Jewelry designer Zoë Chicco started young – and perhaps was the only grade schooler in Pennsylvania to design her own accessories using random trinkets found around the house. Zoë, a trained goldsmith, has since graduated from tchotchkes to high-end elegance. Her “everyday pieces” are significant enough to be worn alone, yet delicate enough to wear layered together. Zoë’s path has been impressive – beginning with Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, to the Studio Arts Center International in Florence, to an at-home studio in California, to a team of artisans working at her bright studio in downtown Los Angeles. Through the process, she’s gained loyal followers with noteworthy names – Giselle Bundchen, Sofia Vergara, Cameron Diaz, and Demi Moore all call themselves fans. We were thrilled to take a tour of Zoë’s studio, but aren’t sure what we loved more – the fabulous interior design or the elegant jewelry. We’ll have to call it a tie:
From interiors to jewelry, you’ve obviously got a natural talent! When did you first discover your love of design?
For as long as I can remember I have loved design. I would build “homes” for my dolls when I was very young, pore over fashion magazines as I got older, and cut and rework my clothes and jewelry. I was always editing things to make them more my own.
Tell us a little more about your journey to jewelry design. When did you first decide to become a trained goldsmith?
I had a passion for jewelry design pretty early on. Long before it was cool to have an arm party, my grandmother wore wrists full of bangles and had rings on almost every finger. Every time we went to her house, I would dig through her jewelry box and try everything on. At a very young age I started putting random things together – I reworked jewelry my mother gave me and created handmade accessories with random trinkets I would find around the house. But the real “aha moment” came in high school, when my art teacher took me under her wing and taught me the basics of metalsmithing. I became obsessed with the creative process! I really enjoyed working with my hands and seemed to be able to better express my artistic side three‐dimensionally rather than on paper. I took to it quickly and with such enthusiasm, that the following year, she started a jewelry class for all students, which I took until I graduated.
I like to think it comes naturally to me, but I did study formally. After my experience in high school, I knew I wanted to continue my studies in college. I attended Skidmore College in upstate New York and graduated with a Studio Art major with a concentration in Metalsmithing. I also studied at the Studio Arts Center International in Florence, Italy and had several apprenticeships with well-established jewelers and goldsmiths on both coasts honing my skills before striking out on my own.
Seriously impressive! Where do you gain inspiration?
I am a very visual person, so what I see inspires me. It could be anything – a pattern, a building, a work of art. I gravitate towards clean lines and classic forms in my home, personal style and jewelry line. I look to current trends in fashion to inform my designs but don’t rely on them. Instead, I create what I like and what I can see myself or my friends wearing everyday. It is always my goal to make my clients go-to pieces that feel current but transcend trends. I try to create pieces that are simple yet sophisticated, that can be worn layered but are strong enough to stand alone.
We’d love to know – what has been your biggest professional accomplishment so far?
Building my business from the ground up to a place where I am able to take a step back, and work as the creative, while the day to day of the business runs on its own. This allows me to spend more time with my husband and our son, Truman. That was always a dream of ours, and after 15 years of hard work, we are finally living it!
Congratulations!! So when it comes to jewelry, what is your mantra?
Create the pieces you want to wear, but make them your own.
Any favorite pieces?
I love the jewelry in my collection and wear many of the rings, bracelets and necklaces on a daily basis, but my all-time favorites are the pieces that were given to me for very special occasions and have sentimental meaning – my wedding rings, one of my Grandmother’s bangles, and the Cartier bracelet my husband gave me when our son was born.
We’d love to know more about the office. How did you find the space?
After working out of a home studio and commuting to the downtown LA jewelry district almost daily, we decided it was time to look for a space that was within walking distance of our regular vendors. We were looking for a dog-friendly environment that offered ample light, an open floorplan and enough space to house our office as well as our workshop. We found the perfect gem of a spot, located in the historic arts district, surrounded by art galleries, cafes and boutiques. We’ve watched as downtown LA has blossomed into THE place to live and work. The jewelry district is two blocks away and allows for convenient access to almost any material we may need for making the line – from raw materials, to diamonds and gemstones, to displays, packing materials and more. We are truly lucky to be in such an ideal location and look forward to growing in this space for years to come.
When designing the space, what was your top priority?
The space houses our showroom, offices and studio where we make the jewelry. We needed it to be highly functional as an office/workshop but also have a space to showcase the jewelry in a beautiful way. We tried to make the overall atmosphere light, playful and full of artwork and details that we like to be around. I really enjoy interior design as do my good friends (and Workhorse partners), Nicole and Amber who share the space. They have been avid flea market shoppers since they were very young. I started tagging along about five years ago and completely got hooked. Our space has become the perfect place to display all of the vintage accent pieces we have collected over the years. I generally like modern, clean lines, and a neutral palette throughout, with pops of color here and there. I knew when designing this space I wanted to bring in some warmth with gold and brass accents to complement the jewelry. So we started with a gold, black and white color palette and mixed my modern vibe with all of the fun little details, which flourishes to give it a nice eclectic feel.
What is your favorite part of the space?
My favorite part of the space is the showroom area. It is probably the space I spend the least time in as I am typically in my office or with my team in the studio, but it is the space I am most excited by design-wise. I needed a dedicated area to showcase my jewelry when clients, stylists and wholesale buyers come to see the line in person. Unlike the office or studio, which are used so heavily that they get messy pretty easily, this is the spot where I could really let my design-sense run free. I think it’s the eclectic mix of high and low style that works really well in this room.
Any favorite pieces in the area??
I splurged on the vintage ram’s head glass coffee table and buttery soft accent chairs whereas the shelves are the ultimate Ikea hack. We bought their standard black shelves and then added a gilded touch by spray-painting them gold. I scored the bar cart, antlers and many of the accessories at local flea markets at really reasonable prices, but indulged a bit with the brass urchin chandelier. It’s like a little retreat within the space. Every time I walk in I feel at ease and inspired.
What is a typical workday like for you?
My workday has changed so much over the years. In the beginning I was a one woman show – I did everything myself (fabricating the jewelry, sales, paperwork, etc). Those were some long days… But as the business has grown, so has my amazing, dedicated staff. This past spring in preparation for the birth of my son, we made a few additional hires to take some of the everyday tasks of operating the business off my plate. So now, I tend to spend my mornings hanging out with our baby, Truman. And spend the afternoons answering emails, any pertinent questions and working on special projects and new designs. It took a long time and a lot of hard work to get to this place and I feel so lucky to be able to do what I love and still have time to spend with my family.
Finally, we have to ask – any big plans for 2015?
This year we are celebrating our 15 year anniversary and it’s so wonderful to see how far the company has come! I am looking forward to continuing to grow the business at home and abroad. I also have some very exciting collaborations in the works, as well as a new collection that I hope to unveil soon!
We can’t wait to see! To learn more about Zoë (or to shop her designs), click here.