Lisa (“Lele”) Sadoughi has one impeccable resume. Before launching her eponymous line in 2011, the Dallas native and creative genius behind J.Crew’s insanely popular jewelry line also spent time honing her talent at Tory Burch and Ippolita where she designed private label pieces for various fashion brands like Anthro and Club Monaco. That’s quite a recipe for success! Her latest collection inspired by 1950s Havana marries organic elements with vibrant colors and shapes. I’m crushing on the satellite bracelets–they’re so fabulous!
1. Havana Bib Necklace // 2. Stone Satellite Bracelet // 3. Collar Necklace // 4. Medium Stackable Bangle // 5. Spotlight Earring // 6. Satellite Bracelet // 7. Stretch Cuff // 8. Fringe Layering Necklace
I recently had the privilege of chatting with the talent behind these gorgeous baubles. Here’s what she had to say:
1) What sparked your interest in jewelry design?
I had spent 6 years designing clothing and trims before I started ever designing jewelry. Jewelry was quite new to me, and I really enjoyed the use of new materials. When working for the apparel companies, J.Crew and Tory Burch, we always began with the fabrics and prints, because the mills have the longest lead time. I therefore always started my creative process with colors, textures, and prints, which I suppose is very different from other jewelry designers. I prefer jewels over apparel because I like constructing hard pieces and experimenting with different stones and materials.
2) Where do you draw inspiration from?
I love to scour flea markets all over the world. I recently spent some time in Marrakech, Morocco digging through piles of dusty jewels in the shops throughout the souks. I also make several trips a year to the Picture Collection on the 3rd floor of the Bryant Park Library. It is the place where broken books lay to rest and you can rent out tear sheets from these battered books. I soak up anything that is grand with scale and color. This season, I was inspired by the vibrant colors and shapes from the golden age of the 1950’s in the Tropicana in Havana, Cuba.
3) You were charged with starting J. Crew’s wildly popular jewelry line followed by time at Tory Burch as Jewelry Design Director, what was it like working along side industry giants like Jenna Lyons and Tory Burch?
I was fortunate to be a part of both J. Crew and Tory Burch for a good six years combined. I worked very closely with both Jenna and Tory.
Jenna has always been good at listening to her team and hearing their ideas. It makes everyone want to work harder and be a part of something together. Mickey Drexler was also very influential and inspirational. He is a master merchandiser. He sees the next thing and spotlights it in a way that makes you want it. He has great insight and interviews every employee. You can learn a lot about your company when you talk to everyone.
I admire Tory’s individual taste. She has a point of view and knows what she likes. It is so refreshing to have worked with someone that has a clear taste and confidence in her style.
4) Who is/are your style icon(s)?
Coco Chanel. She made glass pearls and crystals cool, aspirational, and very very chic. We can’t all wear the real stuff every day!
5) What was the hardest thing about starting your own business?
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 thus far has been to wear so many hats. I have always been a designer, but now I produce, sell, negotiate, merchandise, advertise, etc.
6) Who would you love to see wearing your jewelry?
Anyone fun, loud, and not afraid to wear color.
7) What can we expect to see from Lele Sadoughi in 2014 and beyond?
More jewels, home, and maybe other accessories.
8) What advice would you give your 20 year old self?
When you work side by side with such talented people, remember it’s an opportunity you’re being given to learn from them. Always be honest with your ambitions. Tory was very supportive that I was starting my own line when working from her.
9) I’m in love with the napkin rings and place card holders, will we see Lele Sadoughi expanding into home decor or entertaining?
Yes, I am very excited to build a lifestyle surrounding my brand. Why stop at jewels for the body. Your home needs them too!
10) What accessory do you rarely leave home without?
My phone, my wedding ring, and my glasses.
11) You’re based in Manhattan, what’s your favorite place in NYC (whether to shop, eat, explore…) and why?
Perusing the flea market in Chelsea, walking through SoHo with my stroller and baby, and eating fish tacos at The Box on Bowery.
12) What advice would you give to new designers/entrepreneurs?
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…and once you venture out solo, you will have already built confidence to show your own style!
Lele Sadoughi is available at global retailers and online at www.lelesadoughi.com
Photo Credit: Lele Sadoughi