I had admired Lisa “Lele” Sadoughi’s modern, architectural jewelry line for a while as her pieces are so different from anything else out there. We finally got to meet at my launch party this past January. Lele joined our mutual pal Ali Galgano (of Charm & Chain), looking impossibly chic and wearing this necklace. Over the course of the night, my mother met her at some point and fell in love with the aforementioned necklace. My mom is into fashion and jewelry but I’ve never seen her so excited about a piece of jewelry.
The story of the necklace has now become a joke between my mom and sisters and I. I insist to my mom that she attacked Lele and chased her around the room; my mom and Lele say that this did not happen. So I probably imagined it. But anyway… since then, Lele and I have gotten to become friends (bonding over a mutual love of jewelry + cocktails – is there any better combination!?) And if you were wondering, my mom got the (now famous) necklace for her birthday.
Read on for an inspiring feature – Lele’s line is one of my favorites, and she has such an incredible background!
Grace: You have such an interesting background…. J.Crew, Tory Burch… Tell me a little bit about how you got your start in the industry and your career before you started your own line.
Lele: I was fortunate to work for some great companies and build relationships with people that could help me grow and learn. I had spent six years designing clothing and trims before I ever started designing jewelry. As a trim designer at Rebecca Taylor, I focused on important details, like buttons, ribbons, and laces which were largely involved in every outfit. For me, jewelry was a natural evolution from trims, as I really began to enjoy thinking about the construction of details.
I later designed private label for many lines including Club Monaco, Banana Republic, and Neiman Marcus before I had the opportunity to launch the jewelry division at J. Crew and led that sector of their business for five years. When I was starting Lele Sadoughi, I had another opportunity to direct the jewelry design at Tory Burch. Now, I devote my full time to Lele Sadoughi, as it has grown tremendously, and we are happily about to celebrate our third year!
Grace: What was it like starting your own line? What’s been the biggest learning experience?
Lele: I spent a lot of time ruminating on the feeling of my line. Once I actually put pencil to paper, I knew exactly what I wanted to create. I was fortunate to work for big companies that exposed me to great manufacturers to help me achieve my vision. My biggest challenge thus far has been wearing so many hats. I have always been a designer, but now I produce, sell, negotiate, merchandise, advertise, etc.
Grace: Describe your typical day.
Lele: My days start early around 7am, as I have 2 young children at home. After I make breakfast, answer my overseas emails, play around with the kids and get them dressed, I make it into the office around 11. I like to meet with my team when I arrive to go over pending issues for the day. I try to make time to design but end up fielding phone calls and working on pressing issues.
Sometimes I skip out for an hour for a pilates session in my office building or run out to meet my kids at the park across the street. Today I did some finances this afternoon and responded to my manufacturers with some technical callouts after reviewing our new Fall 2015 samples. We have a store visit at the end of the day, and it always refreshing to see how others respond to the jewelry and touch and feel the product. I usually rush home around 6 to bathe the kids and cook dinner for my family.
Grace: How do you balance motherhood with entrepreneurship? You make it look easy but it has got to be incredibly hard!
Lele: It’s not easy, but luckily, I live 2 blocks from my office, so I make time to run out for an hour and meet the kids at the park or take them to the doctor. I work more than I ever did having my own business, but it is more gratifying and I can choose when to get it all done. Unfortunately, my most productive time late at night when emails are flooding in and my kids are sleep. If only I could get a few more hours of beauty rest.
Grace: Tell me a little bit about your creative process and how you conceptualize a new collection.
Lele: I’m inspired by a place and a time, and like to create a world based on the specific architecture, paintings, and feelings of an era. I am a very visual person, so I love looking through images of historical costumes and jewels. I start the design process by sketching an idea, and eventually add measurements and details when thinking about construction and fit. Lastly, I choose the hand-cut stone color that’s become my signature, and then start to merchandise what groups should sit together, so I have a cohesive, pleasing palette for each season. I’m usually inspired by the composition and colors of a particular piece of art as a base for my collection– I trained in the Fine Arts, and still love to paint. But this season, I used starry nights and warm sunrises for my color palette.
Grace: And what are your best-selling pieces right now?
Lele: This season, I updated my classic Slider bracelets into a cuff silhouette that’s a bit more dainty; it’s something that can be layered with many bracelets and feels light and easy to wear. My new C Sliders hug closer to the wrist, and fit a bit more snugly, so they’re perfect, for both small and average wrists. I love to customize my bracelet color palette according to my outfit or mood, and with these C Sliders, I can wear three to four on each arm.
Grace: Which are your personal favorite pieces?
Lele: I like the Floral Bouquet Necklace because it is such a soft piece compared to some of the other architectural designs that I make. If I keep my neckline clean, I always end up grabbing a few C Sliders, a Garden Fence Bracelet, and a gold satellite bracelet for layering on each wrist.
Grace: Let’s chat fashion… what trends for Spring are you most excited about?
Lele: The jumper. I just bought a linen Rachel Comey one-piece with little electric blue bows dotted across the fabric.
Grace: And who are your favorite designers?
Lele: For jewelry, I look at vintage. I love Schlumberger’s work in the 60’s at Tiffany. He worked with fine materials and made whimsical pieces like shells, animals, and flowers. For apparel, I love DelPozo and Tibi because both brands combine a great infusion of color with bold silhouettes.
Grace: What is on your shopping list for Spring?
Grace: Let’s talk about beauty… tell me about your beauty routine and the products you use.
Lele: I just got the Clarisonic facial cleanser, and it’s like getting a facial every morning. I use Dr. Hauschka’s cleanser.
I’m generally pretty simple with my makeup and use Bobbi Brown for concealer and bronzer, with some drugstore liquid eyeliner and Estee Lauder Mascara. For lipstick, I’ll go a little more bold and play with Tom Ford or YSL.
Grace: If you were going away for 3 months and could only take 3 beauty products, what would they be?
Grace: Who are your style icons?
Lele: Coco Chanel. She made glass pearls and crystals cool.
Grace: What’s your biggest accomplishment?
Lele: Well, I’m pretty proud of myself for starting my own business and having two children in less than three years. My life is full and happy!
A huge thank you to Lele for participating in this week’s Stripe Talk — check out previous features here!