I challenge you find a brand more dedicated to the persuit of the statement earring than Milk Tooth LDN. Celebrating everything from vintage, geometric shapes to the female form, their gold plated earrings have become a firm favourite of fashion editors around the world and it's no wonder. We wanted to catch up with Ernestina Potts, one half of the married duo on what a day in the life of a cult jewellery brand like.
Hey Ernestina! For all those who aren't in the know, can you introduce yourself and Milk Tooth LDN?
I am Co-Founder of Milk Tooth LDN, along with my husband, designer and creative Mark Potts. Milk Tooth is dedicated to the pursuit of statement earrings and our mission is to unleash creativity, confidence and conviction through empowering, brilliant jewellery. I also work for Virgin as their Head of Campaigns.
Basically we're creating the products that I was lusting for but couldn't find, and hence our strapline - dedicated to the pursuit of statement earrings. I love seeking out interesting jewellery, but found it challenging to find stuff that wasn’t super pricey or dime-a-dozen off the high street. A big part of our motivation was also about wanting to build something together and put our skills and passions directly into something that we could define. We love spending our spare time and holidays hunting through flea markets and vintage fairs, so that was a real inspiration as well. It’s about fresh design inspired by the best of the past, but done in our own style.
My job at Virgin is in the Brand team. We produce projects and communications that aim to bring to life what we stand for and show how we’re trying to change business for good.
What's been your general career path?
I started out in TV production- basically just because I thought it sound be exciting, which it was for a while. I certainly got to really hone my skills in terms of creative thinking, trouble shooting and planning. I then moved over to the Communications side and have worked on some really fun big brand projects - from celeb fundraising initiatives, to helping launch new companies and set up collaborations. We started trading stand out vintage earrings in 2016 whilst still working full time as Head of Campaigns for Virgin. We launched our first original collection on May 2017 and then the second in November.
If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?
When I was a kid I always fancied being a make-up artist and did lots of experimentation with layered eye colours and glitter. I was never really interested in the skin, it was more about the theatrical side. And I loved nails and nail art too.
Do you have a life motto / mantra?
Not as such, but for me variety and creativity are important to keep me happy. I also am really drawn to chilled out people. My Mum always said relaxation was an important talent, so I’ve grown up believing that. And for me relaxation comes from not over-thinking things too much. Not to suggest I’m not bothered about stuff happening around me - at all. I’m definitely a grafter and very curious, it more means I’m okay with turning off too, which normally keeps stress at bay for me.
Take us through a typical day. What time do you get up at?
I’m up by 7am and leave the house by 8:30am. Mark and I have breakfast in bed every morning, which is our opportunity to talk through priorities for the day and divvy up tasks. I also check social media and emails during that time. Because I have a massive wardrobe people think I must take ages getting ready, but I choose my outfit the night before and literally get ready in 15/20 minutes. I even do my make up on the tube, so it’s proper slacker preening! I work at Virgin’s office in Paddington most days and am usually there 9:30am-6:30pm. I call Mark every lunch time he’s working on Milk Tooth, to talk through where we’re at - and am also happy to take calls or respond to emails if there’s something he or our PR needs a quick opinion or decision on. I’ll also join the odd day-time meeting if it’s important. Virgin trust me to do my job and I flex my hours on both sides when needed, so I’m lucky that I’m able to make it work. After work, I’m often either heading to an event (for Virgin or Milk Tooth) or meeting Mark or friends for dinner. If it’s a day I have nothing on, I’ll try to go to the gym and cook something healthy - plus catch up on Milk Tooth emails and issues that need trouble-shooting.
How do you keep yourself organised?
Lists on my iPhone. I review and update mine every morning whilst on the tube. I have one for ongoing stuff that needs to be addressed, one for stuff that needs to get done when I have time - and one for things that really need to get done pronto! I also write them for my business partner and husband daily. I always worry he’d gonna snap and say it’s mega annoying (as I would find it massively patronising in reverse!) but we’ve learnt we process info differently and he actually finds it useful – he tells me at least!
Do you have an idol?
I admire lots of people for all sorts of reasons - but definitely don’t have an idol. Style-wise, people I love include Grace Jones, MIA and Solange. People I really respect for being brave and doing interesting things right now include Liv Little and Munroe Bergdorf and Sam Rowswell, who I was lucky enough to meet at our recent Galentine’s party and was funny as hell (as well as chatting loads of sense!).
How do you keep yourself going through a humpday?
It sounds a tad basic, but I honestly find wearing popping colours or something that excites me is a great way to simply step up my mood and make me feel good. I don’t entirely get the logic, but it seems to work! My go to choices for such a day might be my glittery ankle boots, a shocking pink lip – or of course my most badass earrings, which The Cloud work a treat for.
Biggest misconception about the job you do?
That Milk Tooth is a big business with lots of staff. It’s just me and Mark with two very part-time freelancers. It’s hard graft.
How do you wind down?
I probably shouldn’t say this, but a drink works - preferably a Margarita! And generally and having a laugh with my husband & friends. I also try to get a good lie in once a week – like 9 or 10 hours when possible.
What's your favourite thing about what you do?
Developing new ideas and creating the stuff I love- and want for myself! The ideation and development stages are definitely what most excite me. Not just in terms of coming up with concepts and jewellery designs, but also in terms of thinking about the photography and supporting assets – and all the marketing type ideas too.
Any advice for someone who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Get really clear on what you want your business to stand for and your own USP. Plus make sure you absolutely believe in the idea or product. It’s that passion that will drive you to keep going through the ups and downs.