Many brands are all too aware of the hype that can follow after a celebrity is spotted serving up looks in one of its designs. It can propel small, independent brands onto every most-wanted list – and it's even better when other celebrities get on board. Case in point: after Rihanna and Miley Cyrus fell for London-based brand Emma Brewin's fluffy outfit toppers in an array of candy colours, everyone else did too.
Earlier this summer, a Billie Eilish style account reposted one of the singer’s recent Instagram posts featuring Billie wearing an anatomical heart-shaped necklace designed by Brighton-based brand Rat Betty. Looking back, Millie Hand, the designer behind the brand, describes the moment as "amazing".
"I woke up in the morning and was like, This is so weird. We sold out of Tiny Heart [necklaces] at like 3am," Hand tells Refinery29. "We only had something like 10 in stock at the time and they sold out within minutes. Then we got a restock of about 50 and they sold out within a few hours. Ever since, they've been ticking along really well."
Brighton native Hand and her partner, Dan Tunley, working under the name Rat Betty, have been creating quirky designs in a variety of shapes and themes since 2018. From their upside-down horseshoe ring engraved with the word 'unlucky' to their Tiny Skull necklace and Hand earrings, the two have skilfully positioned themselves at the forefront of today's biggest jewellery trends, tapping into the rise in demand for silver jewellery and fun, iconographic statements.
Describing how she got into the craft, Hand says it was more of an accident than anything. "I've always loved creative stuff and wanted to find something that was my niche," she says. When Tunley signed up for a council-run woodworking course while they were both living in London six years ago, Hand decided to enrol on a course herself. "I wanted to get into pottery and they were like, 'Nah, we're full.' So I was like, 'Okay, I'll do jewellery.' And I just loved it so much."
This year, Hand and Tunley took on the brand full-time and Billie’s online support (Hand confirms that the star’s stylist had been gifted the Tiny Heart necklace) has contributed another notch of growth for them. "If there was one person that could have worn our jewellery, Billie would have been, without a doubt, the person that aligns massively with our demographic," says Hand. "She's quirky. It's just amazing."
While Billie has been wearing her Tiny Heart necklace for a while now, she’s not the only celebrity who's been spotted in Rat Betty. Over the last year, Camila Cabello, Halsey and Ashnikko have also been seen wearing Hand’s unique statement pieces. "I’d say the growth last year was our most significant. And then this year it's kind of just been getting really, steadily more," says Hand.
As for what differentiates Rat Betty from other brands, it might have something to do with its dedication to quality and sustainability. Produced end-to-end in England, all of Hand’s pieces are made from recycled silver and Fairtrade gold, with gemstones ethically sourced from a cutter who’s also based in Brighton. What's more, 10% of the brand's profits go towards the charitable organisation Giving What We Can.
"It's so strange because it was so recent that we didn't really have many orders at all," Hand says. "And just to think that people like the designs, it's just amazing. You just don't think that stuff you make will be popular."