LA-based jewellery designer Rosanne Karmes speaks about the last 15 years of unexpected trendsetting and how her Sydney Evan collection continues to remain grounded on the inspiration drawn from her family
When you land that coveted Vogue cover with no less than Kate Moss photographed in nothing but the necklace you sent her, you must know you're on to something big. In the world of Sydney Evan, it was a glittering milestone among many since the brand's launch.
Celebrating 15 successful years in the notoriously fickle fashion industry is certainly no small feat. It's even more remarkable when the years have been marked by women from all over the world reimagining their notions for fine jewelry and creating their own personalised ways of wearing the signature Sydney Evan designs in their everyday lives. In honor of the landmark anniversary, designer Rosanne Karmes has created an exclusive 14-piece capsule collection featuring some of her most iconic and trendsetting creations. At the heart of the collection are the statement necklace and bracelet featuring all the special symbols that bring happiness and joy to the designer.
You launched Sydney Evan 15 years ago with your horseshoe design. What first inspired the launch of your own jewellery brand and that particular design? The first thing I ever designed was a diamond horseshoe. Everything I designed was either a symbol of good luck or protection. I started off with all lucky symbols and then a diamond heart. I advised a lot of young girls about jewelry and through my earlier work in the jewellery business, realised that I knew a lot about it and enjoyed it. I launched the brand Sydney Evan in 2001 and 15 years later, I can humbly say that I've started a lot of trends. We launched trends that I never knew in a million years would be so big.
What was your own first memorable piece of jewellery? My 'love' necklace, which was born out of a doodle I drew during a business meeting. The design has been a hit with the likes of Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez and Kourtney Kardashian, to name a few. It's definitely one of my must-haves. I mean, everybody loves 'love', right? That's something that will never go out of fashion and as I like to say, it's the only 'love' that you can ever buy.
Sydney Evan has become known for fine jewellery pieces that can be worn everyday as a form of self-expression. How has the brand evolved from when you first launched it? Following my designs of lucky symbols, I launched the beaded bracelet with diamond charms. The beaded bracelets are very me. They are easy to wear and I have people that collect them. They're great because you can put any diamond charm on any bead and each one is made-to-order. Then I designed what I have become most known for, the Love collection. I started it in 2008 with a large 'love' script in my handwriting. It has become the number one knocked off piece in my whole line and has been for years.
We are like the house of customising. My last appointment said I am the 'Queen of Custom'— and it's true. You can order anything, in any way. My husband jokes, "yeah, you're like Burger King — you can have it your way." Just a little bit more money than Burger King, but I can't say no to people.
Your collection is dedicated to family and named after your children. Who and what continue to inspire your designs? My father, Sy, was born in Poland and was sent to Auschwitz, where he lost his entire family apart from an uncle and a couple of cousins. The symbols of protection, peace and good fortune are at the heart of my collections and they are all centred on being the child of survivors.
My dad had one cousin who'd been a prisoner of war. When I was about three years old, he sent us evil eyes, which are believed to deflect misfortune. I still have them and I use this symbol a lot in my collections. My mother would always make us wear something that brought protection.
My children will always inspire me and give me ideas. My daughter Sydney is now in college and has a good eye for trends and keeps me up-to-date, whilst my son Evan has been a great sounding board for the men's collection that we're looking to launch.
Who were among your first clients that really helped launch the Sydney Evan brand? And, is there any woman in particular who has yet to wear your designs that you dream of seeing in Sydney Evan? Rihanna was one of my first famous customers. She bought a piece 12 years ago and has gone on to purchase pretty much all of my collections. I've been fortunate enough that a lot of my heroes have already worn and like my pieces — from Angeline Jolie to Jennifer Lawrence. If there is one person that I'd love to see wearing Sydney Evan, it would be Natalie Portman. She's a great role model and would look beautiful in my designs.
For any brand, longevity is quite the challenge. Fifteen years later, Sydney Evan is continuing to grow and has been worn by numerous notable women. What for you have personally been some of the most memorable milestones of your brand? The decision two years ago to take a gamble and send Kate Moss a custom-made gold necklace. It appeared on the cover of Vogue and I nearly died when I saw it. When I got a call to say it had made it onto that cover was a memorable milestone. Even now just talking about it, I still get goosebumps.
What are your own personal must-wear pieces from your collection? Everyone always asks me what my favorite piece is and it's such a difficult question. I'm torn between my love necklace and this red beaded bracelet with a little diamond Hamsa. The bracelet has a lot of meaning because my mum, who was very superstitious, used to sew red on my and my brother's clothing for protection. I also had a little Hamsa charm in my treasure chest, which my cousin gave me when I was born. So I call this bracelet my double protection bracelet and I never leave home without it. It's an ode to my mother, in a way.
Who is the Sydney Evan woman and how do your designs fit into her existing jewellery collection? Sydney Evan is all about feeling good. It's about empowering us to not wait for a guy to buy us a piece of jewellery and to buy something that has intrinsic value. I feel like I was very involved with this movement — making jewellery affordable and still have it speak to every person. A five year old to a 95 year old could wear the line. It can be passed on. I want there to be something for everybody. I don't want anybody to walk away and say they can't find something for themselves.
If you could raid anyone's jewellery collection, whose would it be and what pieces would you take? I'm lucky enough that I design my collections based on what I love so really, everything that I could ever want has spanned across my collections of 15 years.
What can we expect from Sydney Evan for the next 15 years and beyond? Will we see Sydney Evan in Singapore soon? I don't ever really know, I just keep making more jewellery. I've been full force '70s style for many years now as that is my era. I try to get the look of whatever the trend is but done in a way that is more updated, more delicate but still making a statement. I'll definitely be looking to expand the kids' collection as well as launching a men's collection.
The collection is already doing so well in other Asian countries like Japan and Hong Kong so we'll definitely be looking into Singapore soon!