Amanda Waterstone Carthy Interview
I was so happy to be featured in the lovely online magazine sixtyplusurfers. Here is the full interview!
Amanda Waterstone Carthy, QueenMee
Interview by Jenny Itzcovitz, Editor, Sixtyplusurfers
Amanda Waterstone Carthy is the founder of the fabulous hair accessories store, QueenMee. I discovered the range at the start of the pandemic when I wanted to find a pretty hair claw to put up my hair, and loved it so much that I returned to the shop to buy gifts for my friends. I caught up with Amanda to find out how she created her beautiful collection, what inspired her, and to get some top tips for styling your hair and looking great in the Spring.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and where you come from?
“I live in leafy Buckinghamshire, on the Thames, but I grew up in London, and still see myself as a Londoner at heart.
“At home, I’m surrounded by beautiful countryside, which I find inspires my work. However I still feel connected to London, and love the fact that the river that’s so close to my home runs into London.
“As a teenager in London I loved the mix of people and backgrounds. I spent a good deal of time trawling markets for amazing vintage finds in places like Kensington Market, and so my love of fashion and accessories began!”
When did you create QueenMee? And how did it get its name?
“QueenMee came to life, when my eldest daughter turned one. I needed to tie my long hair up, for the first time, as it was so physically demanding being a mum. I was disappointed with the range of hair accessories I could find. I wanted something glamorous to wear in my hair, but I could only find basic choices in black or brown.
“I had a background in jewellery design, and so I set about putting a collection of hair accessories together that was based on the sparkle and colour of jewellery details.
“Why ‘QueenMee’? – Well a crown can come in lots of different shapes and sizes! I want my customers to feel fabulous and confident in my pieces. To believe in their own personal style, and to feel good on the inside too, as they are supporting charity while they shop. QueenMee helps you be the queen of every day.”
Who inspired you to set up QueenMee, and where did you learn about fashion, hairstyles and jewellery?
“My business inspiration has come largely from my father, Tim Waterstone. As a child, I watched him build up Waterstone’s booksellers from scratch.
“My earliest memory of Waterstone’s is helping to hoover out the shop windows of the first South Kensington store just before it opened for the initial day of trading. I was seven.
“I remember the huge grin my father came home with too, when he spotted a passenger with a Waterstone’s carrier bag on the tube for the very first time. It was all so exciting.
“In the Hampstead store a few years later, I did some work experience there, and had the pleasure of helping Yoko Ono buy a book. The thrill of opening a shop, getting to know your customers, having a deep passion for the product, and building a business around that. All this inspired me and riveted me.
“Where did I learn about fashion, hairstyles and jewellery? That definitely wasn’t from my Dad!
“My childhood in London sparked my love of fashion, and even of interesting hairstyles, as I was fascinated by the colourful punk hairstyles on King’s Road in the 1980s.
“For as long as I can remember I have had a particular passion for accessories, as I love all the styling opportunities they bring. A chance to inject your own signature style into your look.
“I studied English at UCL in London, but then went on to do an Accessories Design Course at London College of Fashion, which fuelled my passion, and made me determined to create my own accessories label.
“Before starting QueenMee I ran jewellery boutiques with an old school friend, and we had fantastic store locations in Chelsea, Convent Garden and St Christopher’s Place. I oversaw all the jewellery design and had the valuable opportunity of talking to customers face to face in the boutiques.
“I gained a firm understanding of the importance of customer service and grew to appreciate what customers really wanted in their jewellery designs. Sparkles were very important, and customers loved stones cut with a deeply glamorous finish.
“This experience was so valuable in setting up QueenMee, as I had an understanding that customers would enjoy a similar, glamorous look in hair accessories. I also knew, from seeing my customers shopping in the boutiques, just how special brooches can be, for a gift, or as a treat to oneself.”
Setting up a new business can be daunting. How did you build the business and source the products?
“Yes it can be daunting setting up a new business, but the wonderful thing about selling online on marketplaces like Amazon or Etsy, is that you can start with just one design.
“That’s exactly what I did with QueenMee. I sourced one design that I felt strongly customers would love, and then went from there. I was lucky to be able to draw on my jewellery background with the sourcing, but nowadays with the internet, it’s much easier than it was to find great manufacturers.
“I started with just £50 and the business has grown and grown from there. My advice to anyone thinking about selling online is to go for it – there are so many opportunities out there, and you can start with very little capital, as I did.
“I now send out thousands of orders a year, having started with just a handful of hairclips. It has been an incredible journey so far, and I feel so blessed. I’m excited about where QueenMee will go next too!”
Can you tell us a bit about your range of hair accessories and what the full QueenMee range includes?
“Being inspired by the beautiful wild flowers and trees near my Buckinghamshire home, I love to include floral and leaf designs in the collection.
“The collection also draws on elements of vintage and costume, which have been a part of my upbringing in London. Details such as enamel work, pearls, feathers and gold trim are all materials that I love to include, as they have a rich history in vintage jewellery and costume.
“The full QueenMee range is broad, and includes hair ties, hair clips and hair slides, warm headbands for winter walks, padded headbands, chain headbands, tiaras, bohemian and 1920s headdresses, basically all sorts of flamboyant pieces to wear on your head, and unleash your inner Queen!
“I added brooches into the range last year, and they have been a wonderful addition, as they are the perfect gift to send to a friend at the moment, to lift them with a little sparkle.
“I view every order I send out as a gift - either for a friend or loved one; or for the woman who buys as a well-deserved treat for herself! I personally gift wrap every single order, and love to add ribbons, tissue and organza pouches to make the recipient feel like a queen.
“I have a small children’s range too, which I am really excited to be growing this year. My little girls are so into sparkle, I had to create a range for them!”
What are the hair and fashion trends for Spring 2021? Are there any colours, styles, shapes and new products to look out for?
“I’m excited about Spring 2021, as there are going to be some wonderful, optimistic colours out there, and I love colour! Bright pastels such as yellow and orange will be popular, and definitely pink.
“QueenMee has a new statement headband for this season in sunny yellow, and two new headpieces in pink that I’m looking forward to sharing with customers.
“Padded headbands will remain popular – they are such great pieces as they give you an optical face lift (more on this later!)
“I’m particularly excited about a new, pink Gatsby inspired feather headpiece that will launch later this season. It’s the perfect hedonistic piece for all the parties we will hopefully be enjoying later this year!”
Putting a beautiful clip in your hair and wearing a sparkly brooch can really lift your spirits in these difficult times. What products would you recommend for someone who needs a bit of sparkle and cheering up?
“Butterflies are a symbol of hope and change, and so it always makes me feel optimistic when I wear a butterfly motif. The QueenMee collection includes butterfly brooches, as well as hair clips, so whatever your style you should be able to find a piece to work for you and lift your spirits.
“Colours are so important too in lifting our spirits. For a lovely hit of sparkle and colour, try our large butterfly brooch in pink. You can wear it to enliven an old scarf, or a favourite coat.
“If you enjoy wearing hair clips, then our butterfly hair clip with yellow pearls could be the perfect pick-me-up. Yellow is one of our colours for this season – the colour of optimism, and the sparkling crystal on the butterfly works with the yellow like an effervescent tonic to lift your spirits!”
What hair accessories would you recommend for someone with short or fine hair?
“Hair slides have been on-trend for a while, and the look is set to continue for 2021. They are perfect for short, or fine hair, as they can work with a small amount of hair. You can wear them behind your ear, or above; singly or in a pair.
“With fine hair (like mine), I have found the best hair accessory of all to be a statement headband. They work beautifully for short hair too. They allow your hair to act as a blank canvas for your choice of colour or gems.
“Your statement headband will make you look put-together and glamorous, and there’s no need to worry about styling your hair too much, you just brush and go, if you have fine hair, or short hair.”
I love putting my hair up in a bun. Can you suggest a stylish way to put your hair up for easy glamour?
“Low buns look very glamorous when they are secured asymmetrically, behind one ear, and it’s a very easy look to achieve.
“A really neat trick for long hair, is just to use a hair elastic, and tie the hair in a pony-tail, low, behind one ear. Next, twist the hair in two sections, then wrap round in a bun and secure with a clip.
“Et voilà, you have a rather glamorous hair updo. There’s a styling video for this look on my website to make it a bit easier to envisage!”
Covid has meant that I haven’t been able to go to the hairdresser for a long time! What would you recommend to keep my hair tidy and easy to manage around the home?
“Lockdown hair has been a killer to our confidence, hasn’t it! Pretty hair accessories are a great way to help you tie back hair that’s longer than you’re used to, and to feel good about it.
“Hair claws are perfect for securing overgrown hair. They have a laid-back feel to them, as you can tie the hair back into a messy bun, and they pull the look together.
“At QueenMee we love hair claws in a rainbow of colours to cheer you up too. Our claws feature green, red, pink and sky blue gems, so you can feel tidy, but also bright and sparkling.”
FaceTime and Zoom are a great way to keep in touch with family and friends. What would you suggest to help our readers look great when they are doing a video call?
“Statement headbands definitely come into their own on a Zoom call. They frame your face and introduce clearly visible colour and sparkle to liven up your call.
“Owning a few statement headbands in your favourite colours, is like having quick beauty tricks up your sleeve. Padded headbands for example, with their extra height, conveniently draw the eye upwards to create an optical face lift!
“If you have shoulder length hair or longer, then earrings, a brooch or a necklace might not be visible on a call, as the gems might get covered by your hair. I have found this personally - you don’t want to be moving your hair around so your friends can see your jewellery!
“However a statement headband will always be nicely visible. I like to team mine with bright lipstick to complete the look, and bring a little on-screen cheer.”
I find that wearing light makeup and doing my hair every day is a great way of feeling positive and confident whether I’m staying in or going out. Do you have any hair or beauty tips you can share?
“I agree that wearing a little make up, and styling your hair makes the world of difference to your outlook.
“I have found that gorgeous smells in the morning give me a boost – a favourite shower gel, and a spritz of some Jo Malone scent, create lovely sensory moments to set me up in a good frame of mind for the day.
“I team the fragrant smells with a touch of sparkle, somewhere in my outfit for the day! I love to wear one of my sparkly winter headbands on my daily walk, or just a single sparkly clip or hair slide, gifts me a little lift whenever I catch sight of it.
“Occasionally I go all-out and wear a flamboyant feather hair clip for some full-on lockdown lift, (much to my husband’s amusement) but that’s just me!”
One of the reasons that I like shopping with QueenMee is that 5% of every single penny that is spent on your products goes to charity. Can you tell us more about this and your chosen charities?
“With pleasure! I personally love to be able to enjoy shopping in all its fun and frivolity and give to charity at the same time. I am a fan of charity shops for this reason; I get to indulge my inner Queen and feel fabulous about it.
“With QueenMee I want to be able to give customers the opportunity to shop from a site that makes them feel sparkling and fabulous (we all need to be kind to ourselves), but that also enables them to help others at the same time.
“I am passionate about this vision, and it makes me jump out of bed in the mornings and want to get straight to work!
“I’m excited to be partnering with a new charity for 2021, the Wonder Foundation. Their mission is to empower women, girls and their communities, through access to quality education, so that they can exit poverty for good. They work on projects all around the world, as well as in the UK.
“As the mother of two daughters, I want to help girls around the globe who are not given the access to education that my daughters are.
“This is a cause close to my heart, as I am very grateful for the education that I received. My education has given me choices and given me the confidence to start QueenMee.
“I believe all women and girls deserve to have choices, and to have the chance to exit poverty, through the empowerment education brings.
“I’m very grateful to my customers, who raise money for good causes by shopping on QueenMee – it’s a team effort!
“5% of every single penny that is spent on my website QueenMee goes to the Wonder Foundation. I’m also excited to be working on one or two special charity accessories, where £5 of every piece purchased will go to Wonder. Watch this space!”
Do you have a special message for Sixtyplusurfers readers?
“There is a confident, kind and radiant Queen inside of you. Let her flourish in QueenMee!