Passionate, interesting and brimming with ideas, fine jeweller Aishleen Lester is founder of Le Ster. Initially a sculptor, quickly gaining a reputation for her ethereal pieces, she started experimenting with soldering after several of her fragile sculptures dramatically broke in transit on their way to a collector in New York. Starting with a soldering course she soon moved on to jewellery, falling in love with goldsmithing and how her miniaturised sculptures interacted with the body. I caught up with Aishleen to talk about how being a sculptor has influenced her design practice, her journey launching Le Ster and discover who inspires her.
Can you tell me about your background?
After finishing my Masters at the Royal Academy, I was represented by Riflemaker Gallery in Soho. I was making large scale installation out of extraordinarily fragile materials, and for the record large scale and fragile is not a recommended mix! I started with a soldering course, with the aim of making sturdy, indestructible sculptures, but then became interested in how these structures worked with the body and then I got introduced to gemstones, a whole new palette of colour! One small step after another over a period of years, I launched my debut collection Light the Grey at The Jewellery Cut Live.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Feel good luxury, which fuses fine art with traditional craftsmanship. The designs are edgy, dynamic with a sculptural sensibility.
“I’m very inspired by the idea of the elegant rebel. It’s not the traditional type of rebel, this is more subtle. It’s a woman who stands out, not for what she wears but for who she is. Passionate, determined and with character. Definitely a Joan Didion type of woman.”
You used to be a sculptor before moving into fine jewellery. How has this influenced your design practice?
Sculpture is three dimensional. It exists as an object in the world, it interacts with the space that surrounds it. As a sculptor you become really aware of how the body moves in space, how objects and the body work together. In a similar way when I design, I consider how the shape works with the body, how an earring moves on the ear, frames a face or accentuates the neck line. For me jewellery only becomes alive when it is worn.
What was the moment that made you realise you needed to start Le Ster?
There came a point in 2017 where I thought to myself, I either do this — build a small collection and see where it goes — or I drop the dream of having my own business and start looking for a full time job and take that role seriously. Prior to that I had been straddling part-time roles while learning the rudiments of traditional goldsmithing techniques and taking on bespoke work, but mentally I had not fully committed to starting a business.
Where does the Le Ster name come from? Did you find it difficult coming up with a name for your brand?
I did find it difficult to come up with a name. I’ve toed and froed between using my name Aishleen Lester and Le Ster so many times. In the end I decided on Le Ster a I hope with time that the business will become bigger than me. I also like the playfulness of it. Le Ster is a take on my surname but the suffix -ster also means to possess the quality of, and I imagine an element of the character of the jewellery being taken on by the person wearing it.
You launched your debut collection in 2020 which was described as perfectly embodying the zeitgeist in contemporary jewellery. Can you tell me about your process when designing a collection?
When I’m designing I start by asking myself: How does she want to feel, when she opens the door to a room full of people that both excite and terrifies her? What does she want to say with her body language, with what she wears, with her aura, when she is silent? What thoughts and attitude does she want to unconsciously hold close, as she goes about her day-to-day? Specifically for the collection Light the Grey, I started with the idea of a confidence that lasts longer than lipstick. It inspired a train of thought that made me look at pop art, explosions, bangs, the way a firework leaves its trace in the sky. The collection became about bringing two different kinds of imagery together — one graphic, one much softer, more feminine — but the overall idea is to give a confidence and empowerment to the individual.
What do you like most about working for yourself?
Building a business which is unique to you, which reflects your interests, values and what you believe in. I have to admit at times it is tough. As a small business owner it isn’t just a job, you need to live and breathe your business, but when a customer tries on a piece, and they get what you are trying to express, that feeling of celebration, of joy, well that’s like gold dust!
Who or what inspires you?
I’m very inspired by the idea of the elegant rebel. It’s not the traditional type of rebel, this is more subtle. It’s a woman who stands out, not for what she wears but for who she is. Passionate, determined and with character. Definitely a Joan Didion type of woman.
A huge part of starting and growing a business is having the right mindset. What are some of the things you do to stay motivated?
In the early stages of starting a business it is so important you are surrounded by a range of people, with different talents and skills. Hearing what other people are doing, sharing obstacles and collaborative brainstorming really help to keep me motivated, especially during periods when it feels hard.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Simplify and make sure, whatever you do, that there are moments of fun.
What’s next for you?
In 2021 I can’t wait to return to face to face events, I miss chatting to my customers! I also have plans to launch a small engagement collection in September 2021 – which I feel really excited about.