For many, 2020 was a year that came on like a storm and brought a lifetime’s worth of changes and challenges. For Los Angeles–based designer Zoë Chicco (pictured at top), it also was a year to reflect and think about how she could honor her 20-year anniversary in jewelry.
The result is a project called 20×20, in which Chicco sought to create 20 collaborations to celebrate 20 years in business. The goal was to invite 20 female founders and innovators to work with Chicco on limited-edition designs and donate the proceeds to nonprofit organizations.
Chicco’s project started with huge energy, but with 2020’s quarantines, shutdowns, and business interruptions, the designer had to deal with the realities of the coronavirus. As a result, 20×20 sat unfinished—until now.
Chicco is relaunching the project with new designers and friends, celebrating her personal achievements through the Zoë Chicco brand as well as those of her collaborators.
“In the beginning, we launched one collaboration per month. After the first few months that felt aggressive, especially during the pandemic. So, I gave up that time line to free myself of the pressure; it’s not something I wanted to feel rushed or like a chore,” Chicco says. “The most important thing is to work with people that I truly respect and to create pieces that are meaningful to me, my partners, and with our audiences as well. We have some really exciting women in the pipeline!”
JCK talked with Chicco about her project, what it means to her, and what’s next for 20×20 in the months to come.
Why was it important for you to celebrate this 20-year anniversary?
Twenty years felt like a huge milestone, especially in an industry where longevity can be somewhat of an anomaly. When I started this adventure in the closet of my apartment in San Francisco, I had no idea what was to come, only that I loved making jewelry and hoped I would be lucky and talented enough to make a career of it. Here I am over two decades later! I wanted to do something to celebrate that journey, so I decided on an ambitious plan to invite not one or two but 20 of the most successful women from all walks of life to work with me on a collaborative piece. I felt strongly that this project should be an opportunity to give back, so the proceeds of each piece sold are donated to charity. It’s my way to say “thank you” to the loyal community that has supported my brand all these years. Initially we had three LA-based organizations in mind because I wanted to directly support the community I live and work in, but with everything that has been happening in the world, I decided to change course. Instead, I created a platform for the women I am collaborating with to speak up for the causes they are most passionate about. I’m so glad we made that decision before we launched, as it really feels like the right way to give back in the current day.
Why did you want to celebrate with collaborations?
After designing solo for 20 years, the idea of collaborating with like-minded creatives was thrilling. I have so much respect for fellow entrepreneurs that, selfishly, I thought this would be a fun way to get to know some of them and to get a deeper glimpse into their worlds. I specifically chose each woman based on my respect and admiration for what they’ve accomplished in their professional space. It was a personal decision, and the design process I’ve gone through with each of them has been deeply rewarding. I also had a hunch that what we’d come up with together would really speak to my audience as well as theirs, and I’m happy to say it really has.
How did you select the artists you wanted to work with?
After brainstorming with my team, I made a long list of women that I just generally think are stellar with something important to say. Some I’ve known for years, some I met through various groups or friends, and some were pretty much on my ultimate dream team list to be honest. We narrowed it down a bit, then reached out first to the women I thought would be excited by the opportunity to create a piece of jewelry together, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. We originally intended to keep the focus LA based, but once the pandemic hit and everything went remote, coordinating on Zoom became second nature and allowed our reach to expand. Each one of these partnerships is unique and special in its own way, just like the women who’ve participated. [Past partnerships include Jungalow’s Justina Blakeney, fashion designer Rachel Pally, and I Am a Voter founder Mandana Dayani.]
Which pieces really stick with you?
It is literally impossible to choose just one, I truly love them all. But one that stands out and speaks directly to what I have enjoyed most about this project is the collab with Jessica Malaty Rivera, an infectious disease epidemiologist and science communicator. Amid a global pandemic, we found each other on Instagram. I was following her work with the COVID Tracking Project, and it turned out she was a fan and total jewelry junkie, so we communicated over DM and made a personal connection. The meaningful pieces we created while totally inspired by her heritage and life story can be worn by anyone, since the symbols represent wisdom, renewal, and transformation. I think this synergy really gets to the heart of what my jewelry is all about: timeless pieces with personal meaning that can be worn for a lifetime.
Top: After a self-imposed hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, designer Zoë Chicco is returning to her 20×20 anniversary project, celebrating two decades in the jewelry industry and her love of collaborating with innovative women (photos courtesy of Zoë Chicco).
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