I'm so excited for the third career feature on Design Darling! This one was particularly fun to shoot for two reasons: 1) the designer is a woman of many, many talents and 2) she has an adorable five-month-old son who was content to hang out in my lap throughout the interview. That's kind of as good as it gets for a Tuesday afternoon, you know?
But back to that comment about many talents. Brandy Pham is a jewelry designer extraordinaire — you've seen me wear her Lovely ring here, here, and here. But she's also the cutest new mom you've ever seen, taught herself calligraphy just because (hello, 101 in 1001 list!), and offered Rebecca and me a latte from her kitchen the moment we walked through the door. And yet she didn't make me feel bad about myself at all; in fact, I left her apartment feeling completely inspired by her graciousness and work ethic. I know she'll inspire you as well!
(Editor's note: Brandy, please teach me your secrets for flawless skin! Oh and I'll babysit Theodore any time.)
Name: Brandy Pham
Title: Cofounder and creative director, Brandy Pham
Location: Upper West Side, New York, New York
What was your first job ever? Have you always been into designing jewelry?
My parents own a nail salon in Miami and I worked for them doing manicures and nail art from the time I was thirteen years old. After college, I knew I wanted to work in fashion. I came from a clothing background so jewelry was a happy accident.
How did you wind up launching your own company?
I would come home and complain about my day job every night to my husband. I started making jewelry on the side and giving it to friends and family but my husband was the one who gave me the push I needed to set a deadline to quit my day job and really go for it. I started off on Etsy and before long was growing a wholesale business.
I wouldn't know the first thing about designing a piece of jewelry. Where do you start?
Inspiration can strike anywhere at any time. I pick away at my favorite details and examine my love for clothing and interiors. That's where the needle pieces in my collection came from — my sewing machine was broken and I missed creating clothes so I was paying homage to my first love, fashion. I love the idea of wearing it on your heart or hands, the double needles you need for sewing machines.
That's so cool! What happens after you have your lightbulb moment?
I start sketching and spec-ing it out, which gets pretty technical. You have to know the fit of the fingers or wrists to determine how we make our molds. Then it goes into casting — we use brass and sterling silver and it's all done in New York. It takes months to become a model at our factory in the diamond district. Each piece touches so many different hands: the person who pours the metal, pulls it out of the cast, hand polishes it, and of course packages and ships it — that part is all me!
I love that it's such a collaborative effort from start to finish. How would you describe the girl who’s wearing your jewelry?
The Brandy Pham girl is elegant but young, modern, and cool. It doesn't matter how old she is — she has a great aesthetic and loves beautiful things. And I think we tap into the luxury market at an accessible price point.
It makes sense to design for what you know! What does a typical day look like for you?
My son Theodore wakes up anytime between 3:30 and 6:30 a.m. Once I feed him, I try to stay up! I do an hour of yoga or Pilates, shower, have fruit and coffee, check my emails, and catch up on the news. It's my "me time" while the boys are sleeping! Then I fulfill online orders and follow up on wholesale accounts. Two or three times a week, I make runs to our factory to check on production and quality with Theodore in tow.
You're such an inspiration to new moms. How do you stay organized?
It's hard with a new baby! I tend to organize backwards depending on the date a particular shipment is due. But day to day, I'm really working around his feeding schedule and nap times. I'm a pen and paper girl — I still use a written calendar and use a ton of Post-It notes.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of your job?
The fun part is actually designing, which is only about 10% of what I do. 90% of it is production and selling. In a perfect world, I'd have someone helping with sales. I love doing it myself because it's my product and I of course love every piece but it is definitely grueling. I was super pregnant at our last trade show!
What's one "pinch me" moment you've had so far?
One moment that was really big for me was when a buyer for Anthropologie walked into our booth at a trade show wanting to place an order and already knew what pieces she wanted. The fact that she had already had her eye on us before the show was pretty cool! She just asked for line sheets, gave me her card, and said her assistant would contact me the next day. I remember looking down at her card and trying not to freak out in front of her!
That seriously gives me goosebumps!
It was so surreal. Two days after labor, I was back in my apartment, packing two hundred pieces for Anthropologie.
That's incredible. What's the best advice you've received along the way?
To stay true to myself and to do what I feel is right. In the beginning, I designed what I thought would sell. But now I only design pieces I want to wear, which has made the collection so much stronger.
When will you know you've made it?
We're a really young brand and I try to appreciate every little milestone. My husband and I can be really hard on each other; he motivates me to want to get into certain stores and things like that. We're trying to just keep setting goals and continue to cross things off along the way. The other day I had a really happy moment: we saw a girl on the Lower East Side wearing my necklace and I had to do a double take. That's the whole goal: to design jewelry and have people wear it. But to see it in person on a complete stranger? That was pretty awesome.
Keep up with Brandy Pham: