By Anna Griffin, Editor in Chief
With a stellar, 20+ year history to her name, LA-based Zoë Chicco, has established herself as a talented fine-jeweler, with her beautiful designs and ethically produced pieces. Knowing since she was a child that she wanted to pursue a career in jewelry design, she credits her grandmother as her inspiration, “It's all that I ever wanted to do, and the only career I ever wanted to have,” she says. “When I was a little girl, my grandmother wore tons and tons of jewelry. Every finger had rings and her wrists were covered in bracelets, so she was truly my inspiration. I would go over to her house and go through her jewelry box and look at everything, and I just fell in love with jewelry,” Zoë says.
Inspired and passionate, Zoë steadfastly pursued her dreams, “I took two years of jewelry in high school and when I went to college I realized, ‘This is what I really want to do. I asked myself, “Can I make a career of this? Is this a real thing?’ I decided to go for it and major in Studio Art with a jewelry and metalsmithing concentration, and I never looked back,” she shares. From her beginning as an independent designer working from a bench in her closet, she has methodically grown her fine-jewelry company into a global brand with an unwavering focus, “I did everything myself. I didn't have an employee until I was about five years in. As for selling, I would go around door-to-door to stores. About a year into that I started working with an outside rep, which was amazing and a total game changer for me. She was a much better salesperson than I was! This was 20 years ago and there was no social media, or Etsy, there was nothing like that. That's how you had to get it out there; trade shows, cold calling or sending things in the mail. That's how you did it back in the day,” Zoë shares.
She continues, “I started hiring slowly but surely and as the business grew, I hired more people and developed our team. Now it's become a much bigger business and I'm really, really thankful for that. I started it by myself from the ground up. When we were dating my husband started helping me on the weekends by doing my books, cut to about 7 years ago when he left his career as a mechanical engineer to become my full-time business partner. We've never had any funding or anything like that. We're very much a bootstrap company still to this day, but it's grown considerably since my days working out of my closet.”
At the core of Zoë’s brand is a commitment to the environment, from sourcing recycled gold and ethical stones, to recycling and upcycling materials. Reducing her carbon footprint is important to Zoë professionally and personally, who says, “I feel like in all aspects of my life I'm trying harder to be better about being green and being ethical, and thinking about where things come from. Our customers are too so it's not only important to me personally, but it's important to our customers. We make everything in-house in our studio, the gold that we use is recycled, and we're using raw materials sourced from companies who have their own recycling capabilities., and we always remove stones from retired or damaged styles and use them again. All the diamonds we source are conflict free. I work with a reputable diamond dealer who has offices in Los Angeles and India, and they're wonderful. They have an amazing reputation, and we get everything from them, so we know we can trust where it's coming from. We're also doing our best to reduce our carbon footprint and have made it an option on our website to reduce packaging should a customer choose to. In terms of our full-time employees, we make sure we have competitive salaries, everybody gets health care, they get paid vacation time, and paid family leave. We just want to make sure we're taking really good care of our people, listening to our customers, and trying to do our best every day.”
Zoë’s commitment to making sustainable, fine jewelry was further fueled by a 2019 trip to South Africa, in partnership with the De Beers Group to Botswana, Zoë and six other designers visited the diamond mines to see the process and impact on the local people firsthand, “I'm so happy that I was given the opportunity and that I took it. Just to see raw diamonds that have just come out of the ground, and meet the people that are sorting and cutting them was such an exciting peek behind the curtain of the diamond industry. We met with so many different people from Botswana and from the De Beers Group on our trip, it was just a really incredible experience. The trip created a special bond between all of the designers, and I think as a result we will be lifelong friends,” she says.
Zoë continues, “On the last day of our trip, we decided that we really wanted to do something together to commemorate the experience and give back to the people of Botswana, so we posed it to the De Beers Group and they were on board. We each designed our own pieces using diamonds from the mine where we had visited, and then auctioned them off and gave the proceeds to charity. It was such a nice culmination of the whole trip and something I'll never forget.”
With an A-list clientele that includes celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence, Mandy Moore, Kristen Bell, Naomi Watts, and Charlize Theron, Zoë is refreshingly down-to-earth about her success, “Generally my jewelry ends up in a celebrity’s hands when something is pulled by their stylist for them to wear – which is great! Sometimes the person falls in love with a piece from a photoshoot or event and will reach out to us and say “I really love this piece. Can I buy it from you?”. It's a really nice situation when it's organic like that, and it's not something where it's just gifted. The fact that they actually love something of mine, and they're asking to buy it, just feels really good,” she says. “It's a huge compliment. I think these women are incredible, so to know that they love and want to wear my jewelry makes me so happy.”
As she now celebrates her 20th year in business - slightly delayed due to Covid - Zoë is bringing new pieces to her collection, “2020 was my 20th year in business. We had a lot of things planned for 2020 that got put on hold a little bit. Back in pre-covid times, I decided to do something different based on the idea that something is considered vintage if it’s over 20 years old. I’m reworking actual vintage and antique pieces that I've been collecting and updating them with my own signature spin. I'm using some of those pieces as inspiration for new collections, and I'm also updating pieces that are ‘vintage Zoë Chicco’ - pieces that I've had for 20 years in the collection - and bringing them back in a new way. So I'm doing this whole 20th anniversary revamp of what's old is new, and that’s what I'm working on right now,” she says.
To mark the occasion, Zoë also launched 20x20, a collection of “20 women + 20 collabs to celebrate 20 years.” Her most recent collaboration coincided with Mother’s Day, and was designed with Ariane Goldman, the founder of Hatch Collection, a chic, maternity, online boutique. The beautiful Multi Charm Bracelet is handmade in recycled 14k gold with pave diamond and sapphire accents, and benefits Every Mother Counts, supermodel Christy Turlington’s non-profit to help all women have safe pregnancies.
As we evolve out of the pandemic and resume life, Zoë is positively looking forward, “We're really focusing on what's important to us - relationships, transparency, things like that. I'm excited about where everything is going and I’m happy to be able to finally really celebrate our 20th anniversary this year.”
Photos Courtesy of Zoë Chicco
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