The bright lights of Nottingham’s city centre might not be quite as bright – or as busy – as they were six months ago. Yet, for one shop in Southwell, lockdown has been a little different. Nestled in North Nottinghamshire, Last Night I Dreamt is not only a curated collection of the best treasure that British brands have to offer, but is also a hive for jewellery lovers up and down the country. Our Fashion Editor, Anna Murphy, spoke to its owner, Rebecca Gibbions to find out more...
Whether you actually believe that diamonds really are a girl's best friend, one thing’s for sure – if you like shiny things, the thought of owning a jewellery shop is a pretty enticing proposition. However, whatever preconceived ideas you might have of what your ‘typical’ jewellery shop might be, leave them at the door.
“As naff as it might sound, this shop is a family and a community: I’ve always wanted it to be a personal experience. I never want someone to come into my shop and feel like they can’t afford to buy something. People don’t want a sterile shopping experience; they want a bit of humanity and want a bit of realness. That’s exactly what we offer,” explains Rebecca Gibbions, owner of Last Night I Dreamt.
And with this realness has come a community. Although based in Southwell, she has customers across the UK, with an impressive 8,400 followers on Instagram. To put that into context, Wikipedia reliably (sort of) informs me that there are roughly only 7,000 people in the whole of Southwell.
Rebecca opened Last Night I Dreamt five years ago. After working as a TV producer in Manchester's media hub, she moved to Southwell with her family. So how does someone shift from being behind a camera to being behind a counter?
Rebecca says: "My story is similar to so many women's. I loved working in TV and had some incredible experiences, but when my two children came along my job just wasn't compatible with my new life. Plus, my husband, Chris, is a sound recordist and can often be away for weeks at a time, so I decided to take a career break. We moved from Manchester to Southwell and, when my youngest started school, I had a bit of a life wobble. I just thought: "Shit. What do I do now?" I was completely lost. One day, I was walking through the centre of Southwell and saw that a shop had become available. The landlord wanted to keep it as a jewellery shop: it planted a seed of excitement that I hadn't felt in a really long time."
Rebecca opened the shop's doors in September 2015, but not before signing her handpicked designers up. So, when you're a professional magpie, who do you turn to first?
"When my daughter Beatrice was born, Chris bought an Alex Monroe bee necklace. It was one of the first significant pieces of jewellery that I owned – I've always loved his designs – so I approached Alex to see if he would be interested in me stocking his jewellery. Luckily, they loved the sound of my concept for the shop and I've been selling his designs ever since.
“I stock a lot of designers because they’re deeply personal to me. I met pearl designer, Claudia Bradby, at a jewellery event and we hit it off straight away. I’m not a massive pearly kinda girl, but she’s so passionate about each piece of her jewellery. We’re also exclusive stockists of Daniella Draper, who uses recycled silver and gold in her designs [she’s also a favoured designer of Kate AKA the Duchess of Cambridge]. I met with Daniella and her mum Della; we went for lunch and they loved the boutique. Then there’s Anna Beck. Not only are her designs so beautiful, but I love the ethos of her brand: it’s all about giving back to the artisans that make the jewellery in Bali. Stories for me are so important.”
People don’t ‘just’ come in to buy a piece of jewellery - it’s sometimes a bit of a counselling room
However, it’s not just the personal touch that’s important when picking who to stock. In fact, this aspect of the business is paramount to her success. Run the word “personal” in a thesaurus and you’ll see ‘confidential’, ‘secret’ and ‘innermost’ come up. Because buying jewellery often isn’t just wanting something shiny (although it can be that, too).
Confused? Rebecca explains: “People don’t ‘just’ come in to buy a piece of jewellery – it’s sometimes a bit of a counselling room. Often, people buy a key piece of jewellery to mark an occasion and when they come into the shop to buy this, they really open up. We get quite a few people coming in who have lost relatives and ask for a feather, which some people take as a sign from their loved ones. For one of my customers, her dad died and his favourite thing had been dragonflies. She kept seeing them on the grave and had even spotted them at his funeral, so she bought a little Alex Monroe dragonfly necklace. It’s quite powerful to hear how something I sell can come to resemble a significant part of their lives. It’s a privilege to engage with people on a deeper level.”
During lockdown, Rebecca saw a shift that mirrored this. The community that she built started to reach out to their friends to share the love.
Rebecca said: “We’ve really seen a rise in people sending little gifts to friends. Jewellery isn’t disposable, it holds meaning. One of our brands, Mishky, has bracelets that are hand beaded by mums in Columbia who often have to take dangerous or rough jobs whilst their children stay at home; the bracelets are a way to provide a sustainable income whilst ensuring they can safely work from home. People have really connected with the words and the meaning during lockdown, so we’ve seen a rise in customers buying these gifts for their friends whilst we’re all socially separated. In the same way that I still love my grandma’s locket, you never forget who bought it or the moment you received it: jewellery is a powerful thing.”
So, there’s just one question left to ask. What inspired the shop’s name?
“The name? It’s the first line of Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier. It was my mum’s favourite book and it’s also one of mine, too. I wanted something that meant something to me.”