Here we reprise this one-on-one with TV presenter Chris Bath with the remarkable jewellery designer Jan Logan* where she tells of how she parted with a very special ring so Aussie actor Heath Ledger could gift it to his then girlfriend actress Naomi Watts – and the emotional moment when it was replaced.
From raising a family and supporting her grazier husband in Narrabri, country New South Wales, to brazening out a SARS epidemic in Hong Kong to open a store, Logan explains why she never ignores an opportunity. And if you’re looking for tips in how to succeed, you’ll love the advice she has to offer.
CHRIS Jan, you’ve got fans around the world, and some big ones, you’ve got Pink, you’ve got Taylor Swift, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lopez, and that’s just a few names. It’s taken 25 years of hard work, where did it all begin?
JAN It’s a long story actually, but I guess it began when I was a child. I was an isolated member of the family, I had an older brother and sister, and a younger brother, and I’m seven years between both them, so I had to play alone a lot. We lived on the land, my father was a farmer and grazier, so I lived in my imagination.
CHRIS So when you were little, was it about dressing up dolls in clothes or was it jewellery?
JAN Dolls, with whatever I could get hold of. Jewellery was part of it, but certainly dressing up, adorning; and my little brother when he was eventually born.
CHRIS And did you adorn him?
JAN Yes. Dressed him up, took his photo. Then when I was a little older I was allowed to go to the matinée in Narrabri every Saturday afternoon, to the movies, and it was sixpence to get in and sixpence to spend. They were big events in my life, because they were all musicals, and singing and dancing and the glamour of Hollywood and all that, and I just soaked that all up. So I think it had all been going on in here for a long time.
CHRIS Did your parents encourage you?
JAN Yes, yes, well both my mother and father loved to dance together and they would dress beautifully for balls. My father was probably the only grazier I knew that had his own dancing pumps. Shiny black, beautiful tuxedos and dinner suits, and my mother would go off looking glamorous.
JAN That was their wedding day (photo).
CHRIS How old were they?
JAN 20 and 21.
CHRIS So how did they inspire you? Your mum and dad.
JAN Just by their attitude. And my mother was a pretty get-up-and-go person, and so was my dad. Just that they, as I said, always looked great, and inspired me in that way. To make the most of myself, to get on in life.
CHRIS So, what made you decide to leave Narrabri?
JAN Well, I had started in the jewellery industry in Narrabri. After Angus, the youngest boy, went to boarding school, I saw an advertisement in the North Western Courier for a promotions officer, for the Narrabri chamber of commerce. So the president happened to be the town’s main jeweller, so I’m in there. I got the job, it was $1000 per annum.
CHRIS Per annum?! When was this?
JAN Oh, back in the late 70s, early 80s. I was always in his office, the president, and playing with the jewellery and suggesting things, and he eventually offered me a partnership, so I bought a 20% shareholding in that business.
CHRIS So what was inspiring you then?
JAN Just ideas I’d get, from movies, from magazines, from looking at people, and travelling too. It was then that I started buying antique jewellery in London, and pearls and stones in the East.
CHRIS So what prompted the move to build your business into something bigger?
JAN Just latent ambition, definitely, there was a drive in me. I wanted to do something. Once I’d done all the family things and helped my husband in his farming business.
CHRIS And how old were you by then?
JAN I think I was in my early 40s then. I saw that a shop came up in the Royal Arcade in Double Bay and I decided to take it. I decided to open when they were having ‘up and running’ in Double Bay, it was a window dressing competition for racing season. We did a wonderful window and we got second prize. This brought the press over, standing outside, watching and thinking who is this person? And I heard another retailer say “She’s some little girl from the country, she won’t last long!” Never forget that!
CHRIS Have you seen them since?
JAN Oh yes, but it’s never been mentioned! I assure you.
CHRIS But silently to yourself do you have a pretty woman moment?
JAN Yes, I enjoyed that. Still do.
CHRIS That’s fantastic. So obviously that drew a lot of attention to your business?
JAN It drew a lot, because that weekend we got in The Sunday Telegraph – we got a mention because of it. So the press started to take an interest in us, so that helped a lot. We started to get editorial and things like that, which are an enormous help.
CHRIS And where did it go from there?
JAN We were there for a year, and I could see that we needed to be more on the street with something a little bigger. So after a year we took the shop in Cross Street, where we are now,
CHRIS Did you take a deep breath? It’s one thing to expand a shop and move to new premises in the same suburb, but it’s another thing to take on Melbourne, to take on Hong Kong…
JAN That’s true, it is another thing. But by then I had been in Cross Street for about 10 years and then Angus Logan, my youngest son, had been working in London, in the advertising industry. He came on board, came home, decided to help me out for a while. He runs the business now, since about ‘97 I think.
CHRIS Are you happy that it stayed in the family?
JAN Totally, it wouldn’t be the same, it wouldn’t have happened with anyone else. I wouldn’t have brought someone in to do that, ever. It was either family or not at all.
CHRIS And does he have a say in the design?
JAN Totally, yes absolutely.
CHRIS So things like the new collection, which I’m dripping in, which is fabulous.
JAN Thank you, it looks pretty on.
CHRIS Well thank you for loaning it to me for the interview, it’s great.
I know that you opened your Hong Kong store in the middle of the SARS outbreak, what were the cultural sensitivities with that? It would have been a bit of a nightmare.
JAN We just took some jewellery up there to one of the trade fairs and showed it to a couple of people, and we were all wearing masks at that stage. It was just an interesting time, and another challenge.
CHRIS Did you think about pulling out because of SARS?
JAN No, never. The opportunity arose and we did it.
CHRIS Is there any particular piece of jewellery that you’re wearing now that’s inspiring for you?
JAN Well as a matter of fact, there is. This particular ring here has special meaning for me, because this is the Swanson ring that we designed for a special client that has been very good to us over the years. Actually Heath Ledger inquired about this particular ring, and wanted it for Naomi Watts, and this was the only one, so off the finger it went.
I was very happy for him to have it actually. But I kept thinking, now one of these years I’d like to buy one of those. Get one back for myself. Then on a particular birthday, I think it was my 70th, towards the end of the day, Angus said “Hey come down to the shop for a minute mum, I just want you to check the front window”. So I said “OK”, so I go down, it’s the end of the day. All the jewellers were lined up in there, from upstairs in the workshop and all the staff. And they had this ‘Happy Birthday’ of course and they had this gift in a box, which was this particular ring, which Angus has engraved with my birth date on it so I can’t give it away. It’s now mine, it’s been there ever since. So that’s quite a long time actually. So it does have special meaning, yes.
CHRIS Oh, that’s a lovely story. You’re a really inspiring woman because there are so many people who have families and devote their time to their families and then wonder about whether or not they miss out on having a career, then you elected to have one and craft out this very successful business. What would you say to other women who are thinking of doing something like that?
JAN Look, I think I’d probably say, it’s never too late, that’s my message, because by the time I did open that shop in 1989 I was 50. So it just goes to show it can be done.
CHRIS I reckon that’s great advice, thanks Jan.
JAN Thank you.
See below for more of Chris Bath’s inspiring interviews
*This interview was conducted in 2015