They say that three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead. But what if you – and your friends – could keep their secrets and their lives all the same? Elea Hilliard, founder and designer of Covet + Keep, has made the impossible, possible. Now you can wear your thoughts on your finger, around your neck, or your wrist – without anyone really knowing what you are thinking. Unless you can read braille. The messages on her designs range from the sweetest (like “x” and “o” on a pair of heart-shaped studs) to tongue-in-cheek badass (like “f” heart “u”). Elea’s pieces are sleek, chic, and oh-so-easy to wear with anything in your everyday wardrobe roster from a little white dress to boyfriend jeans and a tank. We had the chance to catch up with Elea and ask her all about the recent launch party, her spring must haves, and her adorable french bulldog, Garcon.
From working overseas as a fashion editor to traveling the world, you’ve arguably had a very glamourous career path. What drew you to come back to your hometown in Victoria, BC and start your own jewelry design business?
It’s true, I have had some incredible and very glamourous experiences, but it was not without a lot of hard work, long hours and being based in large cities with a crazy, fast-paced lifestyle. I left Victoria with big dreams, but always intended to come home. After 10 years away I really felt it was time to land back on the beautiful west coast and ground my life. I have some of my best friends in cities across the globe, but my heart and my life truly lies here in Victoria. Covet + Keep was born out of a need to stay creative in a small city where there were few opportunities to utilize my skills. I spent so many years curating jewelry for the pages of magazines and was always so inspired by other people’s works, I dreamed of having my own line someday. The timing to start Covet + Keep was just ‘right’ when I arrived home.
Rumour has it that the inception of Covet and Keep happened in an elevator of all places. Tell us more about that.
It did! I was having a rough day. I was experiencing some friction with someone who really wasn’t playing nice. As I stood there staring at the braille on the elevator buttons and feeling like I wanted to yell out to the world “I can fight dirty too, you know!” it hit me. I could use braille to express my message. I could say exactly what I wanted to – out loud – but without being too in-your-face or overt about it.
You just celebrated your official launch a few weeks ago – how did it go?
It was incredible! It was such an amazing night and party! We had a great turn out and it was so much fun celebrating the official beginning of what I have been working at for a long time now. I spent a lot of time doing market research and writing a business plan to secure funding to get Covet + Keep going, so it was phenomenal to celebrate getting it off the ground.
Your love for your puppy is undeniable (he’s adorable). Is he your unofficial mascot?
I guess he kind of is! He goes everywhere with me and since I work from home he has been around to see it all from the beginning. I call him puppy CEO.
Secrets are at the soul of your designs. When doing custom works you must get to hear so many women’s secrets.
I don’t actually do custom pieces… BUT I am so inspired by the women around me! The first collection is called ‘That’s my girl’. Each piece is named after someone in my life and the message of that piece is inspired by their secrets, their mantras, their humour, their quirks or their message that they bravely bare to the world everyday.
Being in a creative career, it can be difficult just to get used to working an “adjusted” schedule. What does a day in life of Elea Hilliard look like?
So true! A day in the life starts with me waking up and immediately checking my emails (before I even get out of bed). Next is coffee, coffee is my life line. Then I look through social media and my fave blogs. From there I’m doing anything from office work like bookkeeping to searching for possible new stockists, putting together orders or sketching for the next collection. I’m inspired by everything from films, music, photography and art to folklore, religion, nature, travel and sometimes simply just the things that people say. It’s really important that I get out of the office and stay inspired to create. My day usually finishes pretty late in the evening, but I try to make sure that I have a little time with my partner (and if I’m lucky a g+t).
Something that your current self would tell your past self when you were just starting up your business?
Just believe a little more. The line has been really well received so far, but I was so nervous about going out and starting something on my own.
You have a self-professed love for Karl Lagerfeild. Do you have a swoon-worthy collection of Chanel?
I WISH!! Do cosmetics and sunnies count? Ha! I do have some Prada, Miu Miu and Marc, but no Chanel yet. That 2.55 is my first reward when I reach my goal of getting Covet + Keep in every province in Canada.
What is on your must have list for spring 2014?
The perfect silk, printed, bomber-meets-Letterman jacket, a Beau Britcol cotton knit tank, a fresh new pair of white chuck-t’s and a fabulous gelato lip colour like a creamy coral or a pretty orchid purple.
That’s way too hard to answer! Depends on the city…
What is your style mantra?
Less is more. I like to keep it simple.
Favourite weekend activity…
Brunching with my soon-to-be hubby and friends, watching my dog run around at the beach and lounging with some good mags.
Photography by Lillie Louise Major