Ms. Brightside: In Conversation with Instagram Sensation Roxanne Assoulin

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Photo: Courtesy of Roxanne Assoulin

Picture this: you’re sitting in the park, threading beads in a row, color by color, to create a mini masterpiece that you’ll proudly tie around the wrist of your best friend as a declaration of love. Feeling nostalgic? Understandable. And it’s those warm, fuzzy feels that jewelry designer Roxanne Assoulin is all about.

You may recognize the colorful enamel jewelry – and the name – from your Instagram feed, where the brand shot to unexpected success after Leandra Medine of Man Repeller fame posted a photo of the colorful creations on her account. The result? A completely sold-out collection in just 24 hours. That was the beginning of what is now a veritable sensation, having graced the wrists of Gilda Ambrosio, Blanca Miró Scrimieri, and – of course – daughter-in-law Rosie Assoulin in a matter of only 18 months.

Roxanne’s namesake label is essentially the adult take on those beloved friendship bracelets from your childhood. Its jewelry is designed to serve as a daily reminder to “look on the bright side”. And at a time when not enough people are having fun with fashion, the pieces are stepping up. But despite Roxanne boasting 35 years in the jewelry business, designing for the likes of Fiorucci and Vera Wang, the winning recipe for this label was a total mistake – or “the perfect storm” as she puts it.

Here, Savoir Flair sits down exclusively with the designer to talk happiness, friendship, and sharing the love.

Roxanne Assoulin Studio
Photo: Courtesy of Roxanne Assoulin

Talk us through the story behind how your brand began and shot to success.
I have these 25-year-old tiles that I always reference and show to my designers when they come in. One day, while I was playing with them, I created a row and thought, “This would be a great bracelet.” We drew it up and sent it to be made. When it came back, I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but I knew we were onto something. Usually, when things get back, there’s a thousand mistakes that you have to correct, but this was perfect. I asked, “Universe, what is going on here?” 

Then, a friend over at Baja East called me. The person who was doing his jewelry for the runway had just backed out, so he asked if I had anything to lend him. At this point, I’d only ever worn the bracelets on my own wrist. I asked him to send me his textiles to see what I could match from all the new pieces I had. He sent them over, I made him a couple of matching bracelets, and everyone went crazy.

I had no idea what I was doing, I had no idea what to sell them for. All my champions came up then, including Leandra, who said, “This is how you’re gonna do it.” The night she posted a photo, we sold out within a day. It took three months to get more, and we sold those out in a week. I’ve never really been involved with e-commerce before, so I didn’t understand its power. It was fate, magic, the universe – I don’t know.

Roxanne Assoulin Bracelets
Photo: Courtesy of Roxanne Assoulin

What a story! You describe your jewelry as “mood altering”. What alters your mood instantly?
Doing something kind, or if someone does something kind for me, changes my mood. That’s why I’ll do things like buying a cup of coffee for someone else, even if I’m in the worst mood. My kids say, “Mom, if you didn’t have a financial controller, you’d just give all of these bracelets away.” I don’t think kindness is stressed upon enough, especially in a way that we can still do business. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. 

Your tie-on bracelets feature different messages. Is there a certain mantra you live by?
Every single one of those is apt for me. You know, I’ve tortured myself over whether we’ve used the right sayings because they have to ring true for me. We’re working on some more that will say “love is all” and “keep it simple”. People really like such messaging. What we don’t want is for them to be corny and commercial. We want to speak to the person.

About six years ago, I wanted to do a line called ‘Remember’, which would’ve featured sterling-silver bracelets with the word “remember” on them. For me, these would serve as reminders to keep it simple, have faith, and be kind to others. Sometimes people forget, right? I ended up making a bracelet that says “the best is yet to come”  because it was a lyric that I loved – just looking down at it makes me smile.

“It’s about looking at the bright side and focusing on what’s right in the world, instead of what’s wrong.”

When you’re designing, what does the wearer look like in your mind?
I’ve designed for other people for so many years that I’m now at a point where I design for myself. If I don’t like something, it doesn’t go on my website. That is total freedom. Of course, I still have my private label company that asks, “Who is the J.Crew girl? Who is the Urban Outfitters girl?” And that’s fun for me. But this one is really just about, “Do I like it?”

So this is your passion project.
Absolutely. And the uncomplicated indulgence means you don’t have to make a certain income to afford it. The ordinary has become extraordinary for me.

Roxanne Assoulin Bracelets
Photo: Courtesy of Roxanne Assoulin

The descriptions of your pieces touch on nostalgia, memories, and possibilities. Were these inspired by your first memories of jewelry?
I’m going to be really honest — I write all the copy. And I’m nostalgic because I’m old. I’m 62. But I will tell you that I’ve never worn jewelry until now, despite designing it my whole life. I love clothing, and I’d trade jewelry for a coat any day.

I know it’s probably impossible to choose, but do you have a single favorite piece in your collection. Is there a reason why?
It is impossible. They’re like my children. I’ve worn literally every single piece I have made, and that’s big for a person who lives in a uniform of jeans, sneakers, and a navy sweater.

But that uniform really is the perfect canvas for your jewelry.
It’s funny, the reason I do a lot of color is because I don’t wear color. I love it, but I don’t wear it. I wear it around my wrist or as a choker, but I wouldn’t buy a pink plaid coat because that’s a more complicated indulgence.

Do you think you launched this line because you recognized a gap in the market for people like yourself?
No, it was definitely an accident, but I did know enough about jewelry to know that there was nothing else like this out there. The way it fell together really was just the perfect storm.

Roxanne Assoulin hoop earrings
Photo: Courtesy of Roxanne Assoulin

Do you think there’s a method to stacking up your bracelets to create the perfect “arm party”?
One of the hashtags I use a lot is #InfinitePossibility. There’s no wrong way to mix it up or live your life – just do it your way. You’ll find some things that you like better than others. It’s just about personalizing, and I love seeing how different people wear it.

Your collections remind me of the beaded friendship bracelets we made as children. What do friendships mean to you?
It’s funny, I’d wear a set of five, and I’d have none left on my wrist by the end of the day because I love giving them away. For me, friendship is uncomplicated – we don’t take things personally, we love the person for who they are. We also know that we both are going to make mistakes. Rather than trying to be understood, it’s important to really understand where the other person is coming from. Everyone has got a story, and most of those stories are not easy ones, so random acts of kindness can change someone’s day.

Your brand ethos is all about “uncomplicated indulgence”. Do you think this is also a great way to describe what a friendship should be?
Yeah, it should be, right? Everyone just wants to be happy. It takes a lot of internal work, but we can make people happy through simple kind acts. When I see people posting photos of their jewelry and writing these beautiful thank you letters, I am so touched. This little colorful thing is making people happy, and that’s one of the most important things friends can do. There is so much positivity on social media. I’ve made some wonderful friends who have similar values through Instagram, and we’ve created a community.

It’s amazing how social media can bring together people from all walks of life.
Absolutely. People you may never have thought of meeting, you meet them on social media. You champion each other, and there’s something kind of special about it. My friend described it as a sisterhood. She said, “If someone sees me wearing one of your bracelets, they’ll come to me from across the room.” It becomes a conversation piece, and it’s so interesting that my pieces are helping people connect with one another in different ways.

Roxanne Assoulin Chokers
Photo: Courtesy of Roxanne Assoulin

What is your favorite thing to do when you get together with friends?
We laugh a lot, we share food, we talk from our hearts. All my friends tell the truth, even when we’re in pain. We take the heavy things and make them lighter, together. Sometimes, I go to sleep saying, “I have no idea what I’m doing.” Of course, when I say that in front of my friends, they laugh at me and it lightens the load.

What are the best things a friend could do?
To be present, listen to me when I need to be heard, and confide in me when they need it too. It’s a trust factor, right? Also, to be truthful. If I say this day is horrible, they’ll say, “No, that’s how you feel on Monday. Have dinner, sleep, and see how you feel tomorrow.”

If you could be friends with anyone in the world, who would it be?
The friends I already have.

Roxanne Assoulin Bracelets
Photo: Courtesy of Roxanne Assoulin

What can we expect from your brand in 2018?
I have no idea. Because of my age and where I’m at in my life, I just want to enjoy every moment of what I’m doing – that means not making decisions ahead of time. Now, I get to decide on the day. If I want to create all-pink bracelets and give the proceeds to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I get to do that. It’s more about enjoying life than getting somewhere. We recently invited some press for a “make your own bracelet” thing, and they had so much fun that they didn’t want to leave. So I thought, maybe we’ll do a party and bring people together, but I have no idea where this business is going.

As more and more brands are sucked into the “See Now, Buy Now” model, it’s so refreshing to hear a story that isn’t based around being a slave to the industry.
I’ve had that on the other side of my business, where I do private label. You become dependent on the finance, and that’s exactly what I don’t want to do here. We may be opening some boutiques, but I’m not certain yet.

It’s been great getting to know the person behind the label.
And it’s been really great to have a more intimate interview! I’d like to tell you one last story. Did you see the Story section on my website?

It says “Blah Blah Blah Blah”, right?
Yes, that’s actually the default setting on the e-commerce site until it gets filled in. I didn’t even know it was up until my son brought it to my attention. So many people laughed, saying it was the best story and that we shouldn’t take it down. So we won’t. Everyone has a story and, if they want mine, they can Google my bio – but do you really need to read another story?

You can shop Roxanne Assoulin by clicking here.

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