelets and lighting up gold vermeil chain links.
Polydor’s past in fashion has certainly shaped her aesthetic. By embracing current trends, she allows her jewellery to remain current and buoyant in a time when classicism can become outdated, tired or irrelevant. A signature style will forever be vital, but an eye on the current movements in fashion and culture allows Kohatu + Petros to stay abreast of what its clientele want and are inspired by.
Accessories make or break a look
“The core ethos for me is that jewellery has to be part of the outfit,” says Polydor, who has settled in London but was born in Australia to a Greek family. “Without accessories, the outfit seems dull and totally generic. You need to be individual with your own personal style, and really this is achieved through how you accessorise. Fashion colours and trends are at the heart of the Kohatu + Petros design, but honestly if the trend doesn’t appeal, I don’t follow it. We outfit real women with wearable jewellery, and I never lose sight of that.”
Though classicism might be losing its lustre in jewellery, there are staples that Kohatu + Petros will return to time and again. “A go-to would probably be onyx or garnet, for sure, and I love the metallics – pyrite and hematite,” says Polydor, who professes a personal love for unpolished gemstones and jewels with a matte finish. “I know they aren’t the most colourful of stones and I do have the choice of all the gemstone colours at my fingertips, but these are the ones I always come back to. Predominantly, onyx is a base for a lot of what I do. On the other hand, I can go all-out colour, and that’s when I use jasper or stones like lemon turquoise, which is bright yellow. That’s where seasonal [fashion] colours enter into my designs.”
Having evolved through multiple careers in the creative industries, Varney has carried her lessons and experience into Kohatu + Petros, and a word that she believes is integral is inclusivity. Hers is a brand intent on eschewing the exclusive label jewellery can often carry, to share the beauty of gemstones with a wide set of women. This is also a philosophy that inspires her approach to business, spurred on by her own experiences of growth, shifting aims, change and metamorphosis. That, and collaboration.
Collaboration is everything
“I really love collaborating with other women,” says Polydor. This often translates to working with other creatives on collaborative pop-up shopping events, such as Claudia Cardozo de Biasi and Michele Langenbrinck of Buckinghamshire-based Italian shoe brand Cecilia Quinn. “We can now combine styling events where they do the shoes, we use local brands for the clothes, my jewellery, we bring in a stylist, and we talk about how to accessorise,” she continues.
It was in fact a collaboration that led to the creation of Kohatu + Petros back in 2006. Polydor and her soon-to-be business partner Joanna Salmond had taken a trip to Hong Kong, where the pair discovered a world of loose gems, and returned enthused by the idea of building a brand around what they had seen. Starting out in a studio in London’s Marylebone, the concept soon grew and the duo opened a store on the fashionable Chiltern Street.
When Salmond returned to her native New Zealand (she is the kohatu to Polydor’s petros), Polydor decided to carry on the brand alone, but not the shop. Despite a dalliance with a landlord this summer, Kohatu + Petros will be sticking to pop-up experiences and events for now, including The Jewellery Cut Live, as well as selling through its website.
Pop ups and shopping experiences
“Something is not right with retail at the moment,” Polydor says of the shifting shopping scene. “I think that is why I am staying out of it for the time being – until I feel that retail, especially in London, becomes more exciting again. I think the future of retail might be more about lifestyle stores, and I do feel that it’s more exciting for people if there are a few things on offer, with the highlight being amazing customer service.”
As for the service she offers her own clientele, which has won her a clutch of Kohatu + Petros devotees, it all comes down to being personable. “It is an intimate brand in one sense,” she muses. “I am the face of the brand, people like to come and see me, try on the jewellery and get my advice. It is a stylish and authentic brand, and that is really at the heart of it.”
Kohatu + Petros will be popping up at 67 York Street, Marylebone, London, W1H 1QA from December 9th to 14th, 2019. Opening hours: Mon-Fri, 11am-6pm (late-night Thursday until 8pm), Saturday 10am-5pm
Kohatu + Petros founder and designer Varney Polydor at The Jewellery Cut Live
Kohatu + Petros onyx necklace
Kohatu + Petros gold vermeil and garnet earrings
Kohatu + Petros Blue Bubble necklace
You need to be individual with your personal style, and really this is achieved through how you accessorise. Fashion colours and trends are at the heart of Kohatu + Petros, but honestly if the trend doesn’t appeal, I don’t follow it. We outfit real women with wearable jewellery, and I never lose sight of that
Kohatu + Petros onyx Cube Helix necklace
Kohatu + Petros blue sandstone and silver Lace collar>