I recently became a fan of Lele Sadoughi jewelry and her modern and architectural inspired pieces. In fact our Second City Style monthly giveaway for September includes three of her spectacular pieces. I had the opportunity to ask Lisa “Lele” Sadoughi questions about her inspiration, her background and learn more about her.
SCS: Did you always want to design jewelry or did you want to be an architect or fashion designer or even design something else?
LS: I have always wanted to create. Whether it was photography, painting or jewelry, I love putting colors and components together. I designed apparel and later, trims and hardware before venturing into jewelry. I ultimately prefer jewels because there is a distinct architectural element to it that I truly enjoy; I think this aspect is also evident in the aesthetic of the Lele Sadoughi brand.
SCS: I personally have always been attracted to rocks, pretty stones and glass. How were you drawn to the use of marble, sandstone, hematite and milky glass?
LS: I do love stones and color, and most of the stones I use are marble and howlite. There’s an incredible range of color possibility that I customize every season for a truly rich palette. I like to experiment by mixing transparent and milky glass with rich colored stones to add interest and depth. Color palette is very important to me as I often start my design process with inspiration from a picture or painting.
SCS: You have been able to design with quality materials for reasonable prices. Is this something you keep in mind when you design?
LS: Absolutely. I feel there is room in the market for reasonably priced, high quality goods, and I think Lele Sadoughi jewelry answers that customer craving. I learned so much working for larger corporations, and realize that quality is just as important as design. I think about the functionality, cost, feel and weight in every step throughout my design process.
SCS: How did your background designing jewelry at Club Monaco, Banana Republic, Anthropologie, Neiman Marcus and Tory Burch help you to start your own collection?
LS: Before starting the jewelry division at J.Crew, I had spent the 6 years prior designing clothing and trims, and had segued into jewelry when I was doing private label at Ippolita. Jewelry was therefore somewhat new to me, and I really enjoyed discovering the behavior of new materials. At apparel companies, the fabrics and prints are chosen and designed first, as mills have the longest lead-time. So when designing jewelry for these apparel stores, I started with colors, textures and prints. I like to think I learned about the big picture first; how to express a feeling and a mood. To this day, I love to have a theme and story for each Lele Sadoughi season. Once I research a world with a specific mood, time and place, the pieces are easier to design.
SCS: What is the best advice (it can be business or personal) anyone ever gave you?
LS: I was fortunate to work for some wonderful companies, and build relationships with people that can help me grow and learn. It’s so important to follow by example and surround yourself with the best. When you work side-by-side with such talented people, always keep in mind the opportunity you have to learn from them. Test out your skills and take your time honing the craft before you start your own business. Once you take that leap, you will have built enough confidence to show your own style!
SCS: What can we expect to see from you next?
LS: I see the Lele Sadoughi brand as a lifestyle collection. I hope to expand into home design (I’ve already started dabbling with a few objects) and continue the global expansion of fun, romantic, chic, jewels. I would like free standing shops for people to experience my vision as a whole and see the world of Lele Sadoughi.
I, for one, can’t wait!
– Carol Calacci