I found Rachel Franco and JaLa Designs through LinkedIn's Jewelry Designer group. Although I usually focus on designers who are creating masterful work with precious metals, enamels and stones, I was struck by Rachel's use of simple fabric to create unusual pieces.
I've always loved fabrics - something about the beautiful colors and patterns and, when embroidered, textures. My love of working with fabric in jewelry stems from my love of contradictions, of surprises. JaLa Designs leverages the excitement of seeing something in a piece of jewelry that you wouldn't expect to see and is reflective of the fact that we all have many different - and sometimes opposing - sides to ourselves that result in our being original and beautiful human beings...just the way we are.
I had a very specific vision for JaLa Designs in terms of the look and feel that I was after - and JaLa really did start from a vision. My tagline, "Be yourself and the rest will follow", is a reflection of my own personal journey in life, of my learning, as I've grown and matured, that so much of life really does just come down to being and accepting who you are versus trying to be perfect or someone you're not.
That message, that mantra really is the heart and soul of JaLa Designs. And that is what I want to share and communicate with others through my jewelry. Every time someone wears a JaLa Designs piece, my sincere and genuine hope is that she remembers that all she has to do to "succeed" is, "Be yourself and the rest will follow."
As I like to say, JaLa Designs is where individuality, self-confidence and a unique sense of style converge to create a fashionable reminder to be yourself.
Before JaLa was manifested through any physical object, it was, in my head, a combination of beautiful and elegant designer fabrics - think Italian or Country French - mixed with a chain with a more muted finish, an antique looking one. Almost vintage looking in a sense, although I wouldn't necessarily categorize my work as vintage, interestingly enough. I just had this antique look in my head and had to carry it out.
When did you decide to pursue jewelry design?
I started to pursue jewelry design after I was downsized from my marketing job at a technology company in summer 2008. I disliked my job, so being downsized was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It really gave me the freedom and the space to figure out my next step.
I have to say, though, that if you had told me three years ago that I was going to be designing jewelry, I would have thought you were crazy! As I alluded to before, JaLa Designs really did start from a vision.
While over a family friend's house getting some career coaching (to help me figure out my next step), I noticed that she had this beautiful bowl that was covered in fabric. I thought to myself, "Wouldn't something covered in fabric look pretty as part of a necklace?"
I started experimenting and now have JaLa Designs, LLC! And, so far, the response has been great! People are really responding to it well - especially and perhaps not surprisingly to the fabric.
Where does the name of your company, JaLa, come from?
The name, JaLa, has a very special and personal meaning to me. Shortly before the launch of JaLa (which was then unnamed), a very close family friend of mine - and, honestly, one of my all-time favorite people in the world - passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 58. She was so full of life and energy and, to put it simply, just so much fun - her death came as a shock to many and as a great loss. Everyone loved her.
The name, JaLa, is inspired by her. It is my small way of honoring her memory. I ofen picture her in my mind, imagining her looking at my jewelry and responding with her signature excitement and natural curiosity. I miss her very much but think of her every time I see, read or say JaLa.
What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities in 2009?
Well, I think, of course, the most obvious challenge in 2009 is the state of the economy. People, even the high-end luxury spender, are cutting back on their spending. I think this also, however, presents a great opportunity for those of us with truly unique and different products. If people are going to part with their money, I think they want to part with it on something unique and different. I think this is one of the factors that has contributed to JaLa having a good start!
It was a pleasure meeting Rachel. 2009 is bound to be an interesting year for her as she works to turn the recession into an opportunity to bring people interesting adornments at affordable prices.
Thanks for stopping by!