Today is a big day on AiW as I get the chance to interview jewelry designer Lele Sadoughi. I only became aware of her line in the past couple of years, or so I thought. Come to find out I’ve actually been wearing several of the pieces she designed for J.Crew while in charge of their jewelry division. Before we get to the interview, I’d like to first add a little background information on this amazing lady.
After speaking with Lele I was surprised to find out she actually grew up in Dallas. (My corner of the world.) She studied at the University of Texas in Austin and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. From there she developed her aesthetic while creating jewels for companies like Anthropologie and Tory Burch. Between 2006 and 2011, she gained recognition by launching the J.Crew jewelry division and in 2012 debuted her eponymous collection. The collection is now carried at stores like Intermix, Le Bon Marché, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, and hundreds of brick-and-mortar and online stores worldwide.
And now a couple questions…
Were you always interested in jewelry design? How did you get your start?
I was fortunate to work for some great companies and build relationships with people that could help me grow and learn. I had spent 6 years designing clothing and trims before I started designing jewelry. As a trim designer at Rebecca Taylor, I started to focus on all the details, like buttons, ribbons, and laces that are involved in an outfit. Jewelry was a natural evolution from trims as I really began to enjoy thinking about the construction of details. I later designed private label for many lines including Club Monaco, Banana Republic, and Neiman Marcus before I had the opportunity to launch the jewelry at J Crew and build the business for 5 years. When I was starting my own jewelry collection, I had another opportunity to direct the jewelry design at Tory Burch. Now, I devote my full time to Lele Sadoughi, as it has grown tremendously and we are about to celebrate our fourth year.
What do you draw on for inspiration?
I’m inspired by a place and a time. I like to create a world based on the architecture, paintings, and feelings of an era. I am a very visual person, so I love to look through images of historical costumes and jewels. I start out by sketching an idea and eventually have to add measurements and details when thinking about the construction and fit. Lastly, I decide the stone color and start to merchandise what groups should sit together, so I have a pleasing palette for each season. Usually, I find a piece of art with an inspiring color composition as a base for my collection. This season, I was inspired by prehistoric flora and fauna and looked at fossils, shells, and earthy colored stones like malachite, sandstone, and rose fourite.
What has been the biggest surprise when it comes to designing your own line?
I spent a lot of time thinking about the feeling of my line. Once I actually got the pencil to the paper, I knew what I wanted to create. I was fortunate to work for big companies that exposed me to great manufacturers to make the things I wanted to create. My biggest challenge has been to wear so many hats. I have always been a designer, but now I produce, sell, negotiate, merchandise, and brainstorm marketing campaigns.
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to start their own line?
I was fortunate to work for some great companies and build relationships with people that can help me grow and learn. It is important to follow by example and surround yourself with the best. Test out your skills and take your time honing the craft. Once you start on your own, you will have built confidence to show your own style.
When I was designing the jewelry at J Crew, I remember Mickey Drexler would interview every employee. He once said he could learn something from everybody. I realized that an interview could be just as beneficial for the employee as the employer. Take the time to learn from those around you.
Favorite pieces for going into summer?
When it is warmer outside, I wear less. This season, I made so many fun pendants. I have been wearing the golden pagoda pendant the most because I love the way it moves and shakes when I walk. I have also been wearing the crystal lily earrings in all colors for any evening occasion. They are super lightweight and I love clip-on earring backs.
Thank you Lele for spending some time with us here on AiW and I’m so excited to giveaway TWO pieces which you may recognize from my recent San Juan vacation. The crystal lily necklace and crystal lily earrings have easily become my favorite summer statement pieces. I love how they can be dressed up or down. They simply take any outfit to the next level.
Lele Sadoughi Crystal Lily Necklace and Earring Giveaway
Good luck to everyone who enters and let me know in the comments which piece from her collection is your favorite!