Natalie Frigo is a design darling of our generation, catering to the need for ethically made, eco-conscious jewelry. Let’s face it, what some may have once considered a fad is quickly gaining speed. (I’ll refrain from the Inconvenient Truth-style lecture, just this once.) But even if you don’t seek out conflict-free, environmentally friendly jewelry exclusively, her designs will reel you in. Her passion for our world and its people is like a free dessert at the end of a great meal; you’re getting an exceptional design that will last through the years, and bonus—you can feel good about how it was made. Make no mistake; while I have spent the better part of this intro praising Natalie’s ethics, these designs go above and beyond that. Each piece is, in a word, cool. With influences from architecture to ancient civilizations, you’ll sense the tremendous amount of care and thought that went into each design. You’ll appreciate that even more, I think, once you meet Frigo. So check out below what the designer has to say about her introduction to the jewelry world, her design influences, and a particularly wonderful anecdote about happy hour.
JCK Marketplace: How did you get into jewelry design?
Natalie Frigo: I have always had a strong emotional connection to jewelry, especially to smaller antiquities. Some of my fondest childhood memories are looking at tiny, ancient artifacts at the Art Institute of Chicago with my mother. I started designing for myself a few years ago. When I would wear something I made, strangers and people I knew would want to buy a piece immediately. My designing blossomed from there. I am honored when someone loves my jewelry. Jewelry is a very personal experience, and it is meaningful to me when my jewelry makes someone happy.
JCK Marketplace: If you could sum up the Natalie Frigo brand in just a few words, which would you choose?
NF: Eco-friendly, luxurious, and unique.
NF: My favorite piece is my Triangle Cuff in brass. I love how large it is, but still lightweight. It feels like a sculpture for your wrist. I wear it constantly because it always finishes off an outfit perfectly.
JCK Marketplace: What sources of inspiration do you look to when designing your jewelry?
NF: I am most influenced by ancient cultures, specifically the Etruscans and ancient Egyptians. You can see the trace of the craftsperson’s hand in each piece. I carry that aesthetic into all of my pieces, too – I love when people can see in my work that “a person made this.”
JCK Marketplace: What was the best part, or your favorite memory, of JCK Las Vegas 2012?
NF: This was my first year at JCK Las Vegas and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard many different descriptions of the show from people who had participated in the past. The first day I had butterflies and hoped that I would have traffic in my booth. As soon as the doors opened, there was a rush of buyers in the show, and I had customers immediately at my booth admiring my jewelry. It was really exciting to have buyers a minute after the doors opened and have constant traffic throughout the show.
JCK Marketplace: If you could give one piece of advice to jewelry retailers, what would it be?
NF: If you love it, your clients will love it! I think some retailers underestimate how influential their enthusiasm is for their customers. We all love to buy something that the salesperson is excited about—it makes us feel confident in our purchase.
JCK Marketplace: What’s your go-to happy hour drink?
NF: When I was in Las Vegas, I went to Frankie’s Tiki Room. It is such a great place, where you feel like you have stepped back in time. Since then, I have had a preference for all drinks tiki. As luck would have it, there is a tiki bar across the street from my apartment. They have a specialty drink there made with coconut milk, pineapple juice, dark rum, and freshly grated nutmeg on top. It is complete heaven!