Designer Spotlight: Nina Nguyen

Nina Nguyen has been a loyal member of the JCK tribe, displaying her wares at our trade shows for years. When I first reached out to her to gain some intel for our blog I was greeted warmly with: “Welcome to the amazing JCK family. My brand wouldn’t be where it is today without the love and support of your organization.” Beautiful words to hear from this talented designer who puts her heart and soul into her work. I could talk all day about this fabulous artist, but I feel it’s better to let Nina (pictured), as well as these beautiful photographs of her work, do the talking.

Can you tell us more about your studio and your women’s cooperative? What inspired you to take this path for manufacturing?

Nina Nguyen: When I felt there was a sufficient demand for my line from jewelry stores, I knew I needed a manufacturer capable of producing my jewelry. I traveled to many countries, but I did not find what I was looking for. Instead, I only found factories, which did not satisfy my holistic approach of handmade-with-love-and-passion jewelry design and manufacture. I had a vision for a women’s co-op and design studio almost 10 years ago. Since then, through Internet and media, the consumer has been awakened to the plight of workers in many poor countries around the globe. They suffer from exploitation in many forms: building collapse, pollution, hazardous working conditions, exposure to chemicals, no workers’ rights or benefits. I want to help bring change within the jewelry industry.

Nguyen’s delicately carved turquoise pieces?

What is your favorite piece and why?

Nguyen: My Pallas bangles, so effortless, and I can stack three to seven, depending on my attire. The opal and moonstone are to die for, as is the carved turquoise!

What retailer do you think provides the most support and respect for the studio jeweler today? Can you describe your relationship with them?

Nguyen: I am very fortunate to be represented in more than 200 retail jewelry stores, and they’re all behind me, not just for my beautiful designs, but also for my vision of socially conscious production. Some of the retailers that helped my brand from the beginning are G. Thrapp Jewelers, Couch’s Jewelers, Mucklow’s Fine Jewelry, Chapman Jewelers, Murphey the Jeweler, Crawford’s Jewelers, Cogswell Gallery, Worthmore Jewelers, and too many others to name. 

Boulder opal Dragon necklace and geode Bhaya earrings

How are your designs inspired?

Nguyen: My design is inspired by my travel and my passion for finding beautiful raw stones to work with. I also work on a lot of trend forecasting for a year in advance of releasing a new collection. Seasonal Pantone colors and fashion week are also what I look toward for inspiration and to pair with the most current trends. 

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Nguyen: My right and left brain function equally well. They fight a lot. For example, last year when I worked on my new collection, I wanted to design my heart out while ignoring the “data” of our sell-through reports. The Maharani collection was launched based entirely on design that was concurrent with my Zen collection. The Zen collection was designed with significant input from data and sell through from previous seasons. Both lines performed very well, but the Maharani collection’s revenue has been greater. So the question is: Is it my right brain’s design aesthetic or my left brain’s analysis of the data?  

Opal and moonstone pieces?

How do you contribute to building community within the jewelry industry?

Nguyen: I’ve learned that our industry attracts some of the best and brightest people, however, some fail to see this as an industry that can be improved with the implementation of fair trade and fair labor practices. The lack of industry unity for change is probably greater than in other industries. At the end of the day, the products we provide may be described by some as superficial, but we shouldn’t lose our sense of purpose and the idea that we are trying to improve the quality of life for people throughout the manufacturing process and the industry as a whole.

Why are you excited for JCK Tucson?

Nguyen: I visited all the shows in Tucson last year and decided to exhibit with JCK. I am always made to feel part of the JCK family, and I’m excited to be part of an organization that cultivates the designer brand, the values it stands for, and brings that message to the retailers that attend its shows. 

Has Nina Nguyen captivated your attention as she has mine? Learn more by visiting her website.


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