Not many of us can say we’ve had our designs worn by celebrities at the Met Gala in New York but for one award-winning Aberdeen jewellery designer, that’s exactly what happened.
With almost 30 years’ experience in the bag, founder and designer of jewellery brand House of Halos Arlene Barclay has created some of the most intricate headpieces the fashion world has ever laid eyes on.
Now making pieces with a focus on sustainability and helping the environment, Arlene has launched a new jewellery range with global matters in mind.
Working with jewellery since she was 15, Arlene, who works full time at an oil and gas firm, makes the jewellery in her spare time at home.
Originally specialising in bespoke headpieces, which she first designed for her own wedding after searching high and low for a suitable one, Arlene has moved into sustainable, fashionable jewellery.
Carly J SteelShe said: “I started making jewellery when I was 15 years old selling it to friends and family.
“Seven years later, I was creating more elaborate pieces and did so for about five years. I’d searched tirelessly for a bridal headpiece and couldn’t find one, so it was then that I started designing these impressive works of art. I couldn’t believe how popular they were with celebrity stylists and so many of them were getting in touch with me to use them for their clients, it was mental.
“American entertainment host Carly J Steel wore one of my designs to the Met Gala and Celine Dion was helping her adjust it on the red carpet – it was just crazy. I sometimes have to pinch myself about it.”
Working with clients such as Emeli Sande, The Only Way Is Essex stars Lydia Bright and Ferne McCann, Little Mix’s Perrie Edwards and singer-songwriter Elle King to name a few, Arlene’s designs have come close to gracing the heads of some of the biggest pop divas of the moment.
“Everything that happened with House of Halos, I still find unbelievable,” said Arlene.
“I know Beyonce and J-Lo’s stylists have been into the LA Showroom (which provides access to the biggest selection of wholesale fashion clothing and accessories) that some of my crowns are now in and taken them away at times, which is amazing in itself.
“Sadly, they didn’t use them but I’m so chuffed to think they might have and the opportunity to have my crowns in the Showroom has really helped grow my profile.”
Looking for a change of pace away from the fierce fashion world, Arlene is now solely focused on making jewellery that is not only beautiful, but will help make a difference to the planet by donating a percentage of her sales to various charitable causes.
Launching her new collections last month, the sterling-silver pieces boast a variety of plastic beads.
These are all created from foraging and recycling ocean plastic – turning pollution into art and helping the environment in turn.
She said: “Everything to do with House of Halos is now associated with sustainability and looking after the environment. The jewellery boxes they come in are fully recyclable and FCS approved and that is really important to me.
“I’ve spent the past eight months creating around 40 different pieces in time for the launch as the jewellery takes quite a bit of time to make – especially because I still work full time.
“I can spend anything from a few hours to six hours down at the beach doing a clear and searching for different plastic.
“Anything I can’t use, I dispose of but plastic bottle tops are very common to find so once I have a good collection, I take them home and the process begins.”
Taking around eight hours to make just one bracelet, time, patience and an eye for detail is vital, especially when it comes to hand-creating the plastic beads, which Arlene does herself.
“All the plastic needs to be vigorously cleaned and then has to be melted down. I then remelt the plastic about three times to get it to what I need it to be – it’s similar to glasswork in that respect – and from this, it takes about half an hour to make one bead. It can take up to eight hours for one bracelet from start to finish.”
With charity and sustainability at the heart of her business, Arlene’s collections are all associated with specific causes. From her wildlife collections helping various endangered animals to partnering with The Ocean Cleanup and Marine Conservation Society on her ocean collection.
She said: “Each collection is dedicated to an area of planet concern – like my peace range, which I hope to partner with War Child. The biggest collection will be the endangered animals collection. Every wildlife species will be looked at.
“Right now, I have the bee range and I work in partnership with the UK Bumblebee Conservation. Rhino and elephants are with the David Shepherd conservation.
“Each collection is connected to a respective charity that will help the conservation of these animals. I’m speaking to the World Wildlife Foundation about some other collections, too.”
Now with sights on her next collections which she hopes to launch next year, Arlene is determined to bring the philanthropic luxury jewellery house into the spotlight.
“My earth and ice collections will be next and I’ll also incorporate a forest collection, too,” said Arlene.
“Working full time can be challenging, but I’m very proud of the pieces. The whole inspiration behind it is my 13-year-old son. I look at how the planet is being affected and I just want to try do the best for him as who knows what the world will look like when he’s my age.”