On a sunny afternoon on the Gold Coast in 2014, sitting at a cafe, Sharona Harris decided to launch a jewellery label.
“At the time the market was flooded with fine, feminine and boho-style jewellery, which is really not my vibe,” says Harris.
The self-taught jewellery designer dedicated her weekends and evenings to getting her label, F and H, off the ground (by day she had a full-time marketing and public relations role), launching with a small core collection. She’s since built on that range with gemstone hoops, studs, rings, bracelets and belts.
Harris is a bit of a tomboy, and men are as much muses for her five-year-old jewellery label as the women she designs for. Her pieces are chunky with edgy silhouettes that are softened with natural Australian gemstones, 18-karat gold and freshwater pearls. The name stands for femme and homme, the French words for woman and man.
“Wearing strong fashion and accessories with a masculine edge makes me feel empowered,” Harris says. “I’m in the business of inciting confidence in women through statement jewellery.” This is based on the 39-year-old’s own experiences in the workplace, where she learned that a lot of “men did not like to be challenged by a woman half their age”. Wearing bold jewellery to the office helped boost her confidence, she says.
Fast-forward to another sunny afternoon just last week when Australian actress Margot Robbie paid a visit to F and H’s Los Angeles showroom, which opened last year. Robbie picked up F & H’s the Other Side cross hoops ($140) and Stoned Love ring ($130). Hollywood endorsements like these are helpful, says Harris, but the pendulum doesn’t swing quite as far as she’d like on sales after a star wears one of her pieces.
“It gives the label credibility for … customers who may not have purchased from you yet or seen your brand before,” Harris says. F and H’s celebrity following includes Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner, Dutch model Romee Strijd, Euphoria actor Alexa Demie and Australian model Lara Worthington. “On the other hand, it’s becoming harder and harder to get cut-through with celebrity and influencer marketing as we’re all constantly flooded with content on social media, so it does have less of an impact today than it did five years ago.”
Collaborating with like-minded creatives has also been beneficial for the label. Last year Harris partnered with Australian fashion label Bec + Bridge on a three-piece earring collection – it was a defining moment for the label, she says.
Harris left her PR gig in Queensland five years ago and moved to Byron Bay, where she now has a showroom. She works alongside one assistant, designing and dispatching orders, taking appointments and hosting showings. A mood board displays styling ideas and current inspirations. It’s rare Harris isn’t armed with her sketchbook, in which she’s constantly jotting down ideas.
Designs “always start with a rough sketch to think about the basic size and shape and overall vibe”, Harris says. It can take six months to create a single piece.
Her jewels are designed to be layered; try mixing the hoops with the studs, cross-earring charms and gemstone hoops to create interesting texture by building different levels on the ear. Or the Royal chain necklace can be paired with the Zodiac necklace for variation around the neck.
All F and H packaging is compostable, the jewellery is designed in small batches to avoid over-supply, and Harris works with Byron Bay’s Shift Project to donate past-collection stock to women transitioning from homelessness to independence. “A small item like a piece of jewellery can help women feel more confident when attending job or government interviews,” she says. “This also helps us to make sure every piece of jewellery we make finds a good home.”
Harris is currently focused on growing F and H’s US market, building on the label’s “huge organic sales growth in LA and NY." She's also working on an exclusive ear piece for the Calile hotel's boutique in Brisbane, which will be available this summer.