California-native Sophie Okulick took a break from whittling her signature pieces of sculptural wooden jewelry to chat with Fashion Pulse Daily. Inspired by natural materials, Okulick crafts her designs using exotic woods, crystals, and gold leaf, and the mixture of earthy luxury has garnered her quite a few fans. We learned how she got her start, and what her days are like now that more people know her brand.
Fashion Pulse Daily: Your Facebook page says “Founded in 2009”, but I can’t imagine you’ve been doing this since only then. Tell me a bit about how and when Sophie Monet Jewelry began.
Sophie Okulick: I’ve been surrounded by art my entire life, and have been making jewelry since I was little. My dad is a sculptor and uses wood and metal in his pieces. After I graduated from college in New York I came back to Los Angeles and realized I wanted to start a business, but had little money to do so. I realized I could utilize the tools and materials that I already had accessible to me to create a jewelry line.
FPD: What’s a typical day like for you?
SO: I work out of my dad’s studio in Venice, so I will go there in the morning; work on orders in the wood shop, move from the band saw to the sander to the spray table and so on, all while trying not to sand off my fingernails…which is almost impossible. My dad will pick up ceviche for lunch and we eat on an empty crate outside. It’s really nice having somebody there to ask for guidance when I’m still learning how to perfect my wood working skills.
SO: When I first began working at the studio I would go to the hardware store and see what different types of housewares I could make jewelry out of. I drew on different shapes and experimented with metal and plexi-glass, but none were as easily pliable, or had the soft qualities, of wood. The machinery I use is meant for large-scale carpentry, so it was a challenge for me to essentially make miniatures. I would explain to my dad what I wanted to do and he would be like, “Oh I have a tool for that.” I still plan on making a necklace out of a door knob.
FPD: Are there any pieces that are more fun or inspiring to create than others?
SO: I love finding new rocks and crystals that are different in shape and color. From there I think about whether it would be good as a ring, or necklace, should it lay flat or come out from the bottom. I love the feeling when I can create something on accident and it comes out so cool and different. I’m looking forward to making earrings and bracelets next.
FPD: Do you ever create pieces that you love so much you have a hard time parting with them?
SO: Yes, it’s hard because no two rocks are the same in shape and size. The malachite for example has this flow of lines going through it. I’m wearing that one the most right now because I’m so obsessed with its natural inner designs.
FPD: Considering that you’re inspired by New York’s architecture, do you have plans to incorporate more architectural elements to your pieces, like glass or silver, or even more industrial metals, like copper?
SO: I use a copper chain now, because the color goes perfectly with the Shedua wood, and it’s a great alternative to silver or gold. The geometry in architecture and in nature inspire parts of my designs, like arches and points that collide and make up a soft/hard contrast. The buildings in New York are so colossally beautiful and overwhelming that I want my jewelry to have the same effect on the people wearing it. I want to live in an art deco log cabin one day.
FPD: You were recently featured in WWD, what was that like for getting more buzz, press, and sales for the line?
SO: It was such a great day when I realized my rings were in WWD, I had been at the Focus trade show in Los Angeles all week and didn’t realize at the time I was getting interviewed by the publication. Being in such a famous paper makes working so hard worthwhile.
FPD: Right now your pieces are only in about four stores in Los Angeles, where else will your jewelry be found in the future?
SO: My line is about to go international, and will be in a store called Violet Hill in Vancouver, Canada. I’m currently looking for stores In New York to exhibit my line as well.
SO: I think my pieces are so versatile you can really dress them up or down. I love wearing the spike necklace with just a simple T-shirt and jeans. The double finger rings are great as well when you stack them.
FPD: You have such a distinct aesthetic – are there any other jewelry designers out there whose work you really admire/inspires you?
SO: There are so many jewelry designers I love right now. I used to live across the street from the Tom Binns store in NYC, so I would walk by and start drooling over his luscious artful creations.
FPD: One fan on Facebook said, “Impressive and subtle…beats Tiffany’s any day.” In light of that comment, who is the Sophie Monet woman?
SO: A woman who is educated, interested in style, travel, and sophistication. A woman who loves the way looking at art makes her feel, inspired. A woman who loves being surrounded by nature.
FPD: How do you use social media to communicate with your customers and possibly even influence/shape your designs?
SO: I try to use photography and the Internet as a means of getting as many people to see my work as possible. It’s hard, because there are so many designers trying to do the same, and at a point you just have to sit back and let the work speak for itself.