Passion and creativity were the driving forces that brought Stephanie Wynne Lalin and Jenny Klatt together to launch Jemma Wynne in 2008. Guided by their uniquely sophisticated and chic sensibility, the design duo combines classic polish with relaxed femininity to create their fine jewelry collection.
Stephanie and Jenny each developed their unique personal aesthetics at a young age, taking inspiration from around the globe. Moved by her extensive travels throughout Europe while an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania, Jenny began designing intricately detailed mosaic art, tiled furniture and jewelry, which she then transformed into a successful, growing business. Meanwhile, inspired by a small bead store in Washington, D.C. that she frequented while studying graphic design at American University, Stephanie began to create unique custom pieces, which she then successfully sold in stores throughout New York and New Jersey. Jenny and Stephanie's paths finally crossed in 2005 while working together in product development at a fine jewelry house in NYC. It was there they realized their shared design philosophy and began to forge a collaboration that would ultimately become Jemma Wynne.
Together, Jenny and Stephanie breathe fresh life into precious jewels by adding their unique perspective and unexpected detail to all of their creations. Today, Jemma Wynne can boast a growing roster of celebrity fans including Jessica Biel, Mariska Hargitay, Kristen Bell, Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis, Camila Alves, Reese Witherspoon and Olivia Palermo.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Jenny: From the time I was young, a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit was instilled within me. My father and grandfather both left comfortable jobs to go off and pursue their own dreams and went on to build successful businesses. Through both of their examples, I learned how important it is to be a good leader and manager and truly respect those around you and how important it is to build an amazing team to support the business. Also, growing up as the only girl in a family of three boys I ended up spending a lot of my time with my mother who is an extremely talented artist and painter. She invested so much time helping me pursue my creative endeavors- I took painting classes throughout my childhood which helped refine my skills and later took a mosaic class which sparked my interest in designing intricately detailed mosaic art, tiled furniture and jewelry. I feel as though my mother laid the foundation for where I am today. She taught me perseverance, kindness, patience, and how to be tough when you need to. She was the leader of our pack and I try to emulate her wonderful traits everyday. All of these factors have contributed to my ability to be a 'leader'.
How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Jemma Wynne?
Stephanie: My first job out of college was a design assistant at a large jewelry house in NYC. I was incredibly lucky to be exposed to every aspect of the design process. I learned everything from how to sketch in actual size and proportions, to making models, to finishing pieces in the in-house shop. It was quite an amazing experience and I know how incredibly fortunate I was to be a member of their team. More importantly, I was a member of a very talented product development team which is how I met Jenny! We learned very fast that we worked extremely well together and made a great team. The years we spent there were not only an invaluable learning experience but were really fun!
Jenny: We are both self taught artists but had the fortunate opportunity to learn from a classically trained goldsmith that most designers in our field do not come across during their entire careers. For three years, we were taught the technical aspects of fine jewelry making, which provided us with training, experience and guidance in the creation and development of our own brand. Because Stephanie and I met in a creative work environment, we have so much respect for each other, and have a very open and honest relationship. We feel like we complement one another very well, and feel lucky to have found each other. Without that foundation we would not be where we are today. In my previous employment experience I also learned how to juggle numerous projects at once, I tracked the development process for all new in house domestic samples, worked with our factories/jewelers and helped guide the work flow process, created bill of materials for every style and worked with our production team to ensure they had the necessary tools to run a smooth/cost effective production run. I quickly learned how important it is to always see the bigger picture ahead but not miss a detail along the way. These are skills that I still use on a daily basis while managing our business at Jemma Wynne.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Jemma Wynne?
Stephanie: Working with and selling in stores that I have admired for years has been a true highlight of mine. I also will never forget the feeling of having the First Lady Michelle Obama wear our earrings- it was such an honor and dream come true. As a designer it is not always easy to handle the "business' side of owning your own business. It has been a learning experience learning how to manage cash flow and work within budgets when designing but it is just part of business. Learning how to make decisions based not solely on emotions but on reality and fact is a challenge that we had to overcome quickly.
Jenny: One of the highlights is being able to take a step back and really recognize what we have built over the last 7 ½ years. I was twenty three when we started Jemma Wynne, and I certainly had no real clue what I was doing, but I knew that I wanted to build something and there's nothing that could replace that passion. There have definitely been challenges along the way. My entire path leading up to Jemma Wynne was filled with endless opportunities to be an artist and explore my creativity, and that is something I still love to be a part of on a daily basis. But as a business owner, with no formal finance or business background, I needed to learn the ropes. Learning all of the aspects of running and managing our business and planning and strategizing for growth- those things were all new to me and a challenge at first.
Tell us more about the inspiration behind your designs.
Stephanie: Art has always had a large influence in my life. It definitely contributes to shapes and color palettes in our work. My favorites are always impressionist and contemporary pieces with lots of interesting and unexpected colors mixed together. Right now I am loving Dale Frank's works. I am also always inspired by mixing mine and Jenny's styles. Jenny has a more relaxed feminine style and I have more of a tailored and polished style. I will come up with an idea for a piece and love sitting with Jenny to talk about it. The result is always the perfect mix of feminine and classicly tailored pieces that work for all women!
Jenny: We are surrounded by some of the most fashionable women in the world walking down the streets in NYC. There is so much creativity- sometimes we are inspired by the originality of these women and the way they mix and match their wardrobes.
What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
Stephanie: Do a lot of research. Think about what you are really good at and stick to that. Try not to do everything yourself, be involved, but find good people around you that can help you with things that aren't your strength. Talk to as many people in your industry as possible and listen to their experiences. You will be surprised at how many people want to help and see you succeed.