Annoushka Ducas: The life of a jewellery entrepreneur

The founder of Annoushka and Links of London on juicing, skiing and where to find the best Chinese food in London.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 24 Jul 2017

Annoushka Ducas co-founded Links of London in 1990 with her husband John Ayton. The premise was simple and in many ways ahead of its time: that if women liked jewellery, they might actually want to buy it for themselves, rather than wait to receive it as a gift. 

Though not a formally trained designer, Ducas clearly had a knack. The chain expanded rapidly and was sold for £50m in 2006. Ducas then founded boutique firm Annoushka, selling fine jewellery much beloved of the A-list. To get a flavour of what she's like, MT went to see her at her store in Sloane Square...


Mornings

I’m up at 5.45am and do weights at the gym. It’s good for the bones. Breakfast is fruit and chia seeds or granola. I’ve got into all this healthy eating stuff, probiotics, juicing. The cleaner it is, the more energetic you feel. I’m very keen on my Nutribullet juicer, because it’s so quick – I’ve got very little patience.

That’s why I like my Dyson hair dryer. It’s a luxury, but you can dry your hair in maybe nine seconds, with no frizz. No one’s ever asked me about my hair before...

Commuting inspiration

Home is in West Sussex, but we have a little house around the corner (near Sloane Square), so I usually either walk to work or get a Santander bike. I’m very lucky, because I can design from anywhere. It doesn’t necessarily mean sitting at a desk and sketching - I’m permanently thinking about it.

Inspiration comes from so many different things. For example I woke up one morning and really wanted to call a collection Dream Catcher. I said this to my design director. She said that’s great, what’s it going to be. Well I don’t know that yet, I said. Details, details, details.

It wasn’t until three or four weeks later, driving from Sussex to London that I went past this B&B sign made of fretwork, and it was like ‘that’s what it’s going to be’. I’ve been driving past this sign for 20 years.

Travel

God, I love to travel. Who doesn’t? I lived in Hong Kong for three years, and recently just went to Cambodia for the first time. We’re passionate about skiing as a family, and we spend a lot of time at our chalet in the Alps. Blue skies, exercise, laughter, fun, delicious food, knackered in the evening - I don’t think there’s anywhere better.


Food and phones

I rather like food too much, but I’m not a good cook. There’s a place round the corner from us called Hunan that does without doubt the best Chinese food in London. The best part of it is you don’t have to make a decision, they just bring you food till you’ve had enough.

I love that – we’re making decisions all the time and it’s fantastic not to have to. It’s like your phone bombarding you with notifications. I use an iPhone but I’m a very un-techy person. It’s both the bane of your life and a Godsend.

Art

I’m mad about art, always have been. My grandfather collected Russian art, so from an early age I was surrounded by it. I’ve just been to the Venice Biennale to see the amazing Damien Hurst exhibition, but my favourite gallery in London is the Sladmore at Bruton Place. 

A good cause

I support a charity called Give a Future, which is a microfinance provider based in Addis Ababa. We lend £30 to these women with no business experience, who’ve never been in charge of their own destiny before, and give them a three week course on how to manage money. At the end of that they come up with an idea for a business, something very simple like going to the main market and selling vegetables.

What’s so exciting is that you meet these women at the beginning of their journey, and their eyes are down, they have no confidence at all, then you come back 18 months later and they’re standing tall and running their own business. It’s so powerful.

Being able to run your own thing is so rewarding. When you go off and have a family (I’ve got four kids), it doesn’t mean that work just stops, but for so many of my peers that’s what happened.

Role models

My mother was my role model. She was a true entrepreneur. She swapped her first proper car, a BMW I think, for three highland cattle. She used to import Russian horses (she was Russian). In fact my new collection is very much based on childhood memories of going to Russia with her, seeing these amazing churches.


Read next: Getting to know Matthew Taylor, RSA


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