Fiat Lux is a cult-favorite San Francisco jewelry company from designer Marie McCarthy. The first location, in the Mission District, was a dark and moody enclave, making shopping for something sparkly extra romantic. Now, they’ve expanded to Fillmore Street, and have a new look to match the opulent vibes of the neighborhood. McCarthy tapped Bay Area designer Noz Nozawa to create a space that would feel like the “fabulous, glamorous, elegant rich older Auntie to the Mission Street location.” Nozawa pulled out all the stops, with the Voutsa aviary-inspired wallpaper that’s dripping in gold resin and a hand-painted floor mural, both by Caroline Lizarraga. It’s a feast for the eyes. In addition to a stunning selection of jewelry, Fiat Lux also offers permanent jewelry in the form of 14k gold fused bracelets, safely welded to the wearer’s wrist on site, and has a piercing room. It’s the ultimate playground, if you ask us.
Tell us first a bit about your business, Fiat Lux. When did you first open, and what is the concept of the store?
We opened our doors in 2011, I had a much larger store before that and I wanted a small, highly curated space. I found the littlest space in SF, it was on a mistreated little block at the top of the Mission, about 100 square feet, and named it something that I felt was true to the mission & concept: fiat lux means ‘let there be light’, and the concept is one of radical transparency, permanence, the impermanence of light, it’s about education and the dissemination of information. We believe in makers & in people & we have always strived to be as inclusive as possible, like a little family with all its ups & downs & goods & bads.
What do you love most about living and working in San Francisco?
I love that the people in SF are so proactive. I love the weather. I love being in close range of mountains, beach, forest. I love that we are always breaking new boundaries and developing and supporting fresh ideas. This is the wild west & it still shows.
Let’s chat about the new space. What was the design brief you gave Noz?
I was really interested in joyful maximalism. I think you don’t see as much of that as we need in our public & private spaces. Every new shop we see these days is luxe desert, white walls, succulents, you know. My idea has always been exuberance, whether it’s in the punk rock black metal version at Mission or the wild atmospheric fizzy colors at Fillmore. It was to go from a hectic color out front to a calming hallway in the middle to the relaxing atmosphere of the piercing room; an amuse bouche to a palliative to duck confit in clear broth.
We’d love to know a bit about a few of your favorite design elements. What are some of the standout features you love most?
Can you really get over the wallpaper with gold drips? Noz texted me one night and said we’re going to buy this really expensive wallpaper and then we’re going to destroy it. That made me laugh and I was for the wildness, the rebelliousness. The snake ‘rug’ that Caroline Lizarraga painted really brings in the Fiat Lux spirit & pulls the shop together. The vintage brass jaguar case handles, the vintage chandeliers, the vintage setee, so many things that work so well together, it’s a space that looks like the collections we put together, wild, joyful, exuberant, full of contrasts & emotion.
How is this new space different from your first location?
Our very first location was about the size of a closet on Church St and all DIY- we built the shelving ourselves from found driftwood. When we moved that space to the Mission location, the rebellious punk rock concept, the black metal motorcycle kitten’s club, dominated. At Fillmore, the rebelliousness is there, but the face is different. I’m also carrying some jewelry that I’ve had my eye on for quite a while that didn’t fit my other space, rainbows, blossoming flowers, big sparklers, all of which I love.
What are you most excited about, now that the new store is open and we’re at the tail end of the pandemic?
I’m most excited about having those singular connective moments with people. The pandemic was very lonely in certain ways and I realize how much I love my clients and sharing inspiration with one another.
Ok, we know you’d never play favorites, but list 5 jewelry pieces are you loving right now…
Venyx Madagascar Ring- because I never thought I needed a diamond encrusted tortoise shell ring until I saw it.
Victoria Walker Sunflower Kinetic Locket – she’s made immoveable metal look exactly like a flower in motion.
Fiat Lux Third Eye – it’s the best ring I’ve designed, it’s female through and through.
Celine D’aoust Oval Plate Dangling Eye – the dangling eye!
Sophie Gardner Evil Eye Heart – hand-carved color meditation.
Sofia Zakia Poenia – girly but interesting.
Wait, how many did you say I can pick?