As a young girl in Michigan, Katie Dean spent her days creating – whether it was baking sweet treats or working on a fun craft project. This need to create stayed with her through her adult life, and in 2007, Katie left the midwest for the sunshine and palm trees of Los Angeles. It was an instant love affair, and while Katie still calls herself a midwest gal, anyone who meets her know that LA is where she thrives. And thriving is basically the perfect word to describe her path thus far. After a few odd jobs and struggling to find her place, she fell into the world of jewelry design. (She’ll explain more in a moment!) Today, Katie Dean Jewelry is everywhere – and one of our favorites to wear, as well! With a new collection just around the corner, we wanted to talk to the designer about a typical day. Whether it’s making jewelry in her adorable live-work studio or zooming around SoCal for meetings and pop-up shops, Katie is someone who never stops moving and makes it all look effortlessly fun.
Hi Katie! Tell us a bit about your career journey. How did you get involved in the fashion world, and what prompted you to start designing jewelry?
I moved out to LA when I was 18 and did a lot of different jobs in the beginning! One day a friend asked if I was interested in taking a job as an assistant to a stylist and even though I didn’t have much technical training in that field, I had always loved fashion and the creative energy involved in the fashion world so I decided to give it a shot. I’m so glad I did! I learned a lot during that job and it was very inspiring to see all the different designers out there that were creating such phenomenal things all the time. In-between shoots and wardrobe fittings I started to make jewelry for fun. I actually started taking apart necklaces and bracelets that I had laying around and reconstructing them into different designs. While I was wearing the pieces out and about, people began asking where they could buy them. When they found out that I made them I started to sell them right off of me – literally! Soon after, I made a full collection, put together a website, and through social media I started to spread the word about my line and it’s been growing ever since.
It was meant to be! Now that this is your full-time gig, what does a typical day look like for you?
A typical work day starts with emails and segue ways into running downtown for supplies, making pieces, fulfilling orders, meeting up with bloggers over coffee, setting up photo shoots, catching up on more emails and organizing Pop-Up events + a zillion other things! Some days will be more administrative than others but it’s never the same from day to day which is part of the reason I love what I do, it’s always different and always new.
Where do you gain inspiration for your new designs?
A lot of my inspiration comes through people watching. I love seeing what other people are wearing and how they pair things up and what catches my eye. It’s a beautiful thing to watch others and how they communicate who they are through what they are wearing. I’m also inspired by clean lines and geometric shapes with a mixture of earthiness.
It seems like everywhere we turn, someone is wearing your jewelry! What do you attribute your success to?
Hard work, competence and a good attitude. I’m a true believer that you can do anything you set your mind to but you have to do it with a positive attitude and realize that there’s typically a lot of blood, sweat and tears involved in the process. And have fun with whatever you are doing!! I think that’s when the magic happens and other people can pick up on that.
What has been the hardest thing about starting your own business?
Staying organized and keeping the momentum going. When you’re starting your own business, you usually have to do everything yourself, at least in the beginning. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged and lose track of all the things you are trying to achieve. I try to make a prioritized to-do list at the end of everyday for the next day. This helps to keep things moving and keep them from falling through the cracks.
Your studio is in a live-work space. How do you separate work life from home life?
I’ve found that setting a schedule of work hours really helps. Even though I typically work late into the evenings I still have an official start time that I try to stick to so that everyday I have a target of when I will get the ball rolling. I’m still working this out though! It’s easy to just want to work all the time and never be ‘off’. I write a lot of lists to keep track of what I have to do in my business vs what I have to do at home. That helps to keep it separate as well but it is a constant balancing act.
The space is SO cute! Tell us some of your favorite shops for finding decor?
Aw, thank you! I like to support other local artists and artists that make their products in the USA so a lot of my decor I find at the markets that I do with my line, like Unique LA and Renegade Craft Fair. I’m a major sucker for succulents so I pick up a lot of my plants from a local place in my neighborhood called Sunset Nursery. Nectar is a great online decor shop that I discovered while searching for the perfect embroidered seat cushions. I spent months searching for bright colorful ones to add a bit of a pop to the space and luckily I came across this place in a google search. I also LOVE Anthropologie for little accent pieces. I stock up on candles all the time and a lot of my glass jars are from there as well.
What do you love most about living and working in LA?
The massive amounts of restaurants and cafes everywhere! I love food, good coffee and anything sweet and since LA is so big there’s an endless amount of places that have all of that. Not to mention there are great hiking trails and the ocean all within a close distance. It’s really nice to have such a big variety of things to do and places to see.
Finally, we’re sure someone out there is reading this who could benefit from your words of wisdom. What is your top advice for other entrepreneurs?
Get out there! If you have an idea, don’t waste anytime. Just go out and do it, create it, make it. You’re going to learn from anything you do so it’s ok if it doesn’t end up going the way you envisioned it the first time around. The most important thing is to get out there, learn and continue to get better. And then staying organized and having a good attitude – always a must!!
Thank you, Katie! To get a look at Katie’s day-to-day, plus some of her gorgeous designs, start the slideshow! To get shopping, click here.