For the past few years, we’ve only had eyes for the daintiest of jewels ~ sweet, stackable rings and wear-everyday lariats. It’s a fantastic trend that has made fine jewelry more accessible and personal than ever, for these are the types of pieces you can put on once and never again take off. One designer who’s mastered this métier especially well is Ariel Gordon, with whom we recently caught up over rosé and the setting sun amidst the sprawling gardens of Gallow Green, an airy dreamscape perched atop Manhattan’s McKittrick Hotel.
Ariel’s a busy lady these days. She’s just rebranded her jewelry collection, launched an exclusive three-piece collaboration with Shopbop (a pretty pearl ring, necklace and pair of earrings) ~ plus she and her husband are expecting the imminent arrival of their first child. What better time to cozy up with the designer (pictured below) for a few canapés and questions?!1. Where are you from?
San Diego, CA
2. How did you get your start in fashion?
I majored in English and Italian at UCLA. After graduating, I worked in PR producing celeb red carpet events. During this time, I took some jewelry classes at a local jewelry school to escape the hectic pace of the industry. This led me to the Revere Academy in San Francisco, where I learned metalsmithing and stone setting. Once I moved back to LA, I blindly sent my resume to every jewelry designer in the area and ended up working as the assistant to Maya Brenner for 5 years. She taught me everything I need to know about how to run a small business – from making line sheets to sourcing materials to accounting and everything in between. It was a great partnership and we are still very close.
3. Which characters or moments in your life illuminated your calling as a designer?
During my PR days, I worked on an event with a jewelry designer named Page Sargisson. Meeting Page was a revelation for me. I was so inspired by the life she had created for herself… She owned her own company. She was the one who benefited financially from all her hard work. She was doing something creative. She had time to be with her kids. I knew those were all things that I wanted in my own life. I had literally never made a piece of jewelry before I met her. She inspired me to start my own business.
4. Why jewelry?
It is so satisfying to design and make something that is tangible that will become a part of a someone’s daily life. I know a lot of girls that don’t change their jewelry everyday and I’m definitely one of them. I like jewelry that I can put on and never take off. Because all of my jewelry is real metal and stones, I love the idea that the pieces I make could be handed down as family heirlooms.5. You’ve just embarked on two intensely personal new journeys: impending motherhood and the rebranding of Ariel Gordon Jewelry. Do the two feel related?
Absolutely. I had been toying around with the idea of rebranding for a while. Finding out I was pregnant was the catalyst that made me finally take the plunge (since I knew that I’d be otherwise occupied very soon). Coincidentally, the whole rebrand process took me a long and exhausting 9 months to complete so I feel as if I’ll be giving birth twice this year.
I feel like I have grown so much as a designer and as a woman since I started my business. It was a natural progression as I grew from my early 20s to my early 30s. My tastes have evolved and became more refined and I wanted the branding to better reflect this evolution. I also feel like I have a better sense of who my customer is and how I should be marketing to her. The new AGJ logo is meant to evoke both the sparkle off of a new piece of jewelry as well as the excitement that bubbles up when you see that jewelry for the first time. I incorporated this element in both the new custom packaging and a new sleek website. I’m so happy with how it turned out. The new look book was shot in NYC by my friend James Dimmock and he nailed it. I think it really helps set the cozy and intimate mood I was looking for.|ABOVE| James Dimmock photography |BELOW| Shopbop’s Fashion Director Elle Strauss wears Ariel Gordon’s pearl earrings and lariat necklace6. In redefining your brand after 6 years in business, what have you discovered about yourself?
I feel like I am a funny mix of aesthetics. In my clothing and jewelry, I like things to be very simple and minimal. However in my décor and environment I like a lot of vibrant color and pattern. Because I wanted the new branding to be more chic and understated, I had to practice a lot of self-restraint and I had to constantly edit myself so I wouldn’t junk it up too much. It was an ongoing joke with my graphic designer, Wendy Polish. She helped me walk the line of keeping things simple but still expressing my playful personality.7. Which piece of jewelry in your own personal collection means the most to you?
My engagement ring. I love the man who gave it to me (after I designed it) and what it symbolizes.|ABOVE + BELOW| pearl-drop necklace and earrings, two Ariel Gordon x Shopbop exclusivesThis morning, I woke up and made some sourdough toast and green tea (my pregnant morning routine).
My greatest fashion moment was when I wore the Monique Lhuillier wedding dress that I scored at her infamous LA sample sale. It was originally a size 10 and had to be totally rebuilt to fit me but it was so beautiful I couldn’t resist.
My greatest style regret is having bangs in the 80s. Curly bangs are never a good look.Living in LA is full of sunshine and traffic. One of those things I love. The other, not so much.
I am happiest when I’m traveling to a new exotic place with my husband. I love an adventure.
Becoming a mom is exciting and terrifying.
Maternity clothes are better when they show off the bump. Because I’m only 5’2”, if I wear a loose caftan I look like I am wearing a tent. So I wear a lot of dresses and shirts that cling close to my belly. I’d rather look super pregnant than like I’m swimming in fabric.
Jewelry on men should be limited to a wedding ring and a nice watch.The thing that would surprise people most about my job is it’s 90% running a small business and only 10% creative.
To be a good designer, it’s crucial to also have a good head for business.
My favorite place to shop is Amazon prime. Makes my life so much easier.
My fashion pet peeve is knockoffs.
My top beauty essential is coconut oil.Every woman should own a luxe handbag (No one will know if your clothes are from Zara or H&M if you’re wearing good jewels and fancy purse. The right accessories always elevate an outfit).
Every man should own a properly tailored suit.
The key to life is surrendering.
When I’m feeling stressed I make lists and cross things off (sometimes I’ll even write down things I’ve already done that day because I love the satisfaction of checking off another to-do).
These days, the thing I wear most often is summer dresses and Birkenstocks.
The coolest place I’ve ever been is a traditional Japanese ryokan in the forested mountains outside of Kyoto.
Right now, I’m obsessed with finding the right wallpaper for the nursery. Nothing too baby. Nothing too gender specific.
Vintage is a fun treasure hunt. I love early mornings at the Rose Bowl flea digging for treasure.
Being a glamourai means being comfortable in your own skin.
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