How to become a succesful entrepreneur and jewelry designer, and a mother of four, is still something I’d like to figure out for the future. I’d like to thank New York City-based Jennifer Zeuner for setting the bar so high, WAY too high. I met Jennifer in Paris during Haute-Couture Fashion Week in July and without knowing it we stayed at the same hotel in Saint-Germain. It was fate. The next day, we went for breakfast and told me her story and how today Jennifer Zeuner has become one of the best-selling jewelry brands out there.
I already owned a few pieces long before I became a blogger. Just when the Hills was still airing, when Audrina was still hooked on Justin and when Lauren Conrad was wearing her initial necklace on screen. Remember that? Jennifer’s pieces are always very delicate and timeless which is what makes them so special. Anyone, at any age can wear them and keep them for years.
On that note and I know it’s been a while, here’s one my favorite things about this blog: interviewing designers that I love and share their story with you. I always find it truly inspirational…
Soraya Bakhtiar: Jennifer, can you please tell us a little bit more about your career and what made you decide to launch a jewelry line? You do have an interesting story…
Jennifer Zeuner: I was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico and I always had a passion for design/fashion from a young age. When I was a young girl I longed to be a clothing designer. My father manufactured clothing and I grew up not just reading but collecting WWD and Vogue magazines. My favorite place to hang out was my father’s factory. I attended Tufts University in Massachusetts at seventeen to study psychology and communications. After graduating I pursued public relations and worked in a PR firm in Miami, where I honed the marketing skills that I would need when I did start my own company. PR taught me a lot of the tools necessary for marketing my own jewelry line. Public relations was challenging and fun but didn’t satisfy my urge to be artistic. After a PR career hiatus to raise my children, I started designing and making jewelry from my home. Initially it was a creative outlet/hobby; a quiet escape from raising two young boys. It satisfied my need to literally “create” with my hands. I didn’t envision it becoming a profitable, “real” business. However, it quickly became a full time job as the orders started coming in. My line’s aesthetic evolved from hand-made, beaded and bohemian to more classic and sophisticated. The metamorphosis was a huge success. Fast-forward almost nine years, Jennifer Zeuner Jewelry is now sold at exclusive, high-end retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Saks, Bergdorf Goodman, Shopbop and Intermix. The line is mostly manufactured in NYC.
S.B: What does “Jennifer Zeuner - the brand”, symbolizes? How would you describe it?
J.Z: My new collection fuses modern, spiritual and wearable seamlessly. It incorporates a lot of symbolic shapes in surprising ways. This was achieved while still maintaining the collection’s trademark simplicity. The pieces can speak for themselves or be layered. The same piece can reflect a different mood when layered and/or worn differently. The jewelry allows women to be creative with it. The collection is not about a single statement piece. It’s about the conscious, personalized combination of different pieces. Ultimately, it tells a story.
S.B: And where do you draw inspiration from?
J.Z: From everything! I love modern architecture and its clean lines, which is evident in my jewelry. I also love vintage modern jewelry such as Lanvin. I’m also inspired by spiritual elements and their corresponding symbols.
J.Z: When I get an idea, which happens at least 5 times a week I write it down in my journal. I then organize ideas by season. Some ideas are better for spring and some for winter. I then draw them out and have my manufacturer create the pendant. Usually, I make 2-3 changes to the pendant. Once the pendant is made, I calculate if I will make it smaller for a lariat or earrings. I then figure out the chains and stones I will attach to each pendant. It’s a very unpredictable process with a lot of “back and forth” and it certainly changes every season.
S.B : And what’s been your best-seller so far ?
J.Z: Right now our best sellers are all the lariats. People consider them to be a “sexy”.
S.B: And is there one piece that you never take off?
J.Z: I never take off my reversible hand/eye necklace, I love that I can tuck it in my shirt and no one has to see it. It’s a piece of jewelry that after wearing it for 8 years has become a part of me.
S.B: Just because we love to know who’s wearing what, which are some of the celebs that have worn your pieces?
J.Z: Jessica Alba, Cameron Diaz, Sarah Jessica Parker (as seen on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar Sept. Issue), Rihanna, Beyonce, Halle Berry, Alessandra Ambrosio, Miranda Kerr, Doutzen Kroes and Zoe Saldana, just to name a few!
S.B: What do you think of this saying: “Less is more” ? Does it apply to jewelry according to you?
J.Z: Sometimes less is more and sometimes more is more. It really depends on the mood you’re in. Ultimately, people with great style listen to their gut and know what feels right at that moment. You can tell their style is authentic. You can’t really follow trends when it comes to jewelry. It’s too personal. The story it tells is very personal.
S.B: We met in Paris at La Societé in Saint-Germain, but what are some of your restaurants New York in Miami?
J.Z: In Miami I love Cecconi’s at The Soho House. I also love walking up and down Lincoln road. In New York City, I love walking around Soho and grabbing a bite at the neighborhood restaurant Jack’s Wife Freda.
J.Z: I enjoy going to the beach with all the kids and spending time with family and friends. We are also big Miami Heat fans so during basketball season we don’t miss a game!
S.B: Do you have any exciting projects for the future that you’d like to share with my readers?
J.Z: We are excited to offer more jewelry for men. We just offer a few pieces and they have been a great hit. We are also exploring a collaboration with an esteemed trend setter from London.
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Photos courtesy of Jennifer Zeuner