Susan Jane wearing her Crystal “O” necklace.
San Francisco based jewelry designer Susan Jane has a master talent of creating beautiful bracelets, necklaces and earrings constructed from vintage and antique jewelry. Each of her stunning pieces utilize earrings, pins, bracelets, necklaces and chain from the mid 20th century to the 1980’s, making them perfect for cocktail parties, special occasions and weddings. Her jewelry has been carried at Henri Bendel, Anthropologie, Nordstrom and Kate Spade, but currently she is selling jewelry through her online store and special trunk shows. Susan has been busy preparing for her latest trunk show on Saturday, May 15, 2010, but took the time out of her schedule to answer questions about her successful career in jewelry making.
Ornamented velvet cuffs.
Michele: When did you first get interested in fashion, design and vintage items?
Susan: I have always loved fashion since I was little. When I was young, I was more concerned about making clothes for my dolls than I was with playing with them! I later on in life became an excellent seamstress. I just love working with fabric, color and textures. I really enjoy going to flea markets because they are rich in materials and history. Both give me such inspiration in creating jewelry. I also appreciate old movies and anything mid-century.
Michele: What’s your background?
Susan: I have worked in retail for my entire career, including positions at Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Gump’s and RedEnvelope. I have a degree in Fashion Merchandising from San Diego State University.
Reconstructed vintage crystal necklace.
Michele: How did you start designing jewelry?
Susan: I started with the idea in the Fall of 2001. I wanted to start with materials that were affordable, so I could buy a lot to experiment with. Vintage jewelry was not as popular then, so I set out to a few flea markets and bought a few bags of earrings, necklaces, chains, etc. I played around with that, while working full time, and came up with a bracelet concept that was picked up by a couple of stores here in San Francisco, Timeless Treasures and Sarah Shaw in 2003. By Fall 2004, I was picked up by the Kate Spade stores. From 2004 through 2007, I was their number one jewelry vendor with my collection of bracelets. Currently I throw a trunk show and special sale about four to five times a year. I always have new designs from vintage pieces that I source, so each trunk show features a unique collection. I also sell my jewelry at my online store.
Michele: When you started designing, did you think you would end up being so successful or was it more of a hobby?
Susan: I had no idea that I could do so well with Kate Spade. They were fantastic to work with and really supportive! I really wanted a creative outlet and hoped to sell a little here, a little there. One of my biggest thrills was selling at Henri Bendel. I knew how hard it was to get picked up with them. I just loved selling my jewelry in NYC on 5th Avenue with Harry Winston Jewels next door and the Trump Tower across the street!
Michele: Do you currently prefer online sales and trunk shows versus having stores carry your brand?
Susan: Yes, I prefer online sales and trunk shows versus wholesaling. I’m able to connect directly with my customers and it’s more lucrative.
Michele: What was the inspiration behind using vintage pieces?
Susan: The inspiration is using amazing jewelry that may be broken or missing a mate and matching pieces up to create a composition of complimentary pieces. I love mixing new with old. It is a way to wear vintage jewelry, but with a more contemporary edge. Just like home decorating right now embraces mixing new pieces with flea market finds and heirlooms, I feel that fashion is the same way. Why not wear the real pearl necklace with a few flea market bracelets?
Michele: What are some key items from your collection that every woman should have?
Susan: Everyone needs the velvet cut bracelet. Its’ a great way to update the LBD (little black dress). Also the embellished charm bracelet is fun to wear. I like to wear two of them together. The multi media 18″ necklace is also a great piece that would compliment every woman’s wardrobe.
Holiday On Ice 18″ necklace.
Michele: I like that you also offer your stylist expertise to women. How did this come about?
Susan: I kept meeting women that told me about their shoe box full of their mother’s, grandmother’s, aunt’s jewelry, that they just didn’t know what to do with it. So I help women figure out what they have from a collectible standpoint; what should be repaired, how to wear pieces so it looks like more than just say, a vintage pin, how to layer necklaces to get a more current look, and what could be turned into something custom for a special event or simply into something that would get these jewels out of the box and into something they can wear.
Michele: When you design your pieces, do you have a woman in mind who would wear them?
Susan: I enjoy seeing women feel dressed up when they put on one of my pieces. Each piece is unique, as is each woman I encounter, and there is always something in my collection that will complement their beauty and make them feel fabulous.
Grey drop earrings.
Designer Susan Jane has captured a timeless elegance in each one of her pieces, bringing a touch of glamour to any outfit. Because each is one-of-a-kind, crafted from the vintage jewelry she finds, her online store or trunk shows are worth visiting often to see what exciting, new beautiful creations she has added to her jewelry collection.
Susan Jane’s jewelry can be purchased through her online store at www.shop.susanjane.com. Today, May 15th, she is hosting a trunk show at The Westin St. Francis, Yorkshire Room at 335 Powell Street. She is selling all her items at 50% just for the day. Stop in between 11:00 AM and 7:00 PM to see her beautiful jewelry collection and receive styling tips from her at the same time. If unable to attend, her online shop is also acknowledging the discount. Use the promotion code BWBALL at checkout. The code is valid through May 22, 2010.