The Power of Custom Design: Jane Basch’s Custom Emojis Help Tell Your Story

In mid-July, during the LUXURY Privé and JA New York shows, Jane Basch of the eponymous firm invited about a dozen editors to dine and draw their own emoji jewels at a restaurant in midtown Manhattan.

The Hollywood, Fla.–based Basch first tried this event last year during the same period in a move to create awareness for her under-the-radar collection known for personalized pieces like monograms. Last year she instructed editors to sketch any style or message they liked and she would make it in silver; one editor who originally hailed from France requested “Made in Paris,” while another—a guy—drew a pair of cufflinks with a popular two-word expletive spelled out across the pair. This year, to celebrate the recent debut of Basch’s own super-cute Emoticon collection, which speaks to the playful ideograms or graphic symbols widely used in social media, she challenged editors to draw their own emojis.

“I wanted them to personally tap into their own creative energy,” she explained. “It’s just a layer you never get to see with people.”

Jane Basch and me on emoji design night in Manhattan

Jane Basch and me on emoji design night in Manhattan

Plus there was a practical side, as in education about how Basch actually brings pieces to life. “There are mechanics involved in this,” she added. “If you make a circle with a circle in the middle, it just can’t float there—it has to be attached in some way.”

So in between sips of margaritas, I held a pencil and sat staring at blank piece of paper. For me, words came easier than illustrations. In fact, sketching is flat out not a skill that I possess. And there was the intimidation of making a statement to world—what would it be? What would I want to say with a symbol? After all, I’m not into identifiable marks of any sort; there are no bumper stickers on my vehicle, nor would I be able to utter a phrase suitable for a vanity plate if my life depended on it. I don’t want the attention.

Miss Made in Paris from last year opted for “NON” inside a cartoony jagged-edge bubble, while the woman across from me drew a panda. The editor to my right settled on a trio of stars, a nod to her two sisters and herself. Other motifs included an evil eye, bacon and eggs, and a thumb pointing down, among others.

“The piece for you is so important in all of this because we’re all so multidimensional,” says Basch. “But who takes the risk to say it?”

The exercise, for me, drove home the power of custom design and what retailers could do to empower or challenge their own clients. Sure, making a classic custom piece—something with your own gemstones, for example—is rewarding, but how about a whimsical number like the ones Basch challenged us to design? Not only are emojis and personalized statements trendy, but they also speak to millennials’ love of personalization, something that many manufacturers are trying to cash in on in the bridal arena. Why not with fashion jewelry? I’m not aware of any firm that encourages consumers to create lighthearted made-from-scratch styles like these.

Basch told me this morning that she hadn’t considered offering custom emojis to clients, but now that is a possibility she will promote on her website. So, girlfriends please: no more get-togethers where we make clay pots—let’s switch to making precious keepsakes like this. Retailers, talk to Basch about custom-design party possibilities for your store.

As for me and my design, I made a lightbulb. I sketched an ordinary-looking bulb with a silhouette of light rays and requested that the bulb itself be enameled in bright yellow. It is a reminder to “Be the light” in a sometimes-scary world, but I expect most to see it just as the cute symbol it is.

My custom emoji design made by Jane Basch

My custom emoji design made by Jane Basch

Bacon and eggs emoji necklace designed by an editor and made by Jane Basch

Bacon and eggs emoji necklace designed by an editor and made by Jane Basch

Non necklace designed by an editor and made by Jane Basch

Non necklace designed by an editor and made by Jane Basch

Panda necklace designed by an editor and made by Jane Basch

Panda necklace designed by an editor and made by Jane Basch

Lightbulb necklace designed by yours truly and made by Jane Basch

Lightbulb necklace designed by yours truly and made by Jane Basch

The Style 360 blog is your editorial source for the newest jewelry, trends, market analysis, trade show insights, designer profiles, and more.