To tens of thousands of women throughout the world, Lise Aagaard is a fashion icon.
Aagaard is the founder of the Danish jewellery company, Trollbeads, and the inventor of the original bead-on-bracelet concept that has taken the world of fashion accessories by storm. She is also a trailblazer in the world of business, a woman who defied the dominance of men in her industry in the ‘70s and beyond, to become chairmen and creative director of an international company.
Aagaard is arriving in Australia in January, a whirlwind tour by a busy woman to celebrate the brand’s success in Australia. Her story is an inspiration, not just to women but to all with a passion, an idea and a dream. She was born into a family of jewellers, so she grew up surrounded by its artistry and materials. Encouraged by her family to pursue her dream of running her own jewellery business, Aagaard opened a small store in Copenhagen in Denmark in 1976.
Today, she has grown that business into an international company with over 4,000 stores around the world, its remarkable growth stemming from an initial bead that Lise’s brother, Søren, designed back in the 1970’s. His first bead was a small sterling silver bead decorated with no less than 6 Troll faces. The bead was cleverly designed to show a face however you look at it and sold from his father’s jewellery shop in central Copenhagen. Sven Nielsen, their father, was a trained jeweller and pottery maker and loved pushing the boundaries when it came to creating jewellery which is where the family received their training.
The first beads were created at a time where it was fashionable to have a silver bead hanging on a leather thong around the neck. But instead of letting the bead hang in an eyelet, Søren wanted to let the leather cord go through the bead. It was Lise who then began to put the beads on silver bracelets – one bead on each bracelet which customers adored and Trollbeads was born.
Part of its success is that it has never stood still. “We are a very creative, productive company and we don’t stop with ideas. We test them out, discard them, rethink them, stash them away, dust them off and talk about them all over again,” Aagaard says.
Here in Australia, the brand has a loyal following with thousands of dedicated collectors, many of which actively post their one of a kind, customised creations that they are excited to share on social media.
Trollbeads’ product is also unique. Each bead has its own history – taking its inspiration from mythology, astrology, fairy tales, fauna, spirituality, cultural diversity or the familiar things of everyday living. Every glass bead is individually handmade from red-hot glass in the open flame and no two Trollbeads are ever completely alike. This process alone takes over 24 hours to create just one bead.
This has built a vast collection of Trollbeads fans. The jewellery’s quality is another foundation for the company’s success. Only the highest quality raw materials are used – 18-karat gold, sterling silver, Italian glass from Murano, freshwater pearls, amber and precious stone with more than 60 designers having contributed to the Trollbeads collection to date. Trollbeads has also won international artistic recognition and has been exhibited at Sculpture Objects & Functional Art in Chicago and New York.
This dedication to individuality, part of Aagaard’s vision for her company, is one of the elements that has elevated her to the top tier of women leaders in business and made her a glowing example of success for others.
What advice would she give to other women leaders? “I have five management pieces of advice,” she says.
1.) Four is too much and two is not enough.
2.) Be a good role model and know that everything is temporary, be open to change.
3.) Respect people, let your ears be bigger than your mouth.
4.) Know that you must manage yourself before you venture into managing others. Curiosity and asking questions are much more important than knowing. What you know you know, (and you may be wrong).
5.) Timing is everything, so if something didn’t fly right away, and it is still a good idea, try it one more time.
Lise has always been a source of inspiration to the company’s growing Aussie female collectors and promises it won’t be too long before she pays another visit to Trollbeads’ flagship Chapel Street store in Melbourne.