A single Minnetonka style can be worn a million different ways. In our Well Worn series we spotlight unique individuals who seek to stand apart not only in what they wear but what they do.
With a unique blend of bold, edgy silhouettes juxtaposed with soft, vintage details we were instantly smitten with the statement making designs of California-based jewelry line Jules Smith.
Recently we headed West to meet with founder Gina Nigrelli-Smith and learn more about the creativity and craftsmanship that goes into each and every piece designed.
Tell us about your background and what lead to the launch of Jules Smith.
I started Jules Smith because I love fashion, I love merchandising and I love brands. I worked on the merchandising team at Diesel and was very inspired by how the brand resonated throughout their corporate culture. Diesel was a global phenomenon with brand integrity. I went on a bunch of employee retreats and knew that I wanted to create that on my own. I became determined to pioneer a lifestyle brand that mimicked my own experiences blending urban and resort, vintage and modern.
My husband, Brian and I moved to the Caribbean and jewelry was the only category that made sense. I didn’t know much about actual construction so I started hounding local jewelers to teach me the basics, I turned my guest house into a studio, merged what they taught me with the style and inspiration surrounding me, and it took off from there.
Describe your design philosophy and creative process. Where do you find inspiration?
First and foremost I love merchandising. I love collecting pieces that inspire me, mapping them out into stories and designing from there. I pull current fashion inspirations from magazines, art, architecture, objects from my travels, the beach, pretty much anywhere and merge them with antique finds and influences from the past. You’ll see this theme throughout my personal style and my collection.
I have always been enthralled with interior design. I read design magazines and blogs religiously and dwell over every detail in every room. I shop flea markets one Sunday a month. I merchandise bookshelves, tabletops, closets; I am working on a mirror wall right now. Designing a gallery wall with mirrors of all shapes and sizes and metal colors from different parts of the world and decades.
I love to travel, just to check out all of the local shops, talk to the local people and learn from the artists. I always try and spend at least one day mingling with the locals, getting a sense of what they do. We always end up shipping things home because I buy furniture, art or baskets - things that can’t be packed in a suitcase.There are a million beautiful things in the world and somehow, when they come together in a new way, they become even more spectacular. My house has a little taste of everywhere we’ve ever been, a very eclectic feel. This eclectic and unexpected ideology resonates throughout my designs and rings clear when you look at my collections as a whole.
I pride myself in being a great editor. I never look at one piece; I see the collection as a whole. I try and create looks that are informed by my various experiences living all over the world and the beautiful chaos of balancing work and family. I make pieces I can see myself wearing but also try and design for the girl who has a little bit more flexibility than I do in her fashion choices.
What does a typical day in your studio look like?
As a business owner, every day is different and I wear so many hats both in and outside the office, but having a great team allows me to spend the majority of my days creating. I start with coffee, always. Then I dive into sketching to make sure I can get all of my ideas down on paper. I move those sketches to digital renderings so that I can perfect the details before choosing stone colors off Pantone and Swarovski charts.
One of my favorite things to do is sift through piles of components to see how different elements work together, realizing the ideas that first live on paper and the computer. Once the initial design is complete, I send it off to a sample maker to bring it to life. Those are the best days.
Describe your everyday style, how is it inspired by what you do?
My style is relaxed, bohemian…very 70’s. Each decade’s trends come and go but I have always been drawn to the free-spirited style of the 70’s. I live in denim, love nostalgic prints, flared long sleeves are a must, I die for floral and batik fabrics.
My design aesthetic is very vintage inspired, heavily 70’s influenced of course. I try and only design items that fit somewhere in my wardrobe. My jewelry preferences tend to be more boho-glam than the relaxed feel of my outfit choices, but I look at jewelry and accessories as an opportunity to dress up any outfit. With that said, I like my jewels to make a bit more of a statement and be a little more glam than my clothing.
What was the inspiration behind the Soleil Turquoise Pendant?
The California sunshine. I was at the beach one day and the sun was setting, it was so beautiful reflecting off the waves I decided I had to create a collection inspired by the sun, one of the world’s most incredible treasures.