Every Thursday during the pandemic, we’ve been checking in on members of the jewelry trade in an attempt glean shareable tips and tricks for a better and more productive quarantine (and for many, reopening).
Today we hear from designer Graziela Kaufman, founder of beloved fine jewelry collection Graziela.
JCK: Where are you based, and are you still quarantined? If so, with who?
Graziela Kaufman: I’m based in the suburbs of Chicago. My family and I started our quarantine two to three weeks before it was actually mandated, so we brought our kids home from college and Los Angeles. It was definitely a gift to be able to spend this time with my four boys. But on the other hand, to see so many people having their lives destroyed, going through an impossible time, losing their jobs, and getting sick is absolutely heart-wrenching.
Being away from my parents and brother who are at high risk is also so difficult. But they are safe and healthy, and that’s what’s most important. We have to try and do the best that we can and look at the bright side of things…even this!
Describe your work life in quarantine.
It’s craziness but in such a good way! I’ve never worn so many hats! I’m the chef, the cleaning lady, the business owner, the designer, the boss, the wife, the activist, the dog walker. I work literally everywhere in my house: from my home office, my family room, laundry room, and outdoors when I meet with clients. My work hours are literally 14-hour days from the second that I open my eyes in the morning to the time that I close them at night.
How has the pandemic changed your business plans for 2020 and beyond?
I feel that the biggest difference has been not having large trade shows and really planning new collection introductions in a different way. We pushed the launch of our larger collections forward toward the fourth quarter. In the meantime, I’ve been launching one-of-a-kind pieces and under-$3,000 collections including the Pawsitivity collection and the new men’s collection, which we’ll be launching in a couple of months—pieces are under $1,000.
Another big difference has been not traveling to do trunk shows at our retail partners. I want to make sure that my retailers have what they need to succeed, and we are in constant communication with them and supplying them with marketing materials and special pieces. My main focus throughout the pandemic has been to take care of them and, of course, my employees.
We also have been focusing on our private clients and making lots of custom-made pieces, really making dreams come true! It’s a time where we have to be thankful for the love of our loyal customers and friends.
Has having so much time away from “normal life” been good for your creativity or detrimental, and how so?
This time has been amazing when it comes to creativity and inspiration. So many ideas pop into my head and that’s why I’m really enjoying designing one-of-a kinds, which keeps me excited and fulfilled during all of this. We were launching five new collections this June at Couture, and I ended up launching only two so far and will wait until October when the other ones will become a reality. Until then, I’m enjoying every piece that arrives one by one, like a baby that is being born. Before, I would receive 20 pieces in a day and not even be able to appreciate every single little detail that went into the creation of each piece.
How has your heart and mind been reacting to the recent BLM protests spurred by the death of George Floyd?
Being from Brazil always made me a huge believer in peaceful protests, since our people were able to impeach two presidents by protesting and making our voices heard. George Floyd made many of us white-privileged people stop and learn how hard, how difficult, how terrible the Black community is treated and what they have to go through every day in this country.
How can we live our lives happily and peacefully knowing that so many are suffering injustices right under our noses? I believe that with the tragic death of George Floyd a new America will arise. As a female business owner, I’m looking forward to working with Black women and men to give them more opportunities and raise awareness of their work. Since 2018, we have shot campaigns using both white and Black models, and we’ll make sure to make it a point to do more in every aspect of our business.
Please tell me about your charitable collection—when and how did that come about?
I’m extremely passionate about animals and have been since I was a little girl. For me, to make a difference in the lives of animals is my mission in life. So I decided early on in my career that 15% of all the revenues from Graziela would go to different shelters and rescues across the country, including the one that I’m the VP of in Chicago, MCP Rescue and Outreach.
I had always wanted to create a collection where my love of jewelry and animals met. So I finally pulled the trigger and launched the Pawsitivity collection in May. The collection started with pendants and we just added rings, and it’s all offered in gold plate and 14k gold, so it reaches a much wider audience and starts at $290!
We also partnered with some celebrity animal advocates (Kaley Cuoco, Olivia Munn, Beth Behrs, and Nikki Reed) who are incredible animal lovers. And they chose the rescues closest to their hearts, so when checking out, customers can choose where they’d like their 30% to go. We donate 30% of the sale price. Now more than ever, people want transparency when it comes to donations, so this allows for any potential purchasers to really research the different charities and pick one that resonates most with them. Nothing feels better than wearing something so meaningful.
How have you been relaxing or mentally escaping during quarantine?
I make sure to exercise one hour every day to keep me sane. I’m obsessed with my Peloton, and it really helps me mentally and physically. I have a little garden I’m very proud of that I work on to relax. I also walk my dogs and my cat through a path that is all nature and ravines on the way to the lake close to my home. I enjoy the fresh air, take very deep breaths, and take a moment to feel gratitude for every single thing in my life.
Do you have any good book/TV/movie/podcast recommendations?
I’m currently reading The Archer by my fellow Brazilian Paulo Coelho. I love his books and the way he writes. I’m in the middle of it, but I already love it. We love watching shows and miniseries together and between the six of us, I think that we watched everything out there! We loved Little Fires Everywhere, The Morning Show, Ozark, Outlander, Animal Kingdom, and Giri/Haji. You can’t go wrong with any of these.
Top: Graziela Kaufman with her fur babies (all photos courtesy of Graziela Kaufman)
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