Designer Profiles

Q&A: Miranda Bennett of Miranda Bennett Studio

By Julia Cardi

Miranda Bennett editorial

Editorial photograph from Miranda’s website. Photo by Jackie Lee Young.

If Miranda Bennett could go back to when she was first designing clothes and tell herself one thing she wishes she’d known, she would remind herself that there’s no one right way of doing things.

Everything she learned in fashion school directed her toward working in the framework of the industry’s biggest names, with independent lines surviving on the edges of the industry. Miranda knew a highly corporate environment wasn’t for her, so her career as a designer has been defined by searching for what feels right for her, and through experience Miranda has gained confidence in the validity of her decisions.

For Miranda, finding her true north meant moving home to Austin after several years of having a clothing line in New York and checking off her career goals. She took time off and began experimenting with plant-based dyes without any pressure of what she might eventually turn the project into, and her desire to make clothing began to renew.

She’s grown the result, Miranda Bennett Studio, into a consciously produced women’s clothing line using plant dyes and all-natural fibers, produced by an all-woman team in Austin. In advance of Thursday’s trunk show at Goldyn, Miranda took time to chat about the versatility of her clothing, the importance of empowering women, and the perfect white T-shirt.

Describe the ideal person who wears the line.

I found that our customer ranges from teenagers to women in their 80s. And I think because it is a very versatile aesthetic, it really lends itself to all different kinds of people that want to style and wear these pieces in a way that makes them the focal point, or that allows them the versatility to, let’s say, wear it with a different type of accessory … in order to make it really suit who they are and what their aesthetic is.

With your current clothing line, what did you feel like was missing from lines already out there that you’re trying to fulfill with yours?

I would say it was having the versatility of a garment that could really journey with me from day to evening. For a long time when I first moved back to Austin I would ride my bike everywhere, or I did freelance work styling, which was very physical. And there was something I really was missing in the clothing that was available to me, in the sense that I couldn’t find things I could move freely in [and] do all of the different things I would do in a day, but then also feel confident to then transition into having dinner or drinks or going to an opening after work without always having the opportunity to go home and kind of hit reset.

And also just having something that I felt could be a go-to piece, no matter what my size [was] or where I was in the course of a month, or just as other parts of my life were sort of shifting around.

I had pieces that I loved from a more aspirational standpoint. But I was really hoping to see things that were super versatile without feeling too basic.

Tell me about the decision to use plant dyes and all-natural fibers.

I’ve always actually worked just with natural fibers, because for me, well, from both an aesthetic and personal preference, I like the feel, the breathability, and just the natural origin of natural fibers. I’d had a more traditional clothing line in New York, and when I moved back to Austin, which is where I’m originally from, I took time off of having my line and having any sort of commercial pressure from that project.

I got an artist studio in a place here in town, and I started to self-educate with plant-based dyes, more just from a “getting my hands back in the process” motivation.

And then as I started to work further with it, my desire to make clothing kind of re-emerged. And having the process and the ability to come up with colors that doing small-scale batch size was giving me, I found really inspiring and motivating. The idea of sort of bringing that to play in scale for a clothing collection was a very interesting and fun challenge for me to consider.

It’s definitely a challenge; it’s not the easiest thing that you can do – put dyeing to scale. It’s neither cheap nor simple, but I think the end result is really beautiful and special.

How do you resist the pressure within the fashion industry to come out with several collections per year (pre-fall, resort, pre-spring, etc.)?

My initial desire with the collection was actually not even to consider our releases in terms of the typical seasons. In a perfect world, I would just be releasing things as [the team] came up with formulas, or found a new fabric we loved, or a new style.

But for me, it’s just aligning with those two seasons has kind of been the compromise on that because we have to meet our buyers where they are and play fair with the overall system that we exist within. But we actually offer our collection to buyers in a bit of an atypical format because we produce here with a local team and can do things year-round. We give deliveries that allow to basically meet all of those different market cycles, so people that meet us at market twice a year, we’re actually delivering to them throughout the season.

Describe the perfect white T-shirt.

I struggle with T-shirts. I often find that the neck is too high, so usually if it’s me wearing it, I would just immediately be stretching the neck out with my hands or cutting the ring off altogether.

Definitely something with a lower, kind of easier neck. A really light weight, feels like it’s been washed a million times. In general, I don’t wear a lot of jersey, because I don’t like things that are clingy. So something that has a little bit of a looser, easier drape. Definitely 100 percent cotton, or I love a linen knit, if I am going to wear a knit.


Miranda Bennett (far left) and her team in Austin. Photo by Leah Muse.

What about having an all-woman team is important to you?

I was raised in the company of women – single mom, sisters. A lot of the mentors that I’ve had have been women. It wasn’t my conscious decision; it’s not that I wouldn’t hire a man.

I looked around one day, though, and I realized that just naturally that was the makeup of my team. I honestly am just blown away all the time by the strength and dynamic nature and the versatility of the women that I work with.

I think often in the workplace, women are underpaid, undervalued and are not brought up to ask for the things that men are brought up to ask for. So in another sense, this for me feels like a really exciting opportunity to empower and create positions for women.

Click here to shop Miranda Bennett Studio at Goldyn, and come by the store Thursday from 4-7 p.m. to check out even more styles and meet Miranda herself.

Designer Profile: Pamela Love

In (eager) anticipation of Pamela Love’s jewelry trunk show at Goldyn this Saturday, August 8th, my thoughts on her Instagram as major life goals, the piece I’m dying to add to my own jewelry box, and a peek at her new collection.

by Julia Cardi

Pamela Love’s Instagram page is a moodboard of serious #Lifespo, made up of tempting photos of her jewelry, interspersed with enviable travel shots to awaken anyone’s wanderlust and snaps of Pamela herself, a waifish woman with a chiseled face and intense stare made for the Instagram age.

Pamela Love. Photo: Skye Parrott

Pamela Love. Photo: Skye Parrott

But the page is more than just a beautiful edit in itself. It’s an extension of the earthy-edgy aesthetic of the Pamela Love line and paints a story of the woman who wears it – bohemian-spirited but refined, a little raw but with an affinity for the finer things, and modern and easygoing all the way through. Her pieces are at once tame enough for everyday and yet so thoughtful in their design that they’re made for a wearer who knows how to make herself feel like a million bucks.

Frida ear jacket. Photo credit: Instagram

Frida ear jacket. Photo: Instagram   (@pamelalovenyc)

For me, the piece to dream about is the Frida ear jacket. A luminous opal stud backed by three diamond-encrusted gold feathers, it’s the type of must-have showstopper to persuade me that paycheck (or several) it may take didn’t mean that much to me anyway. I don’t believe in love at first sight when it comes to men, but I’m not nearly as cynical when it comes to jewelry – Frida has me hook, line and sinker. I suspect the same story of every woman who’s taken with the line – whichever Pamela Love piece claims her heart, the infatuation is immediately gripping and deeply visceral. 

Talon cuffs

Talon cuffs. Photo: Instagram  (@pamelalovenyc)

Pamela Love’s eponymous jewelry line started out of her Brooklyn apartment in 2006, and since then has seen a meteoric rise with attention from the likes of Vanity Fair, Elle, and Interview, even snapping up the CFDA award for Accessory Design in 2013. Her passion for other art forms, such as painting and sculpture, has an osmotic influence on her jewelry, and she approaches the craft as an art form. Nature and tribal themes take center stage in her designs; arrowheads, celestial bodies, feathers, snakes and talons are some of her most prolific motifs.

Pamela’s Fall 2015 collection, titled Sueño – Spanish for “dream” – lifts themes from traditional American Southwest designs and Mexican art, particularly the work of Frida Kahlo. The eagle is one standout adornment. In Pamela’s own words, it symbolizes “strength, freedom, and supreme vision” (source: The Denver Post).

It’s this collection of dreams she brings to Goldyn this Saturday for her can’t-miss trunk show from 1-7 PM. Come for a meet-and-greet with Pamela, and of course, champagne and treats. While you’re here, get tattooed by Minka Sicklinger or Denver’s own Patrick “Fish” King from a selection of amazing custom designs, all inspired by the Sueño collection. As always, Goldyn is where the party is.

Click here to view tattoo designs available from Minka Sicklinger, and email for an appointment. Click here for designs from Patrick “Fish” King, and email for appointments. Space for both artists is limited.

All photos property of Pamela Love.

Thursday, June 4th: Fine-Jewelry Trunk Show from Selin Kent

by Julia Cardi

Our grown-up love of shiny things gets put to the test this Thursday, June 4th with Selin Kent’s trunk show at Goldyn. Stop by from 5-8pm for sips, nibbles, and an array of decadent baubles. Since launching her namesake jewelry line in 2013, Selin has expanded from rings and earrings into creating necklaces and bracelets, for a prolific portfolio with as much minimalistic, architectural feel and cool-girl cred as her first collection.

A proud owner of the Koko and Eva rings, along with the Charlotte mini studs in black gold and diamonds, I have a still-growing collection of Selin’s pieces that has become as ubiquitous to my every day as leaving the house with my wallet and keys. Though sliding on the rings often happens while dashing out the door because I’m always late, it still has a ritualistic feeling, like I’m suiting up in armor to take on the day. The pieces have become more than just a part of every outfit; as with all special jewelry, they’re an extension of me. So I invite you to come by Thursday to find that missing part of you.

Click here to shop Goldyn’s current selection of Selin Kent pieces. But come Thursday, there will be so much more to drool over!

I AM / Elyse Rainbolt

Elyse Rainbolt’s name conjures up images of a mystical woman dressed in flowing silks, dancing and twirling to the beat of a drummer that only she can hear.  Best of all is that this ethereal woman is indeed Elyse’s real life persona, spot on.  Elyse is a free spirit in the truest sense of the word.  I can’t quite place exactly when or where she and I first met a couple years back, but suffice it to say I’ve been intrigued by her pixie-like beauty ever since.  Elyse also happens to be a highly skilled artist and designer, hand painting silks and masterfully sewing her own leather and fur creations.  She and I initially connected over a shared love of both fashion and music, which has been a central wellspring for her work.  The more I get to know this otherworldly woman, the more I want to know.  Read on in our interview below and I think you’ll feel the same.

Elyse wears her own hand painted silk top and scarf, along with a diamond and antler necklace and enamel evil eye bangle by The Woods.

Elyse welcomes us to her new home and studio

Elyse welcomes us to her new home and studio.  Photography by Sara Ford.

Goldyn:  You work with some very interesting mediums for design that require a high level of skill to make… how did you know that was your calling?

Elyse:  I’ve always loved fur coats; most in my collection are vintage and I’ve always dreamed of making my own fur designs. In old sketch books I’ve recently found notes of making fur and leather garments from over five years ago. Furrier trade is a very small, dying industry. In 1880 there were 2,500 furriers in America, today there are 45 people with that profession and I am proud to be one of them. It’s a very laborious trade and I’m thrilled to have been learning it from a master furrier for the past three years. I’ve also been sewing since I was 10 and always making or modifying my own clothes. With the technical know-how I now have, I’m looking forward to designing for musicians and creating capsule collections for boutiques. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my time.

Snippet from Elyse's sketchbook

Snippet from Elyse’s sketchbook

Goldyn:  What influences your work?

Elyse:  I’m influenced constantly by music. I can listen to one album, or one song for weeks on end. Music creates a dreamscape for me that inspires me to create and make. If I’m low on energy the right song will give me the boost to stay up all night and make something awesome. A song, a band, a musician, provides me with so much joy and love that the only way I can express and interpret that sound is by hand painting silk, or making an outfit that creates the vibe//era I’m hearing. I don’t think I’d have the garments I made now if it wasn’t for music.

Look at Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin, or Pink Floyd in the sixties or the Rolling Stones. They had a look that went with their sound. I want to create that for my contemporaries. I love seeing live music and love when the band puts on a good show -and are dressed to the nines. I don’t think enough bands are bringing it to the stage today, and I want to create looks for them that compliment their sound and their own style, just next level.

I am also influenced by 1930s films and love the looks of Jean Harlow and Busby Dames.

I’d say I am driven to create looks that aren’t available everywhere. A good swim suit. A perfect leather jacket. And fun one-of-a-kind pieces.

Detail of Elyse's hand painted scarf, made for an LCD Soundsystem show

Detail of Elyse’s hand painted scarf, made for an LCD Soundsystem show

Goldyn:  How does what you do for a living influence your own style?

Elyse:  I have unlimited access to fur and leather sewing machines and a great work space. That’s allowed me to create new looks for myself as inspiration arises. This past year my goal has been to make everything I wear, and to step away from my massive vintage collection and think about core looks I want and can’t find anywhere. I’m usually in a hand painted silk top, striped leggings, my silver motorcycle jacket with hand painted lining, carrying my leather bag and wearing my kiln fired glass jewelry. This coming year I hope to create more fur and leather goods, swim suits and hand painted textiles for myself and fashionable audiophiles.

Dance moves

Dance moves

Goldyn:  How would you define your style in a nutshell?

Elyse:  I would define my style as debonaire super sophisticate, Art Deco rocker from the sixties with a modern timeless edge.

Goldyn:  What’s your favorite decade and why?

Elyse:  My favorite decade is the 1960s for sure. The music, fashion, film and creativity that burgeoned from that decade is still relevant today and has shaped my whole design aesthetic.

Two coats made by Elyse

Two coats made by Elyse

Goldyn:  What’s your favorite piece that you’ve designed?

Elyse:  My favorite piece that I have designed is my tabbard dress I hand painted especially for Psych Fest this past week. Next would be my silver motorcycle jacket I made last October – that was a dream in the works that took four years to come to fruition. After that it would be my handpainted silk jacket styled after Chris Jagger’s jackets he hand made for Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, and his brother Mick Jagger. But honestly, each new piece I make I think is my best work, and I’m really looking forward to creating a small line this year and custom pieces for musicians.

Goldyn:  If you could be anyone at any time, who would your fantasy self be (famous or just made up!) and what would she be doing?

Elyse:  If I could be anyone in history at any time, I would be myself, but born in 1948 London so I could catch the whole swinging sixties and dance with David Bowie, and go to every concert of every band from that decade. Woodstock. I was there. 😉

Swirling silks

Swirling silks

Goldyn:  I know you’ve worked with musicians in the past doing custom clothing…Any wild stories?

Elyse:  I’ve been very blessed to create custom pieces for musicians I admire and am influenced by. This year has a few exciting projects for me (but it’s too soon to talk about).

Some of my most memorable experiences have begun at an early age. At 17 I met Robert Plant. At 18 I met Paul McCartney’s whole band and stayed a week at his guitarist’s house in LA. At 22 I was fortunate enough to meet one of my favorite songwriters of all time, Donovan. At 26 I created some silk art pieces for Kraftjerkz, and stayed with Tom Tom Club in their lovely home where my art is on display. Most recently I designed a custom scarf for Charlotte Kemp-Muhl in January, and was pleasantly surprised to find myself on GOASTT’s tour van on the way to Austin Psych Fest just a week ago, thanks to my friend & musician Jared Samuel of Invisible Familiars. It’s been very surreal to interact with those creatives that sonically inspire me, and I’m looking forward to the next adventure.

Chatting out front

Chatting out front

Goldyn:  Your hand tattoo is beautiful, and appears to have some significant meaning…. Can you tell me a bit more about it?

Elyse:  One if my favorite movies of all time is Logan’s Run. It’s a 1970s SciFi flick starting Michael York, Jenny Agutter, and Farrah Fawcett. It takes place in in a dystopian society of the distant future where no one marries, no one works, and every pleasure is there to be had, but no one lives past the age of 30. Logan (Michael York) is a Sandman. His job is to make sure no one escapes the city when it’s time to carrousel, and renew. Everyone has a life clock in the palm of their hand and when it starts flashing, it’s their time to go. Except some people don’t want to renew, and want to leave the city and find sanctuary. Those people are called Runners.

After Logan kills a Runner he turns their belongings in to the computer. An ankh is one of the items – a symbol of sanctuary. Logan is told to identify himself by placing his life clock on the scanner. The computer then turns 26 year-old Logan into a 30 year-old with a flashing red palm. He is then instructed to find sanctuary and destroy it. Logan is now forced to become a Runner, hence, Logan’s Run.

Anyway, I’ve always loved the film, and last summer I realized that I’d been thinking about getting a palm tattoo for over 14 years and that if I got it for my 30th birthday it would be too late, so last summer I called up my friend and got an appointment for my Logan’s Run 30th birthday palm tat. It’s my first and only tattoo (so far) and symbolic of many things to me, plus my favorite movie.

Logan's Run tattoo

Logan’s Run tattoo

Goldyn:  Any words for girls growing up today about style?

Elyse:  Be yourself. Don’t be afraid of standing out from the crowd or looking different from your friends. If you want to dress like it’s 1991, go for it. My style in high school was Twiggy on the way to a Beatles concert. EVERY DAY. My clothes expressed my interests and what I wished more people would wear. Growing up in a small town didn’t make it easy to be accepted fashion-wise, but once you start dressing how you feel and figure out what you’re into, you will be light years ahead of your peers that wait until they’re older to try a new look or really know what they love. Plus you will get to look back on your youth as a time when you could really be free to express yourself through fashion and can get away with a lot more avant garde looks. If you can’t find what you want to wear, make it. Learn to sew, buy vintage, and have fun.

Designer Profile: Hillary Taymour of Collina Strada

Brand designer Hillary Taymour.

Brand designer Hillary Taymour at Milk Studios. Photo: Katie McCurdy.

by Julia Cardi

Ahead of the upcoming Collina Strada trunk show at Goldyn, I had the chance to chat with the brand’s New York-transplanted designer Hillary Taymour about her smartly designed lines of edgy-feminine clothing and quietly sophisticated handbags.

The clothing’s blending of tough leather and delicately sheer fabrics creates an aesthetic as three-dimensional as the woman who wears it, and both it and the functionality-centric handbags speak of a wearer who’s modern and practical, yet still knows the power of telling a story with how she dresses. Here are Hillary’s thoughts on those women, her interpretation of juxtaposition, and setting Collina Strada apart with label-free bags.

Where did the name of the line, Collina Strada, come from?

Collina Strada is just a name that I liked. “Collina” means “hill” in Italian, and “strada” means “road”, but it doesn’t translate. I just didn’t want [the line] to be named after me; it’s my first line, and I thought it would be better that way.

How has the timeline of your line unfolded?

I designed menswear for a brand while I was in fashion school [at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in LA], and also was an assistant designer until 2009. Then I started the Collina Strada bags; the clothes didn’t come into play until the Spring/Summer 2012 season. I launched my new homeware line Social + Studies ( this Autumn/Winter 2015 season.

The first bag Hillary designed for Collina Strada, the

The first bag Hillary designed for Collina Strada, the “Ferra”.

Since your handbag line came before the clothing, what prompted you to start designing bags?

I never really went after designing handbags. I made a bag for myself while I was working in the industry, and then everyone kind of just wanted one. So I decided to make a line off of that.

Can you describe how your aesthetic as a designer has evolved from your first collection to your most recent?

With the bags, the pleats have always been very consistent throughout the collection. I like to change up the shapes and placement of them on bags, but they have really given the brand a strong identity. With the clothing, the line has always felt very print- and leather-oriented. I try to mix up basic, non-leather-type clothing [by making them] in leather which has been working really well. i-D has said we are known for “a new kind of stripped-back leather and silk look.”

Speaking of which, in your most recent clothing collections, I really like how ethereal details like sheer layers are made edgy with tough elements like leather and dark colors. What inspires these types of pairings?

It’s kind of a lingerie-outerwear idea. I really like to play with layering and making a look to soften up the leather, but almost wearing the sheer layers on top of leather makes a more interesting approach.

Are there any influences on your line from the style you saw while in LA, or does it more translate from coast to coast? Do you notice differences in what people prefer in LA versus New York?

Yeah, of course. We do a lot of canvas prints with leather; we sell a lot more canvas bags on the West Coast, versus on the East Coast, where we basically only sell all-leather bags. I’ve gotten to a good balance of offering to both aesthetics and letting buyers customize based around that.

What did you feel was missing from handbag lines already out there that you aim to fulfill with your line?

[When I started the line] in 2009, contemporary bags were all branded…I was one of the first designers in that whole capsule show movement to do handbags that were trendy but not branded. I wanted to create an aesthetic where you could see the brand identity but you didn’t necessarily know how much you paid for the bag or know what designer made it, and you could make it your own style. Now there’s a ton of handbag lines out there that are like that, but in 2009 there actually weren’t any.

The girl who carries [the handbags] is somebody who creates her own style, and is very comfortable in her own skin in the sense that she doesn’t need a massive luxury label behind her to feel cool and good about herself. People who wear them say they get a ton of compliments…because they’re unique but still understated.

Describe the ideal woman who wears Collina Strada.

She’s more of a daring-conscious shopper. An adventurous traveler who lives in a metropolitan area.

[The handbag customer base] is very broad. I have 60-year-olds carry them, and then I have 20-year-olds carry them. I really just focus on functionality of design, and create a brand around a handbag shape that might be trending, or something that I find necessary; if there’s a gap in the market for the shape. I just really want them to be functional and easy.

What’s your personal style like? Is there any overlap between it and your designs?

I have a pretty chill sense of style. I would say I design what ideally I would like to wear if I had somewhere to go.

Any factoids or vignettes about being a designer you’d like to share? Anything most people wouldn’t know guess?

I designed a bag for Target my first season, for a Daily Candy shelf, before I had even shipped to stores. It was a wild ride and taught me so much; I couldn’t have asked for a better intro into the business.

Shop Collina Strada handbags at Goldyn here. To view the full collection, click here.

Designer Profile: Selin Kent

Editorial photograph from Selin's website featuring Nico, Koko, mini Koko, and Hex rings

Editorial photograph from Selin’s website featuring Nico, Koko, mini Koko, and Hex rings

by Julia Cardi

There’s an appeal in fine jewelry that’s not from a boyfriend – a visible manifestation of an independent spirit. So it’s a strong-willed woman that wears designer Selin Kent’s jewelry – relishing of a ring that’s the fine-jewelry antithesis of a sugary engagement band, this is a woman who can take care of herself.

And so begins my fixation with Selin’s gold-and-diamond finger baubles. It takes a powerful je-ne-sais-quoi to make a girl fall hook, line and sinker for designs so spare, but the psychology eludes me.

I came across the Nico ring – a vertical bar of white diamonds set against a double band of black gold – right before Christmas last year. I don’t remember whether I saw it first in the editorial photographs on Goldyn’s website and then chased it down in the store, or the other way around. I just recall precariously lifting the bell jar under which the ring resided and then snatching it to slide onto my right hand, a move that brings to mind Emily’s vivid accusation to Andy Sachs in The Devil Wears Prada: “You sold your soul to the devil when you put on your first pair of Jimmy Choos, I saw it.” I’m sure there was an obvious lustful gleam in my eyes. But heartbreakingly, albeit luckily for my limited bank account, the ring was too big, slipping off even my middle fingers. I perched it back under its heavy glass shelter, with a promise to the ring I’d be back for it. Knowing me, I probably said that last part out loud.

Editorial photograph from Selin's website featuring Nico rings in black and yellow gold

Editorial photograph from Selin’s website featuring Nico rings in black and yellow gold

A move to New York City and six months buried the fit of desire for the Nico ring in the back of my memory. But then in July I visited Selin’s NoHo apartment for this story, and our chat brought back the longing nearly full-force. I half-heartedly told myself I would hold out; wait for a new job as a reason to pass off the splurge as a reward. But by now I know better than to believe my own weak vows about swearing off.

So during a recent trip home to Denver, I stopped by Goldyn to say hello and try on the Nico ring again; a dangerous endeavor, with the temptations I know lie within the boutique’s walls. For one more day, I forced myself to leave the store empty-fingered, but by then the indulgence was no longer a question of if but when. The siren song of Selin’s collection was too strong. I would return within the week; my jewelry collection was gasping for air and disposable costume jewelry was not the resuscitation it needed.

Wearing my rose gold Koko ring with white diamonds

Wearing my rose gold Koko ring with white diamonds

In those few days during which I steeled myself to hand over my credit card, Selin’s rose gold Koko ring imprinted itself in my mind – decidedly less edgy than than the Nico’s black gold, but in a way even more architectural with its clean use of negative space. I’ll admit that a price tag half that of the Nico had something to do with it, but the Koko ring’s quiet but impactful statement made it my perfect “starter” piece. Paired with a gold mid-finger band, it stands out as a wearable piece of Instagram-worthy modern art. It has me reaching for things with an oh-so-casual sweep of my right hand and planning outfits around it. I’m not even a little bit sorry for the splurge.

The Koko ring is the first satiation of my hunger. I sense the Nico ring, in all its black glory, is next; they say you never totally get over your first love. To quote Stella Tennant, I fear the obsession is with me forever.

Minimalist but statement-making, delicate yet badass – Turkish designer Selin Kent has mastered these types of juxtapositions in her fledgling fine-jewelry line of architectural rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces made from every color of gold and diamonds – perfectly described in Selin’s own words as “minimalist pieces that are a little bit thoughtful.” Launched in late 2013 after a year of development, the line brought a few fluid adaptions along the way. “Initially I envisioned having more silver and a little less gold, but once I started designing, I found that the designs were more conducive to gold.”

Speaking on her influences, she says, “I feel like I would have been an architect in another lifetime. I take a lot of inspiration from [modern] forms. On a visual level, the clean lines of Scandinavian design. And then certain 20th-century modern artists from the Bauhaus movement; the interplay of the shapes they use.”

On a less tangible level, Selin infuses the pieces with life through the names she gives them – her first collection draws influence from blues, rock and jazz musicians, with the jewelry having cool-chick monikers like Françoise and Ella. “How many double-bar rings can you have? I felt like I needed to give the pieces a personality,” she explains. “Music has always been a constant source of inspiration, so I thought I’d pare that in.”

Yellow gold Françoise ring with white diamonds

Yellow gold Françoise ring with white diamonds

Editorial photograph from Selin's website showing Françoise ring in black gold with black diamonds & assorted Hex rings

Editorial photograph from Selin’s website showing Françoise ring in black gold with black diamonds & assorted Hex rings

Selin’s two big influences, music and architecture, have me curious why she chose jewelry design. The craft was not the field she started in, and Selin’s path in the newfound trade evolved organically. “I fell into it in a really random way. My first job out of college was at a market research firm in New York – a high-powered, corporate job. And I sort of had a reaction against sitting in front of a computer all day, and I wanted to learn how to make something with my hands.

“I’ve always been curious about how metal was worked with; I had no idea how something so hard could be malleable and bend. So I just signed up for a class pretty randomly and took classes after work and on the weekends for about two years while I was at my old job, and then ended up going back to school and enrolling in a two-year program.”

Though she misses working with her hands, Selin’s built-in business smarts guided her to the decision to let go of making the pieces in her line herself. “I can’t run a business and and scale it and make the pieces all at the same time. I have more production-oriented pieces…I made a decision – did I want to run a business, or did I want to sit behind a bench all day?”

Despite the minimalistic nature of the jewelry, Selin appreciates that it doesn’t necessarily resonate with every woman. “I wouldn’t really want to create jewelry that would work with every woman because that wouldn’t be very interesting [jewelry]. When I was initially designing, I wasn’t really sure who it was for…someone who appreciates luxury and high-quality items, but doesn’t necessarily want to scream it. Maybe [the girl] who would go more for the Alexander Wang bag rather than the Louis Vuitton bag with the logo.”

Editorial photograph from Selin's website showing new stackable ring designs

Editorial photograph from Selin’s website showing new stackable ring designs

This consciousness of style identity makes cohesiveness a key theme of the line. When I ask what she sees as the jewelry’s signature stamps, Selin elaborates, “I like giving people the option of creating their own story…I created the first collection as quite a stackable collection. I think oftentimes the pieces look better paired with other pieces that you may already own, or pieces from my collection. The strongest ones even fit in together, sort of like puzzle pieces. So I’m working on a few designs that have that sort of signature.”

The growth in the line’s distribution has been respectable – Selin has gained footholds in New York, California, Istanbul, Tokyo, Paris and London. She’s in about ten stores by her own count. But Goldyn holds a special place in her heart as the first boutique to pick up her collection. And though she has one eye on the possibility of a few major department stores for the future, right now Selin is happy sticking with the more personal experience of dealing in small shops. She also stays conscious of spreading herself too thin. “I’d rather be represented by 15 stores that do really well than 50 that aren’t selling so well.”

Every entrepreneur has their own nugget of advice for running a business, so I ask Selin for hers. “I guess knowing what to outsource is one of the most difficult but the most important [aspects]…It’s difficult to let go of certain things when you’re used to doing them. But then there are people who will do them so much better than you, who can really help you. For example, outsourcing the sales to my showroom was a turning point in my business in the last year…A lot of it is just trial and error. You gotta go with your gut, see what works, and if something’s not working, you adjust.”

Click here to shop Goldyn’s selection of Selin Kent jewelry (including earrings and necklaces), and see Selin’s full collection here.

Designer Profile: Katrina LaPenne

Katrina LaPenne

Katrina LaPenne

by Julia Cardi

Katrina LaPenne has an artist’s eye for jewelry, which means that her designs transcend trends and expendability. Her penchant for tangible luxury gives Katrina’s fine-jewelry line a staying power that will keep the pieces in your jewelry box long after you’ve disposed of the Lucite bangles and wannabe-Tiffany necklaces.

This Artist Profile takes me to Brooklyn again, this time to a decidedly industrial section of Greenpoint, on the first sunny day that really breaks free from winter’s stubborn grip. Katrina meets me outside her studio, red hair clamped on top of her head and spilling curls in every direction.

During our chat, she speaks with animated passion about her work, jumping from her seat often to show me different details of her process. She’s incredibly personable and has the quintessential down-to-earth manner of a small designer.

Katrina hails from Brooklyn and is a Big Apple lifer, having returned to the city after studying at the Rhode Island School of Design. Like so many college kids, she had no idea what she wanted to do at first. “You get to school and you’re like, ‘Oh, I need to get a job…I don’t know how I’m going to pay off my student loans with this,” Katrina reminisces about her fine-arts education, with an on-point bemused lilt to her voice.

She ended up taking a jewelry-making class. “I had a little bit of experience in steel sculpture and metal smithing, but not in small-scale jewelry stuff. So I took a class and it was fantastic; I loved it. I loved the scale of it and working with a blow torch and all that kind of stuff. So I just changed my major almost immediately, and I’ve been making jewelry ever since.”

For someone who claims she had no idea which direction to take at the beginning of school, Katrina has forged an arguably focused path for herself. She worked as a goldsmith for swanky Reinstein/Ross, a jewelry store in Manhattan’s Upper East Side that makes all its pieces in-house, for five years after college. Katrina started her own line two years into that gig.

She gives me a quick overview of the impressively labor-intensive process of making each piece by hand: “I make all the pieces myself, either directly in metal or I carve them in wax. So the latest collection I did, I carved all the pieces in wax first. And then I get them cast and make multiples from the mold.”

Carved wax models

Carved wax models

“I can show you,” Katrina replies readily when I inquire about the consistency of the wax she works with, hopping from her chair to retrieve a few impossibly fragile-looking carvings, a ring and a model cat. “It seems really delicate, but it’s really hard wax, and I use really sharp little tools. It’s a reduction process; you just take away the wax. Once it’s done, I get a mold made and then I can make it in different materials.” She demonstrates shaving away the wax (incredibly) tiny bits at a time with her precise tools, a process so painstaking it’s a wonder she can sit still long enough.

The conversation turns to Katrina’s inspirations, often pulled from architectural details or patterns in nature. “I guess people say that a lot,” she concedes. Maybe, but I point out that everyone has their own way of relating to their subject and seeing something different in it. For her “Twist” collection, she looked to ancient Viking and Nordic jewelry. “To make it” – she motions to a few bangles and rings on the table – “I forged the silver by hand here in the studio. I tapered it – you start out with a wire, hammer out the edges and then twist them, heat it all up and twist them again.”

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I ask whether she separates her work into distinct seasonal collections. No, she explains with a sigh, because it’s too fast-paced, with too many costs involved. “It takes me a while to decide what I want to make and then do it…It’s a lot of production work. I like to make everything by hand. Even when I get stuff cast, I bring it back [to the studio] and finish it myself.”

“Talon” pendant

For much the same reason, Katrina isn’t one for trendy jewelry either; I point out that we’ve seen a lot of edgy fine jewelry lately. She’s much happier doing what interests her rather than trying to follow trends. “When I love what I’m doing, [it’s because] I’m just making stuff that I want to make,” Katrina explains matter-of-factly. Because of the longevity a piece of precious jewelry has and the craft it requires, she brings up an interesting point of dichotomy between it and fashion trends. “I also came to it through the art aspect, so the whole idea of seasons was a new thing to me. It didn’t even occur to me to follow trends and make disposable stuff, [because] I didn’t come into making jewelry through the fashion aspect of it, so I had to learn all that. And really high-end fine jewelry doesn’t really do seasons.”

“I do a lot of engagement rings and custom work too, so for me it doesn’t seem to make sense to do it that way. I think a lot of jewelry designers, if they’re not doing just seasonal fashions, do a lot of engagement rings and things like that.” Katrina likes doing such custom pieces – it’s a steady way to sustain her business, because as she puts it, “everyone gets married.”

In fact, Katrina just tied the knot herself last summer, flushing a happy pink when she tells me. I ask (only half-jokingly) whether she made her own ring. She didn’t – not the engagement ring, at least – but rather chose an exquisite antique art-deco-style sparkler and made a delicate band to complement it. She generously hands me both rings, and I reach for them greedily, examining them in envious awe before snapping back to reality.

Deco-style rings inspired by her own vintage engagement ring, from left to right:

Deco-style rings inspired by her own vintage engagement ring, from left to right: “Gatsby”, “Ella”, “Sunrise”, “Flapper”

The pairing inspired her to design her own collection of art-deco-inspired rings. “I made all of these so you can wear a ring flush next to it,” she explains, referring again to her engagement and wedding bands. “I recognize that a lot of people really want to wear their band right next to their ring.”

Katrina says she really likes working with rose-cut diamonds, using them for clients who want more unusual engagement rings, because of their variety of colors, shapes and sizes. She shows me a few rings set with the stones, flat on the bottom and faceted on top, in an array of subtle hues.

“Old World” rings using rose-cut diamonds

Like so many modern entrepreneurs, Katrina makes sure her materials come from ethical sources, and mainly uses stone dealers in the city. “Most of the rose-cut diamonds come from India, and you can buy the regular diamonds from conflict-free sources too. The metal for stuff that’s custom I buy from Hoover and Strong, an environmentally-friendly refiner. So almost all the metal I use is recycled, and the caster I use uses recycled metal too, so they aren’t being mined.” These types of possibilities in a fine-jewelry line further the emerging revelation that socially-conscious manufacturing isn’t merely a trend, limited in scope to unwieldy hemp textiles and impactful but unglamorous recyclable plastic bottles.

Interestingly, Katrina doesn’t wear a lot of jewelry herself, a common thread I’ve noticed among jewelry designers as of late. “I like doing a lot of outdoor stuff,” she explains. “So I end up not wearing jewelry a lot of the time, like when I’m hiking. I have a small backyard and a garden, so I’m out there a lot in my free time.”

Showing just how much I have to learn about New York yet, I’m admittedly a little surprised at this tidbit – such interests seem more characteristic of those in my native Colorado. Speaking of which, I finally get around to asking Katrina how she got connected to Goldyn. “Vanessa had contacted me when she was doing the drop-ship before the store opened. I’m not sure how she found me, but it seemed like an awesome opportunity, and I really liked everything she had picked out otherwise in terms of stuff in the store. She’s great to work with – everyone at Goldyn is really nice. Which I value.”

“Snake” ring

“Snake” bangle

I ask the inevitable question about her business’s future growth. “I think I’m always trying to take it as it comes,” she says with a laugh, but overall she prefers small, independently-owned boutiques. “I find that it’s a much more pleasant experience than trying to deal with bigger retailers. Not to say that if that opportunity came along I wouldn’t do it, but right now, this is working for me.”

Click here to shop Goldyn’s collection of Katrina LaPenne jewelry, including styles featured in this piece.