Since launching her jewellery store in 2014, Chupi Sweetman has become a household name in Ireland and abroad. Known in particular for her engagement rings, it’s little surprise that the Chupi founder and CEO was inspired to transition her career from clothes design to jewellery after the effects of her own engagement.
“I was 26 when Brian, now my husband, proposed and I just remember feeling so utterly blown away by my engagement ring and when I was wearing it for those first few days, I kept thinking that I was wearing a piece of the future. One day my daughter, who at that stage was still very much still a figment of our imagination, and her daughter could wear this ring in the future. That was just such an exciting idea to me and it enabled me to reimagine our future at a point where I felt I needed a career change,” Chupi explained.
Chupi had already been working for Topshop’s since she was 21, after they scouted the small fashion label she began, aged 17. She reflected that having the confidence to pursue her passion and to open multiple companies was something that was most likely instilled in her by her mother, Rosita, together with her less conventional upbringing.
“My mum was one of the founding members of the Irish Women’s Movement, which was a group of wonderful opinionated women who did the contraceptive train and marched outside the Dáil and really paved the way for the protests we’re seeing now.
“I was recently thinking about the protests against religion in the national maternity hospital and I thought of my daughter’s future and how my mum and her friends started so much. We take it for granted now that change happens but there must have been some level of stubbornness that made them stand there and fight that fight.
“My brother and I both started our own companies, we’re both very creative and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that we both were so opinionated. I think we were very much taught to believe that anything is possible. A failure in how we educate children is how we tell them that they can be anything that they want to be, up to a certain point. Then, we sort of retract that message and try to direct them towards the ‘sensible’ career.
“There are wonderful and passionate teachers in our schools but I don’t think that the system is necessarily set up to inspire when there is a class of 30 children and you need to meet all of the basic educational requirements. My parents taught us at home mainly because I was quite sick when we were young, so it was actually a practical decision. Although homeschooling is a broad church, it really empowered my brother and me to explore, learn and go for our dreams.”
This strong sense of self emboldened Chupi to leave Topshop and to enter into jewellery, an area that she had never worked in before. “I knew that I didn’t want to work in fast fashion in my forties and it took two years to achieve this transformation but my engagement provided a sort of thunderbolt of lightning, I would say”, she stated.
With its flagship store located in Dublin’s Powerscourt Townhouse, Chupi’s particular popularity as an engagement ring brand offered some interesting insights for the pandemic period.
She commented: “Engagements on our site went up three or fourfold and have been continuing on that rise. We all work so hard to do the right thing, achieve all of our goals, drink enough water, go to the gym, be happy every single day and I think that Covid-19 has forced all of us, in very different ways, to pause. When that pause came, it gave people the time to reflect on what really matters and that’s what we really saw with the business.
“Engagement is such a special thing, telling someone that you want to spend the rest of your life with them. Last year really made a lot or people reassess what mattered but that’s not to say that only engagements emerged from that reassessment. There were also plenty of divorces and we make divorce rings too, for people who are used to wearing a ring and who want to mark the moment and to celebrate themselves and their future.”
Sustainability has been important to Chupi since she was nine years old and owned a copy of the Young Environmentalist’s Handbook and a Greenpeace membership. She said: “It had been ingrained in me from a young age that we have a responsibility to create a better world and I very much took that with me into jewellery. What we’re trying to do at Chupi is to marry the very best of Ireland, of storytelling and technology.”
This attitude also feeds into her emphasis on creating future heirlooms and pieces that will last. “My family home was filled with stories, a clock that was my grandfather’s, a painting that hung in the house where my mum was brought up, granny’s favourite sweater. I’d come from this idea that everything that mattered had stories, so I knew that I wanted to do this with my rings.
“I’m also very thoughtful about what I buy because I think about the story I might tell my daughter or my grandchildren about the milestones attached to an item. A very trite thing that millennials say is ‘experiences, not things’ but I think that it’s absolutely true. The things that you buy should honour those experiences, celebrate moments and celebrate resilience. For example, we made so many beautiful pieces at the end of 2020 coming into 2021 for people who wanted to mark simply surviving that year. I feel very lucky to be a part of that and to be working on something that is so timeless and considered.”
that are so precious and intimate that they aren’t made to be shared. It’s such an honour and we all get very invested in the proposals, as sometimes we’re the only other person who knows about a proposal. We are in the business of hope, of good days, of love and loss and it’s difficult to be cynical when you get to speak to people about some of the biggest moments in their lives”, she concluded.