Every Thursday during the pandemic, we’re checking in on members of the jewelry trade in an attempt to glean shareable tips and tricks for doing business—and living as well as possible—during the COVID-19 crisis.
Today we hear from designer Mimi So, whose classic and playful fine jewelry has been a favorite of celebrities, stylists, and a loyal clientele for more than 25 years.
JCK: Hi Mimi! What a surprise to hear you answer the phone at your SoHo boutique.
Mimi So: Yes ma’am! When I say, “This is Mimi,” [the reactions] are the funniest. I like it very much because I’m a Sagittarius—I’m a people lover.
What has this pandemic year been like for you, both as a business owner and a native New Yorker?
It was really tough, because this is not something we’ve ever experienced. I was one of the few people out and about at the beginning. There was a small fire above our store around the first of April . I had to go down there to check on things, and I just thought, “This can’t be happening.” But even with all the craziness, New Yorkers don’t quit. I’m a big believer that when things get tough, we roll up our sleeves even higher and persevere. You have to be the leader of your team, whether it’s your family or your company.
How did you steer your brand through the sudden shift in high-end retail?
We were able to rely on the audience and the partnerships we had built through the years. That made it possible to adapt, to be frank, because there was no retail business [in the early months]. But when you have good name recognition, and when people respect the integrity of the brand, they will be comfortable and confident purchasing it [online]. That also helped our partners, because they were not hesitant to recommend something to their clients on the basis of a photo. They were relying on us to come through, and boy, did we come through. We were doing whatever it took to turn things around, if they needed pieces to be sized, things like that.
Did your work environment change?
Our store was closed for a long time, and we’re now open two days [and by appointment]. I wanted to take it slow, until the vaccine was available. Our office [in the jewelry district], where we make all our jewelry, was already set up where everyone had a bit of space, so we were able to continue. It was very important to keep our team busy—for our jewelers to be able to touch their tools and brush up on things. They were so happy to be working.
How has this period affected you as a designer?
It pushed me! I’m not someone who believes in designing something new every year. I’ve always designed from a personal space, from the chapters in my life. If I feel that something hasn’t been done or [I create] something I would like to share, I introduce it, and my collectors understand that. One woman came in and bought a pendant from the Piece collection [inspired by So’s childhood bedroom window and featuring three rectangles representing past, present, and future]. She said, “I just went through a divorce, and now I’m celebrating me!” I do have something in the works that we will unveil this fall. It’s quite special and meaningful, and I look forward to sharing it.
What’s it been like to spend this year with two teenagers, your daughter Coco and son Cael?
I chose to really appreciate time with my children that normally I would not have had. I’ve been on the road so much for so long, so I tried to find the silver lining and started cooking up a storm. In the early part of the pandemic, I was posting more cooking than jewelry [on social media], and my staff said, “What are you doing?” I said, “Okay, I’ll wear a ring when I cut up onions.”
Fans have also gotten to know your cute dogs on Instagram!
Yes, please mention my puppies, Chester and Cowboy, who go to work with me every day. They think they’re German shepherds, but they’re toy poodles, about six pounds. I’m a dog mom.
On a more serious note, you and your kids recently took part in an anti-racism rally in Times Square. Why was that important to you?
I believe in standing up for others. It’s important to face racism, and when I saw how many elderly [Asian] women were being attacked, I just had to participate. You can’t complain unless you’re willing to fight for justice and represent what is right. It’s been very emotional.
Other than cooking, how do you relax? Any TV recommendations to share?
I have my Netflix binges, for sure—Bridgerton, of course, and The Crown. I love Blown Away, the Corning Glass [reality competition]. It’s beautiful blown glass, and then all of a sudden, it just shatters. As a creative person, I can relate to that.
Top: Mimi So in her boutique last fall (all photos courtesy of Mimi So)
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