Irene Neuwirth is a Los Angeles based jewelry designer.
Interview by Brooke Frischer
Irene Neuwirth in Jonathan Cohen FW21.
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME ACQUAINTED WITH JONATHAN COHEN?
I first met Jonathan at an event in Charlotte, NC for one of my all-time favorite stores, Capitol. I saw his pieces for the very first time there which is not surprising because it’s the most gorgeous place.
FOR YOUR AT-HOME PHOTOSHOOT, YOU HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO STYLE YOUR OWN LOOK, WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE PARTICULAR OUTFIT YOU WERE PHOTOGRAPHED IN?
It was impossible to choose but I loved all the colors and flowers, obviously!
THE FASHION INDUSTRY IS CHANGING AT SUCH A RAPID PACE. WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FOR THE FUTURE OF FASHION? ADDITIONALLY, WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE MOST EXCITING OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE FUTURE OF FASHION?
The biggest challenge this year has been working with our retail partners. It’s been such a trying moment especially for independent retailers and we want to be good partners and for them to thrive but also have to be cautious. On the other hand, the most exciting thing for me is to rethink our business with this new challenge. I love to make pieces that are one of a kind. I’ve so enjoyed getting creative in the ways we reach our clients and communicate with them, to really hear what they want and need. This is what we focused on for the past year and a half and in return we have fostered this incredible loyalty and our business has grown in a different direction. People are comfortable investing in pieces that they will love forever.
Vice President Kamala Harris in Irene Neuwirth's Pearl Link Necklace.
GROWING UP IN LOS ANGELES, YOU RODE HORSES COMPETITIVELY SINCE THE AGE OF 13. HAS BEING IN THE WORLD OF HORSEBACK-RIDING AND EQUESTRIANS FROM A YOUNG AGE INFLUENCED YOUR STYLE?
I’m not sure it influences my style directly, but it for sure influences me. There is something so incredible about being in the fashion realm but being able to escape to the world of horses. Having that meditative hobby allows me the space to step outside and be creative.
YOUR JEWELRY LINE IS KNOWN FOR ITS COLORS AND WHIMSICALITY. WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION WHEN COMING UP WITH NEW COLLECTIONS AND IDEAS?
I think most of my inspiration comes from nature and traveling. Recently a lot of that traveling has been at home, in the garden, under the trees. We moved up to Malibu last year and I’ve been designing in my home studio which has been amazing, in truth. I’m a super early riser so I go in there and just get started.
YOU DESIGNED A PAIR OF CUSTOM EARRINGS FOR VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS TO WEAR ON THE NIGHT OF HER INAUGURATION, AND SHE FREQUENTLY WEARS OTHER DESIGNS OF YOURS AS WELL. WHAT INSPIRED THE DESIGNS THAT YOU MADE FOR SUCH A HISTORIC EVENT?
I wanted to design something strong and powerful, yet elegant and understated. I loved mixing the signature pearls with unusual cuts of diamonds. And there was something just fun to me about putting them on the huggies. It was an unexpected choice that worked for me, and for Madame Vice President, thankfully!
YOU HAVE BEEN CREDITED WITH BRINGING OPALS BACK INTO FASHION. ARE THERE ANY OTHER STONES OR GEMS THAT YOU WISH YOU SAW MORE OF IN JEWELRY TODAY?
The fun part of working with color is I’m constantly inspired to use different stones. Right now I’m very into the super saturated, bold colors of my Gemmy Gem collection. I like to break the traditional jewelry rules and mix opals with diamonds, turquoise, amethyst and so on. I try not to keep precious stones with precious stones. To me, the specialness in my pieces comes from the color choices and pairings.
Irene Neuwirth in Jonathan Cohen FW21 with her dog, Miguel.
HOW DO YOU APPROACH YOUR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE DIFFERENTLY WITH YOUR RETAILERS VERSUS YOUR OWN STORE? HOW HAS THAT CUSTOMER COMMUNICATION AND EDUCATION CHANGED OVER THIS LAST YEAR WITH COVID?
We have more control over the client experience with our boutique and site. It’s all so personal to me, the music, the lighting, the couch. I have been so grateful and touched by the loyalty our clients have shown. People come to me for special pieces marking real milestones in their lives, engagement rings, wedding bands, graduation and baby presents. This is the highest compliment as a designer and being someone’s choice is not something I ever take for granted.
WHEN YOUR FLAGSHIP STORE OPENED IN 2014, YOU COLLABORATED WITH DESIGNER PAMELA SHAMSHIRI TO CREATE A FULL KITCHEN IN THE SPACE FOR ENTERTAINING. HOW HAVE YOU ADAPTED YOUR LOVE FOR ENTERTAINING IN YOUR STORE AFTER COVID?
I’ve had to refocus away from the 'in person' experience which was such a challenge in the beginning, but those who know me well, know I love a challenge and don’t shy away.
YOUR LOVE FOR YOUR PETS IS EVIDENT THROUGH YOUR INSTAGRAM. HOW DO THEY INSPIRE YOUR WORK?
I love everything about them. I have had a ball with the pet portraits. They are a perfect example of my work, in truth. Playful, whimsical, meticulously created and ultra-fine.
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BE JEWELRY DESIGNERS BUT AREN'T SURE WHERE TO START?
Go for it. Create pieces YOU love. Listen and learn, but don’t compromise your core values. And don’t wait for things to be absolutely perfect before you put them out there in the world. They will never be perfect and it's so helpful to be open to everything. That’s the magic.
You can follow Irene on Instagram @ireneneuwirth and learn more about Irene Neuwirth Jewelry at ireneneuwirth.com