For those of you who may recognize our Designer of the Month, it is because she has actually been featured on CollegeFashionista before. Since we last caught up with Amanda in 2010, her line, Luv Aj, has taken off and become a Fashionista, blogger and celebrity favorite. (Recently, Miley Cyrus was twerking her way through her We Can’t Stop video in Luv Aj pieces.) Amanda has figured out a way to create jewelry that literally every girl wants and still stay true to her own design aesthetic. Oh, and did we mention that she is only 25-years-old? Check out our Q&A as we caught up with Amanda. We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for Amanda and Luv Aj (including the highly anticipated leather coat and accessories collection).
1. CollegeFashionista: When did you realize that you were going to be successful and could make a career out of making accessories?
Amanda Thomas: My journey to becoming a jewelry designer happened kind of by fate… When I was in high school, I began interning for a Venice, California-based designer and she taught me the basics of jewelry design in her Abbott Kinney studio. My parents would drop me off and I would help around the studio and she ended up teaching me how to wire wrap. Her work is so phenomenal and intricate, and I was in awe of how she collected all these already incredible vintage components and put them together to make something even more special. She really inspired me to start getting creative, and that’s when I started dabbling in making my own jewelry. I started making pieces on my own and selling them at school to my friends. One day, when I was in Fred Segal shopping, the head jewelry buyer stopped me to compliment my necklace and asked me where I got it. When I told her I made it, she booked an appointment with me immediately to show her my line. I went home, whipped up 20 more pieces and that was it! By 16, Luv Aj officially created and I was selling to stores like Fred Segal, Lisa Kline and Madison and already featured in Elle Magazine. It happened quite suddenly, but I’ve tracked with it ever since high school and I’m running Luv Aj almost 10 years later (wow I feel old).
2. CF: What was it like to start your own company at such a young age? How did you balance your work and personal life as a teenager?
AT: It seemed quite organic, really. I was making things that I loved and people wanted to buy them, so it was natural to set up a way for me to sell them and that’s where Luv Aj came into play. I have always been passionate about Luv Aj so work feels like play sometimes. When you have your own company, it’s like your baby so if something needs to done, it gets done. Work always trumps play.
3. CF: What has been the biggest change to happen to Luv Aj since our last interview?
AT: Well, last time we spoke, I was working out of my parent’s guest house with one intern and now I have my own beautiful studio and the Luv Aj Team has grown to a team of seven so it’s definitely expanding! I have been venturing into areas besides jewelry, I just finished the samples for my leather line which consists of leather jackets and pretty sick iPad and computer cases.
4. CF: What has been the most rewarding experience so far that has come from your successful career as a designer?
AT: I think being able to support myself and run a company at 25 is the reward! I am able to create my own schedule and work for myself, which seems like such a luxury compared to a lot of my other friends who work 9 to 5. I feel lucky that I’m able to do what I love and get paid to do, that’s like winning the lottery.
5. CF: Can you give us a brief description of what your design process looks like from start to finish?
AT: I start with an idea or concept for the motif, whether it be a Shark tooth or ID bracelets. Then I start sketching (and I use that term loosely because my drawings look like chicken scratch). Then I sample chains and meet with my manufacturer to go over the designs. They then come back to me with the master molds and samples of the pieces. I then assemble them by hand in my studio, pick the color palette and then get the pieces plated. It takes about three-six months for the sample process so by the time you finish, it’s so exciting to get the pieces back, like Christmas morning.
6. CF: Is it ever hard to design what you love while satisfying customer needs?
AT: To a certain extent, but I feel like I know my customer really well so there’s a bit of a formula for each season. I always do dainty pieces for my petite girls, chunky statement necklaces for the more bold chicks—there’s seriously something for everyone. My mom and my sister are kind of my barometer each season to figure out if I’ve gotten it right—my mom is fashion forward but she’s still a mom so I need to have jewelry that suits her. And my sister is a bit more conservative in the way she dresses, so if she can find something she likes, then I feel like I’ve covered the whole spectrum!
7. CF: What is one thing that you wish someone would have told you about the fashion industry before being immersed into it?
AT: It only gets harder so keep at it. Some days I wonder if it will ever get easier and the answer is no—there will be more stress and responsibility as you grow but you need to bask in the fruits of your labor and take a minute to be proud. Like they say, remember to stop and smell the roses.