It could be argued that Camille Zarsky hit the parental lottery: Her dad was a builder with an interest in antique jewelry and her mom was a curator at a contemporary art museum in Houston who also started her own jewelry brand later in life.
“My parents loved jewelry,” says Zarsky, who recently opened her first brick-and-mortar jewelry store, The Seven, in New York. “They were talented and artistic in their own ways. But both of them could dream something up and create it with their own hands.”
Add in a richness of Italian aunts who populated Zarsky’s life with great storytelling and you have the ideal beginnings for anyone who wants a career in the jewelry industry. Ah, but that would have been too easy. Like most young adults, Zarsky had other mountains to climb first.
Thanks to her mom, Zarsky as a young teen got a gig helping one of her mother’s friends who was a clothing and accessories designer. This was Zarsky’s introduction to someone who turned their talents into a profession, and Zarsky says she soaked up everything he shared.
“He was a well-known Houston designer who dressed [my mom] for events. I remember he had this huge warehouse where his production took place,” Zarsky says. “We worked there in the middle of that Houston summer with no air conditioning. I didn’t care. I was so excited to cut and sew patterns with him.”
Her mother had taught Zarsky how to sew, and those two influences gave Zarsky the knowledge and inspiration to take her to New York, where Zarsky started her own handbag brand. Handbags? Seriously? After all of that jewelry was passing through her hands? Zarsky laughs, but it was what she was obsessive about at that time in her life.
Zarsky studied fashion communications and art history at Stephens College and did a year of postgraduate studies at Parsons School of Design in fashion and apparel. She debuted Camille Zarsky Handbags in May 2011 but shuttered it in 2017.
“My parents taught me that quality, detail, and craftsmanship matter. You put everything of yourself into anything you invest your time and your money in,” Zarsky says. “I loved it. It was a deep passion of mine. It wasn’t a good move financially; it was a difficult business. … I love design but I’m not good at monetizing it.”
This is when Zarsky says she realized she had a talent that could be monetized: She was good at finding the best in what her friends were designing and curating their collections. In other words, when she spotted something special and talked about it, most people agreed with her and wanted it as well.
“I was always sending friends to artists or designers I knew,” Zarsky says. “I loved finding new talent. But I also wanted to invest in these designers. I wanted to help them grow their business as well.”
Zarsky started with a Hamptons pop-up shop to test her ideas of what a specialty jewelry retail experience could be. It was a challenge, she says, but this “die-hard shopper” says she learned to trust her gut and the response was enough that she decided to go all in.
To launch The Seven, which is named after her mother and her sisters, Zarsky decided to go with a different kind of business model. She doesn’t take jewelry on consignment. Rather, she purchases the pieces outright, focusing on each designer’s strengths over the long term and building that relationship. In turn, she seeks to introduce clients to designers in a long-term way, ensuring they invest in one another.
“I try to lean hard into the one-of-a-kind aspect of what each designer does. I also try to push them—what else can they do beyond their signature?” Zarsky says. “I want pieces that are unique to our store. And they have to be in a full range of price points. I want women to be able to self-purchase something special for themselves. I believe in having beautiful, quality products that are attainable and unique.”
Top: Camille Zarsky recently opened her first jewelry boutique, The Seven, in New York’s West Village carrying some of her favorite independent designers, including Emily P. Wheeler, Ileana Makri, and Gigi Clozeau (photos courtesy of The Seven).
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