Tortie Designs: A jewellery designer who was inspired by her cat to give back

Jewellery at its best is about expressing a feeling. Whether it’s a precious heirloom honouring time and connection, or a delicate piece that serves as an omnipresent nod to a treasured love, the adornments we wear around our necks or dangling from our lobes, can say more than we ever could with words. And if it’s a great story you are looking for with your next statement piece, then Tortie Designs may just be the brand for you.

Newly launched jewellery brand Tortie Designs is the creative brainchild of Melbourne-based Taylor Yates. After a career spanning eclectic fields including hairdressing, journalism and web development, Yates has finally harnessed her love of creativity with an unexpected source of inspiration – her cat. “Tortie Designs was started in April 2017 when I noticed my tortoiseshell kitten (Zelda) playing with one of my handmade polymer clay necklaces. I had recently started using polymer clay as an expressive medium for jewellery, and I ended up developing a brand inspired by the well-known attitude of tortoiseshell cats – ‘tortitude’ – cute, bold but still subdued”, says Yates.

“Businesses shouldn’t just make money, they should also do social good and give back”

With its delightfully whimsical and colourful pieces handmade from polymer clay, every Tortie Designs piece is bursting with character that takes everyday jewellery to a fun space. The launch collection is filled with glittery bauble necklaces such as the aptly named Glitter Bomb necklace and statement earrings like the Glam, which are versatile enough for both day and night wear. And with a second collection dropping in August (focussing on soft pastels and classic neutral tones), Tortie Designs achieves the fine balance between statement and simplicity.

image of tortie designs jewellery sustainable
Photography: Tortie Designs

Yates hopes there is a return to small-batch and genuine handmade products, with brands that are actively making a conscious effort to be cruelty-free and sustainable. Not only is Tortie Designs 100% vegan, but Yates also contributes 10% of its profits to The Lost Dogs Home as a reflection of her strong commitment to the cause of rescue animals and her belief that “businesses shouldn’t just make money, they should also do social good and give back”.

For Yates, it’s the social contribution that matters most and has been at the heart of her brand since  day one. “It seems like a fad at the moment – a lot of brands take part because it’s a trending thing and eventually return to their old ways. I still think it’s quite hard to find businesses that care and there needs to be more awareness in the general public about what really goes on in fashion”, says Yates.

It’s this awareness that Yates believes is critical to making better choices along with an openness to discover local artisans and makers. Her recommendation? “Visit your local markets! You never know what you’ll find, and there’s a large chance someone is doing good”.