Natalia Chai Chats with Elsie Grey Jewelry
This year I am excited to start featuring collaborations with amazing individuals in my life who are doing something extremely special, extra-ordinary, exciting and different who have already or will make an impact in the world! This week's post I am very honoured and excited to introduce to you my good friend and local jewelry designer who is, like me, trying to make a humble start in her our own respective industry. Like the music scene, the jewelry industry is populated with talent and extreme creative competition that makes it harder than ever to make a mark in the business. Michelle Choy is the owner and jewelry designer of her newly renamed company, Elsie Grey.
I am one of her biggest supporters not just because I am her friend but because I sincerely adore her jewelry. A lot of the necklaces and earrings you see me wearing in my fashion blogs are designed by Elsie Grey. We often make jokes about her being my personal jewelry designer and sponsor when I "make it big" - we like to dream BIG! But all jokes aside her collections are beautiful, timeless, simple, affordable and makes a woman feel awesome! I had a chance to sit down and discuss over girl talk her journey from the beginning to present day!
I love supporting local #YEG anything and if you do too, please share some love and check out my good friend's page, ELSIE GREY JEWELRY on instagram HERE and her Etsy page HERE! In the meantime, take some time to read about her story! HUGE SHOUT OUT to the PHOTOGRAPHER @calebautin_ for braving the cold to take photos of us!:)
1) How did you start and modify your label?
"It was a very rocky start. From the very beginning, I was too scared to get started by myself so I asked my two sisters if they wanted to start up something. My sister makes cards and I make jewelry. We always talked about doing something fun together and we were already selling some our work, so we decided to start up an Etsy page. My sister came up with “Creative Daydreamers” because we are all creative people and we kept daydreaming about opening up our own shop one day. Unfortunately, my sister just didn’t have time to dedicate to card making anymore, so I decided to rebrand to “Elsie Grey” to refine the brand more to my jewelry."
2) How do you approach a new collection? Where do your ideas evolve from?
"I’m actually very new to the idea of collections and they are very hard. I start by looking at other jewelry labels such as Love AJ and Vanessa Mooney and see what the trends are for the season. From there I ask myself questions such as ‘What do I like to wear in the winter? I love to wear sweaters as most people do and so I have to think of jewelry that will compliment and accent the winter styles. I always keep an eye out for what the upcoming trends are, use those as the base ideas and then change them to make them my own!"
3) What materials and techniques do you use?
"I love working with metals – any kind of metals are really good to work with. I love working with silver and gold. Most of my jewelry are silver or gold plated for now just because sterling silver and 14K gold are so expensive and I want my jewelry to be affordable for people so that they can wear them without having to break the bank. I try to make them as allergy free as possible which is a challenge because I don’t make the material from scratch - I buy them from a manufacturer.
''Technique that I use – that’s a good question but for now I only have one technique and that technique is using my tools and my hands. I actually really like silver smithing but I haven’t sold anything that I silver smithed except to my friends. love melding things together, creating things from scratch, which is something that I would love to do more of in the future but for now I buy parts separately and put them together."
4) What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?
"I’ve learned so much. To be in this industry you have to be aggressive and to have self-confidence. This is something that I definitely struggle with, not because I don’t think that my jewelry is not good but there’s so much competition and talent out there that it’s hard to not compare yourself to them. For instance, when I get compliments about my jewelry being very one of kind and unique, I start “second guessing” because I know what other jewelry out there are like and I’ve seen jewelry that are similar yet different than mine. I’m slowly gaining confidence in this industry by talking to people.
''I know that my jewelry isn’t for everyone and I’m totally cool with that. If it’s not your style, that’s cool, I have my own style and other’s will also have my style but not everybody will. I’ve invested so much time and money but if you keep doing what you love, you will be successful one day! It might be a slow start, but even at my last show, I sold over 100 pieces which is amazing! Moments like this you remember, stay humble and keep growing.''
5) How would you describe your jewelry collection?
''I would describe my jewelry as minimalistic with a bit of attitude but still very classic and timeless that you can wear anytime. But recently, @tixonthesquare posted a picture and they described my pieces as minimalistic but very structured. My pieces are fine and dainty in a way but have the strength to stand on its own''
6) Do you have a favourite accessory designer that you admirer?
''To list a few, Biko, CatbirdNYC, Wolf Circus, Haati Chai, Coutu Kitsch. Biko is from Toronto. She started making hand-made products and now she’s selling at notable stores such as Nordstrom. She is my idol – you will look at my pieces and see her pieces in my collections. I admire how she can put brass with gun metal – in other words she can put metals together that you wouldn’t think made sense but her collections are so beautiful I absolutely love her stuff. She is an absolute inspiration. Local Edmonton designers such as Hunter Amor – they make everything, they have very geometric designs and does a lot of engagement rings.
''CoutuKitsch is based out of Calgary – a boyfriend/girlfriend team where the girl makes the jewelry and the guy helps with marketing and promotion – just a power couple. They are actually the ones who got me into the jewelry business in the first place. I saw them at the Make It show and immediately fell in love with their collections. They had a jewelry course in Calgary at a Market Collective Show and I signed up for it because she was teaching it!''
7) When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career as a jewelry designer?
''When I took the jewelry course in Calgary from Coutukitsch. Dorian the designer told me her story about how she got into the business. She started by taking apart her necklaces and putting them together piece by piece in a way she thought looked good and would appeal to the public’s taste. Then I thought to myself, ‘I can do that!’, so I went to Forever 21 and got a couple of necklaces that I liked. I took apart certain pieces from the necklaces and put them back together in a way I liked and thought that others would like.
That’s how I started – I remember staying up till 3am in the morning sitting on the floor of my room making these necklaces totally enjoying my time. From then I kept making pieces and slowly people started to like my jewelry. For example my sister would start to wear them, then her friend would see it and so on. Then I started to do small shows at my work to see how the public would receive my work and it has slowly grown and is still growing from there.''
8) What are the greatest challenges in this business?
''Definitely the competition is crazy because there are so many jewelry businesses out there! Being unique and trying to get yourself out there is a huge challenge and having people somehow remember you after a show is hard. Doing this part time is extremely hard too because I have another full time day job. Everything from taking pictures to, marketing is a challenge – everything is so new I don’t know how to do any of it and I’m still learning. I don’t even know how to do half of the stuff but I just learn as I go."
9) What role do you think social media plays in fashion today?
"Social media is so huge and important – it’s 10 times as important than it was just a couple years ago. Even on instagram, you can reach so many people across the whole world it’s crazy. I get fashion bloggers from Thailand or Australia or the UK following me, I mean how cool is that?! It also inspires a lot of things for me – I mean I follow an account from the UK who inspires what I wear everyday. You have to constantly be active on it in order for people to see you and your posts and business to get hits. Even your search engine optimization is huge – you have to have all forms of social media if you want someone to search you, you want your business to come up. I’m super lucky to have a platform like Etsy where it reaches anybody from across the world and opportunities come up that I never thought would ever come up!"
10) What is/was your biggest fear in starting your own line?
"My biggest fear was failing and it still is! It’s extremely hard me to put myself out in the public. My jewelry reflects everything about me. Everything that I would wear is what I design. I was scared that no one would like my jewelry when I put so much hard work into making my pieces. My customers are so important to me and I try to treat all of my customers as if they were my best friend and I, try to give them good pieces that will last forever. Whenever I hear that something doesn’t quite fit or something is broken, I have no problem fixing and adjusting them with my own two hands hassle free. I also want to get feedback from my customers and I want to see how they wear my jewelry! I always love seeing the different outfits that they put together with my jewelry!"
11) How do you want women to feel when they wear your jewelry?
"That’s a good question! I make very simple jewelry, not overpowering, classic and timeless. I want them to feel confident! I don’t want the piece to be wearing them, I want my customers to wear the jewelry. I want them to feel like my jewelry compliments their whole outfit. That’s what I really love about jewelry – you can put it on and be look at yourself and say, ‘I look pretty darn awesome today!’” You can be wearing the plainest looking t-shirt but add that one piece of jewelry and that’s all you will need! I want my customers to make an investment – I don’t want my customers to only wear my jewelry for a week but to constantly go back to my pieces for years to come!"
12) What’s next for Elsie Grey jewelry?
"I’m starting to get a look book together with new and older pieces for a new collection to put on my website. I’m also trying to be more aggressive to get my jewelry featured in local shops. I’m looking into doing more collaborations with local businesses and that is currently my main focus and direction!"
A LOT of ELSIE GREY'S JEWELRY are my GO-TO pieces because they can be paired and worn with anything as you can see in a lot of my fashion blogs! If you love the modern, simply yet sophisticated jewelry collections you will NOT be disappointed with the gift that my girl has to offer!!