Designer Spotlight: Jennie Kwon
We first met Jennie over 8 years ago when we came across her work on a small blog. Jennie (JK as we like to call her!) was new to the world of jewelry, having taken a leap of faith away from her law career - a calling that came alongside new motherhood and metalsmithing classes that ignited her creativity.
"I was looking for an exit strategy from the law. I had been practicing as a corporate attorney and attorney at a big studio in LA for around 5 years, and it really sapped my soul of life. After having my twins, I had to reset and reevaluate what was meaningful to me. During maternity leave, I stumbled upon a metalsmithing class and it really resonated with me- the design aspect felt very organic. I realized that I had a voice of my own and wanted to share that with people."
Over the years, we have carried countless different styles of Jennie's - pieces that style and stack perfectly in the Catbird world.
Read on for an interview with Jennie and a peek behind the scenes of her LA studio.
What is your first jewelry memory?
My first jewelry memory is of my mom buying me a necklace in LA's jewelry district when I was probably around 6 years old. It was a tiny rabbit and I was very much in awe, as my parents were always working their tails off as first generation immigrants and I realized that this was probably a big purchase for them. Little did they (or I) know that it was the Playboy logo that I was wearing around elementary school!
How did you know it was time to take a leap of faith in your career into jewelry?
I came into this blind and for that, I'm so grateful. I didn't know a single jewelry store, designer, trend... coming from a career in law without any connections in the jewelry industry, there was a certain naivete in my designs that I envy now. I designed a spider web because I loved their level of detail, an onyx ring because I loved the statement it made, and on. Just one month in after I launched my very poorly done website, Rony found me through a blog and believed in my designs enough to bring them into Catbird. So there was really no turning point. JKD sort of took on a life of its own.
What does jewelry mean to you?
Jewelry now has a very different meaning than what it used to have to me. It's now a symbol of something I am extremely proud of accomplishing in my life. I never ever thought I'd end up where I am now, coming from a more traditional, academic background. It's also much more meaningful than what it's meant for me in the past, as I was never a collector of fine jewelry. I wore jewelry as a fashion statement. Our clients show us daily, how much meaning is attached to something so preciously diminutive. They've shared stories of our pieces symbolizing a big career move, a child that they've lost, celebration of self in light of a recent divorce, marriage, graduation from college, friendship, and the list goes on. To know that we're making things of so much weight is truly an honor.
Where do you look for inspiration?
This is one of those questions that always stresses me out for some reason. My designs really are just a reflection of what I find beautiful. I don't look in any particular place for inspiration. Oftentimes, I work with stones and want to honor them by capturing their beauty in the cleanest way possible. I love balance and clean design. I love texture and symmetry. I love the miracle of all of the detail and intricate beauty you find in nature.
What do you kids think about your jewelry?
We have a piece named after each of my kids, so of course they love their own namesake the best! They're so proud of their mama.
What are you most proud of in your brand?
The authenticity we project, as we've never been shy about being clear about even our non jewelry viewpoints, and because of that, we have a very solid and large repeat customer base that we truly appreciate.
Describe a perfect day in LA.
I love my city so much. It's where I grew up, and where I decided to grow roots after leaving for school. It sounds cliche, but I love grabbing brunch with my family, then going on a hike. After that, we'd roam a bookstore and grab coffee. Lunch in Koreatown- the best food ever. Then we'll hang out with friends at the beach and that's it!
Advice for young designers or makers who are looking to take the same leap you did.
Make sure to have a clear point of view, as this industry is already so congested with so many pieces looking similar. You want to make sure you come in with something new to offer. Once you have found your voice, just dive in. You don't have to invest a ton into starting a jewelry line- I started with a small handful of pieces and a very modest website. Put it out into the universe and see how people respond.
What future plans for Jennie Kwon most excite you?
Continuing to do what we do. We've grown into a small but formidable team. We now have our own jewelers and are looking to expand into hiring our own stone setters this coming year. Slowly bringing everything in house has been something I'm very proud of.