Ain’t no party like a Clogau party

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Fact: through my job, I get to go to a lot of parties, writes Rebecca Mann. Also a fact: it’s still work – though I appreciate there are worse ways to earn a living. Sometimes, events clash with personal commitments – over the years I’ve attended press launches on Mothering Sunday, my birthday, my husband’s birthday, and our wedding anniversary (twice). Very, very occasionally, I simply cannot clone myself and have to regretfully decline truly great invitations that most mortals would sell a close family member, or a kidney, to secure.

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Chairman Bill Roberts (right) officially opens the Clogau UK flagship store with wife Maggie Roberts, MD Ben Roberts and Designer Samantha Roberts

Last year’s press trip, to Barbados, to unveil the new MAC Viva Glam spokesperson Rihanna, was one such example. I repeat: Barbados. Rihanna. I KNOW. I still wake up in the dead of night whimpering over missing that one.

And just last week, due to a deadline clash, I regretfully had to decline a much-appreciated invitation to the opening of Welsh gold jewellery brand Clogau’s first UK flagship store, in St David’s Dewi Sant Shopping Centre, Cardiff. I grew up in a town called Merthyr Tydfil, about 20 miles up the road from Cardiff, so it was a double blow to miss out on a trip that would have allowed me to shoehorn in a flying visit to much-missed family and friends. More importantly, I would have liked the chance to pay tribute to Clogau’s Midas touch in travel retail, and the visionary, hard-working, engaging team who lead it, underpinned by owners the Roberts family.

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Former Royal Harpist and Brand Ambassador Claire Jones with Clogau’s Bill and Maggie Roberts at the Cardiff store opening

In November 2012 I was lucky enough to visit Clogau HQ in Bodelwyddan, North Wales and learn about how William (Bill) Roberts just happened to buy a defunct gold mine located in the wild Snowdonia mountains. Bill’s son Ben is now Clogau MD, and his sister Samantha the brand’s Creative Designer. Together with Brand Manager Sonia Menezes, New Business Development Manager APAC Artemis Kouroupaki and Head of International Sales David Butler, the Roberts family is slowly but surely turning Clogau into a key jewellery brand in travel retail. And a nicer bunch of people you couldn’t possibly hope to meet.

It also looked like one heck of a party (followed by an after-party which, I am reliably informed, went on until 5am. Respect). VIP customers, brand ambassadors, assorted media, Welsh polo team players, friends of the brand and Welsh Rugby Union players enjoyed an evening of canapés and Champagne, plus entertainment from former Royal Harpist Claire Jones.

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WRU stars Jonathan Davies and Rhys Priestland with Bill, Maggie and Ben Roberts

Four words in that last sentence splintered my heart. Welsh Rugby Union players. Yes, last Thursday, I missed the opportunity to stalk, I mean meet, WRU stars Jonathan ‘Jon’ Davies and Rhys Priestland *sobs*

Centre Davies is proper rugby class (and cute with it). A key member of the Wales side that secured back-to-back Six Nations Championships in 2012 and 2013 (the former via a Grand Slam), he also generated a teensy bit of press coverage last summer when his game-changing form prompted coach Warren Gatland to make the only sensible call and select him to play in the third, decisive test match of the British and Irish Lions tour, ahead of some past-his-prime Irish bloke called O’Driscoll. Davies played out of his skin and the Lions beat the Aussies by a resounding 41-16, to clinch the series in style (a fact which still seems to escape former Irish hooker Keith Wood, but I digress).

Scarlets (the team I named my first-born after!) fly-half Rhys Priestland was yesterday named as first-choice No 10 for Wales’s 2014 Six Nations opener against Italy. In short, rugby royalty both. I haven’t been this disappointed since we let England score those lucky three points in THAT record 30-3 win last year.

In retrospect, it’s probably a good thing I couldn’t attend the opening, as both Davies and Priestland would now doubtless be requiring therapy of one sort of another, after being extensively tackled by me for the duration of the evening (think variations of George North’s infamous Israel Folau backpack. One on each shoulder? No problem for a Mann on a mission).

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Wales Polo Association Chairman Harry Legge Bourke with Maggie and Bill Roberts

Despite my absence (or possibly because of it!) I am pleased to report that the evening was a glittering success. Ben Roberts commented: “We’re a very proud Welsh business. Cardiff is the ultimate destination for us to open our first flagship store and as such we felt that St David’s Dewi Sant is the most desirable location. We have been looking for three years to find the perfect location for our flagship store, and are thoroughly looking forward to bringing our concept and store design to St David’s, which will be our shop window to the world.”

The Cardiff store continues the brand’s expansion plans and follows the successful opening of Clogau’s Beijing and Shenzhen, China stores in 2013. Further openings in the Middle East and Asia are set to bolster Clogau’s international presence in 2014 and beyond.

Last week, however, was all about Clogau in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, and a fitting showcase for a brand that is imbued from top to toe with a unique and distinctive Welsh Sense of Place.

If I’m lucky enough to receive an invitation to the next store opening, I will be there, come hell or waters high. I’m crossing my fingers that Leigh Halfpenny and Mike Phillips will be too…

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