It's been nearly 3 years since Caroline Rou started her eco-conscious jewellery brand, Carou. Caroline designs timeless pieces that are influenced by travel, discovery, and the natural world. From manufacturing to delivery, her jewellery is produced by an ethical and environmentally friendly approach. Based in Sydney, we caught up with Caroline to learn more about her journey, her brand, and what it means to be a boutique in Australia.
What inspired you to start your boutique label?
Crazy things can happen when you change just one variable in your life. In my case, I changed one thing and then everything else fell like dominos. In March 2018 I put my lifelong dream of being a Creative Director of a jewellery brand on hold, packed up my things and moved to San Francisco. My fiancee Pete had been offered a role out there, and whilst America had never been part of our plan before, we were excited about the new adventure and the idea of new, wide open spaces to explore.
Before I knew it we had moved countries, changed and lost jobs, and planned a wedding in less than a month (the America visa system does not recognise de facto relationships). I woke up one morning in a little sun-filled apartment near Alamo Square in San Francisco, and everything was new. Finding myself at a crossroads in my life, I had a welcome break from the general noise of the everyday and really thought about what I wanted to do.
My love for jewellery had not faded in the slightest, but my desire to churn out 400 designs a year and sit in back to back meetings all day discussing critical paths and EDMs had. During the following summer, Carou went from a wild little thought in my head, to scribbles in a notebook, and finally, to something more tangible.
What has been the most exciting time you’ve had with your business?
If I had to pick one moment of pure excitement, it was in March this year when I was sitting at my laptop and an order came through from Erin Wasson. She is one of my favourite models and I've always been in awe of her work. I remember just looking at the order thinking - it is from THE Erin Wasson!?
What are some of your favourite Aussie brands and businesses?
There are so many wonderful Australian brands out there! I particularly love Jardan for furniture and interiors. They have a great eye for colour and textures and every time I go into their showroom I just want to buy everything! I also love Totem Road for their sustainably sourced woodwork. Can you tell we are renovating our house at the moment!? The obsession for beautiful and unique interiors is real! Oh and Cactus Vision for the most gorgeous cacti friends in Sydney!
What is the best compliment you’ve ever received about your brand/product?
In 2019 we were asked to design and create the most beautiful and unique custom engagement ring by one of our best customers. She already wore Carou head to toe in everyday life, and she wanted an engagement ring that would fit in seamlessly with her other pieces, whilst still feeling special and different. Being asked to design such a sentimental and monumental piece for someone to wear for their whole life was a real honour. It has been my proudest moment with Carou.
What part of Australia are you based? Has this influenced your product?
We are based in Sydney, and it is a place that is not only my adopted home but it holds a very special place in my heart. I am originally from the UK, but I left London to go travelling in 2014 when I was looking for a seachange. I travelled through Asia for 6 months, with Sydney being my last stop. The plan was to go home after a few weeks exploring Sydney, but 6 years later, I am still here. When I first arrived in Sydney I had my eyes opened to a whole new way of life... I thought I had found paradise! Living in a physically beautiful place is so nourishing for the soul and the senses. Sydney for me is escapism and natural beauty; it represents adventure and new horizons - elements that can always be found in my jewellery.
What is most important to you when it comes to the way you run your business?
Our brand is very much inspired by the natural world, so we are always conscious of how we can protect and preserve it. We only use manufacturers with an eco-conscious approach, use recycled and biodegradable packaging, and deliver our local orders by bike when we can. We source our stones from ethically approved mines and we never mark down our stock just because it's the 'end of a season'. We don't design jewellery for one specific moment in time, with the intention that it gets pushed to the back of the drawer soon and you buy a new piece to replace it. All our pieces are designed to be worn year after year, and our collections are made to work together, with each one building on top of the previous one.
What makes Carou unique?
Our jewellery is inspired by our travels and the journeys we've been on... by a sense of wonder and discovery. Fleeting moments when the heart beats faster, surrounded by the beauty of the world, is at the heart of our jewellery. It is not something that can be replicated and still remain authentic.
What’s a piece of advice you would have given yourself at the start of your business journey?
Just start! It's the hardest part.
What’s been the hardest part of running your business?