While most recent college graduates pursue the 9 to 5 life, jewelry designer and Northeastern University alum Alanna Bess has made her own hours. In 2002, she combined her childhood passion for jewelry and her college major in business administration, growing a business with her vibrantly hued necklaces, lariats, bracelets, and earrings. Omiru had the opportunity to chat with Alanna about her blossoming jewelry line, her life as a designer, and her career aspirations.
O: What was your major at Northeastern, and how does it reflect your love of fashion?
A: I went to Northeastern University in Boston, and my major was Business Administration, concentrating in entrepreneurship and marketing. When it comes to fashion and jewelry, I knew I wanted to open my own business one day combining the two, but I did not know when or what it would entail.
O: When and how did you decide to become a jewelry designer?
A: I’ve been making jewelry since I was a little girl; however, I did not pursue my real passion of semi-precious stones mixed with silver and gold-filled metals until I was a freshman at University. I started designing my own jewelry before the summer of 2002 and started wearing it on Newbury Street and Copley Place in Boston. I would constantly be bombarded with "OH, I love your jewelry, where can I buy it, what store?" Once I told the seventh person that I made it and that there was no store that exists to purchase an "Alanna Bess," I realized I had better start creating inventory. By the end of that summer, "Alanna Bess" was featured in over 20 boutiques in New England, and I had done numerous trunk shows at people’s houses.
O: Lead us through the design process for a piece of jewelry.
A: I do not sketch anything before I create. I first look at all my stones and see what color combinations POP! Then, I string them and see if it is my "look" or my customer. Once I do this, the stones mellifluously take on their own unique look to complete a piece, and I show them to a circle of my loyal customers to get their reaction. Upon approval, I add the piece to my line.
O: What makes your line stand out?
A: The most common comment I get is: "I think your jewelry is so unique because of all the colors you put together that I would never think to put together in a million years." So, I believe the juxtapositon of the colors makes my line stand out from all of the others. Also, my new addition of ribbon intertwined with the past "Alanna Bess look" really gives my line an edge.
O: Is Jewelry Design your ultimate career or will you be pursuing other ventures in the future?
A: I am trying to turn my passion into my career. I would love to be able to wake up every morning and do something I love like designing and making my own jewelry–that is why I am going for it! I just graduated college in May, and instead of pursuing a career at a traditional company like all my other friends, getting benefits and a constant paycheck in my bank account, I am taking a different path in life.
O: You pursued an internship in New York City’s Fashion District. What did you learn from this experience?
A: I worked at a women’s suits company, and I was able to experience the entire wholesale end of a fashion business, working closely with the design, sales and production teams. I also was able to show my line to the main designer at the company, sell to his flagship store in Puerto Rico, and custom design Alanna Bess pieces for his high-end clientele. I was also able to showcase the women’s suits at the Coterie show at the New York Piers. I hope to one day show Alanna Bess jewelry at the Coterie show!
O: What inspires your designs?
A: I studied in Florence, Italy, and all the art and the museums and fashion gurus there inspire me. There is even art on street lamp-posts in Italy. When I was there, all the creativity and art everywhere was like pure eye-candy to me. My line took a sophisticated turn after this experience.
O: What’s your favorite piece in your collection?
A: I love the "Isle of Capri" series of necklaces. I think these pieces are so versatile, and the color combinations are lots of fun. I love to layer 2 or 3 of them at once to get a whole new look.
O: Writers often get writer’s block. Do you get jeweler’s block?
A: The only jeweler’s block I get is when I think something looks good in my head, and then I actually sit down and create it, and it looked that much better in my imagination than in real life. However, after a few touch-ups, it often becomes a piece of art.
O: How do you know how much to price each piece? Does it depend on how long it took you to make? How rare the stones are?
A: Yes, I take all these factors into consideration, adding how much it cost me to get the stones. Did I travel to a show, or did I get the material at my local supplier? Also, some people do not realize how expensive semi-precious stones are–I use top quality stones that I hand-pick. This is because the stones are not man-made, and lot of stones could have natural blemishes that I do not want to incorporate into my line. I take hours and thouroughly examine all strands that come in.
O: Last words?
A: I come up with new designs on a daily basis, and my website, www.AlannaBess.com, is just a small representation of my line. I love custom making pieces for weddings and other designers’ lines–this is another angle that brings joy to me as a designer and that truly unleashes my creativity.
View Alanna’s current collection and online store at Alanna Bess.
1 comment June 22nd, 2006