Have you ever met someone for the very first time and realized you had found a kindred spirit? From the initial phone conversation I had with Carolyn Rafaelian-Ferlise of Alex and Ani I recognized her incredible passion for jewelry and accessories.
Carolyn is one of those rare designers that is a one stop shop. Not only is she wildly talented and inspired, she is a pioneer with her lines. Her designs lead the way for others to follow.
I recently asked Carolyn how she found her way to the accessory design business. She reminded me that she grew up in the business. Her father owned a large manufacturing facility in Rhode Island where designs and jeweled pieces have been manufactured for many many years.
Carrying The Torch - Literally
Carolyn recounted how she used "to hang out with the ladies that would sit at their workbenches and work with metal soldering torches". Finding "the torch fire absolutely fascinating" she used to sit "and just watch the flames". Laughing she confided "the ladies would let her play with the guns when her dad wasn't watching". While she had fun hanging with the ladies and sneaking some flamethrower's play, she also felt nurtured and totally at home in the factory.
Everything about the industry become second nature to her as she grew up. She got to know all of the people that her dad did business with, ranging from the finding and stone merchants, to the buyers, and wholesalers.
By the time Carolyn went off to college she was "ready to do something else with her life". Although she wasn't necessarily shunning the family business, she was "definitely trying to find herself".
After traveling across country to California for a life changing year of study, she was ready to settle down permanently in the Sunshine State. While her parents "were very supportive", her father "lovingly nudged her to consider alternative options".
After trekking across The Pond for an incredibly exciting year of study in London, where she finished her college, California dreams had faded in favor of the big lights of New York.
Making her way to The City, Carolyn's personal life blossomed and she settled down in the pre-chic New York City loft area of Tribeca. Feeling right at home in the city that never sleep, Carolyn enjoyed time getting to know herself better and spending memorable times with her many friends.
During her New York period fate and good karma connected and Carolyn rediscovered her jewelry roots. Although her father had built his trade upon rhinestone studded creations, Carolyn "felt the need to transcend to a new level". Embracing her innate "love of rare Swarovski stones", she embarked upon a new mission to secure the rare beauties.
Searching For Swarovski
Intuitively Carolyn knew that "it was important to dedicate her time and energy to securing a world class collection of rare Swarovski stones, like the exquisite Volcanos, for her dad's company". And in fact, many of the stones she sought "could never again be created or manufactured". Carolyn reported that "some of the stones had even been outlawed because the creation process had been proven to cause cancer or other serious illness for the craftspeople".
Although Carolyn remembered "her dad was slightly perplexed by her focus on buying so many rare stones, he was totally supportive and trusting of her new direction". Ultimately Carolyn's intuition was "on target since today the stones are virtually impossible to locate".
After she had "collected and stockpiled massive quantities of gorgeous rare Swarovski and similar stones", Carolyn unleashed her design muscles. Confessing that she "designs for herself and creates pieces that she would love to wear", Carolyn entered her Cocktail Ring Period. She found that she just started "sketching fabulously ornate and outrageously encrusted cocktail rings".
Ornate Cocktail Rings
As her unique ring designs evolved, she became consumed with layering them with magnificent stones from her father's new collection.
Each of Carolyn's ornately studded cocktail rings gave way to even more bursts of magical creativity. Her self professed "outrageous" rings multiplied until she found herself being solicited to show her designs through a rep showroom in New York.
In the blink of an eye, her ring collections jetted from the showrooms into the gleaming display cases of the world class retail merchants like Bloomingdales.
The Mommy Period
From her Cocktail Ring Period Carolyn flowed into her Mommy Period with the birth of first daughter Alex. Carolyn and her family left New York and found their way back home to the family hearth and home in Rhode Island.
Alex's birth was followed shortly after by Ani. Carolyn continued to design her cocktail rings while slowly branching out into other related accessory areas with her creativity. She also was "back with the family jewelry business". However, she recalled, "it felt like the timing was right" and she was where she "needed to be".
A few years after Ani's birth, Carolyn decided to completely unleash her passion the accessory business and entered into the Alex and Ani Period by starting her now famous company.
Carolyn reported that she was having a challenge thinking up a good name for her new baby, her accessory company. One day, while hanging out with a friend, she sought out to her two young daughters in the next room. As she called out "Alex, Ani" the lightbulb went off and Carolyn and her friend instantly knew that the right name had been found.
Thus began the fabulous accessory company named after Carolyn's precious two daughters, Alexandra and Ani.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
For more information about the fabulous Alex & Ani collection visit: http://www.alexandani.com