DO WHAT YOU KNOW. IT'S SOMETHING WE HEAR A LOT IN THE BUSINESS WORLD.
For Gorjana Reidel, founder of Gorjana, an LA-based jewelry line, it's a strategy that worked. "Creating," she says, "is in her blood."
Reidel moved around a lot as a child. From Serbia to Canada and finally, the United States for her freshman year of high school, her family was always on the move. So when she launched her eponymous jewelry line in 2004, with her now husband, the two hit the road-- literally putting 50k miles on her car, securing their first 100 stores. The goal was to create and sell beautiful pieces like she saw in luxury department stores, but at much more affordable and approachable price.
It wasn't so much a strategy, she says but, "the only way we knew how to do something." Which might have something to do with why Gorjana was the top-selling jewelry line on Shopbop for seven years. We checked in with the designer to ask about why she's not the biggest fan of technology and how passing on a piece of jewelry is sharing a part of yourself.
You’ve said that you make pieces that reflect who you are. So, give us a little background. Who are you and what were you doing before launching Gorjana?
I spend most of my childhood moving around; I lived in Serbia and Canada before moving to the U.S. my freshman year of high school. Living in Serbia I was really close to my grandmothers and spent most of my childhood watching them create and then learning to create too. Whether it was learning how to knit and making sweaters for my Barbie dolls or making my first bracelet out of buttons and string, creating was in my blood. After high school I attended Arizona State University and moved to Southern California after graduating. I was then faced with the harsh reality of getting my first job. Quickly realizing that sitting at a desk was not for me; I started working at Neiman Marcus. I worked in the jewelry department for most of my time there and fell in love with jewelry. I was eager to learn more and I left to go work for a local designer. Although the pieces she made were so beautiful, they were well outside of my price range. I realized that I wanted to create pieces that were every bit as amazing but were much more approachable. I decided to start my own collection 12 years and ago and the rest is history.
In terms of launching, door-to-door is not a business strategy you hear about all that often anymore. But in the first year of your business you put 50k miles on your car to secure your first 100 stores. Can you tell us a bit about that approach and why doing things in person still matters (even in this digi-age?)
I would not really call that a strategy ☺ It was more of a way to survive and the only way we knew how to do something - just hit the pavement and go for it. Being able to go and visit all our stores was so invaluable. I was able to see different parts of our country and experience what they have to offer. It really helped me understand our customer and build more meaningful relationships with them. Having direct contact with the stores was also a great way to get feedback about the product first-hand and be able to evolve the collection based on it. The best part, however, was all the amazing food I got to eat along the way. I am a huge foodie and our road trips consisted of some amazing food spots.
Although technology has helped up in so many ways, it has also created a distance that I don’t really care for. I am such a face-to-face person, even now I much prefer meet someone in-person than talk to them over email.
But speaking to digital- you were the top-selling jewelry brand on ShopBop for 7 years. What were some of your strategies to stay on the top of your game?
It has always been about the product. We focus so much on quality and making sure the design aesthetic stays true to the brand. Our pieces have that timeless quality and I think the reason people love it is because they know they are making a wise purchase. It is an investment in a piece that you will keep going back to and wanting to wear and most likely never take off.
Can you walk us through your creative process?
It usually starts from an inspiration I get, it can be from a magazine, someone I see walking down the street, or beautiful curtains I happen to pass (that has happened). The collection will evolve form there and the designs usually just flow out. That’s actually how I know if it is going to be good or not. There are times when I get stuck and I have learned to move on and revisit an idea later, or just let it go.
What is a piece of jewelry you never take off?
So this always changes because I go in waves. Sometimes I will pick one or a few items and those will be my go-tos for a few months and then I will fall in love with a new beautiful piece and never take that piece off. Lately it has been my Olympia shimmer studs and my power gemstone bracelet in rose quartz.
Is there a piece of jewelry you’ve lost that you still think about?
Fortunately no, I am pretty good at keeping track of special pieces because I know I would be so upset if I lost one.
Why do you think “passing down” jewelry has become such a tradition?
Jewelry is so personal and I feel like it starts to become a part of you and carry your energy as you wear it. So passing a piece on to someone is like a sharing a piece of yourself.
If you had to pass down— or rather pass on some business savvy to women looking to launch their own business, what would you say?
My biggest piece of advice is to believe in yourself and be patient. You have to believe in yourself and try to block the negative energy. You are the only one that is in control of your vision and dream and don’t let anyone take away from that. The second part is something it took me awhile to master, BE PATIENT!!!! There are very very very few over night successes. It takes a long time and a lot of work to achieve your goals. Be patient and enjoy the journey!
What’s next for Gorjana?
We will pursue our goal of making sure every girl has a Taner Bar necklace:) We are also looking to expand and open a flagship store. We want a place where people can come and learn more about the brand and fall in love with the product.