Now based in New York City’s Nolita, Marie-Lise Lachapelle is a Montreal-born jewelry designer who is known for her handmade pieces. Lachapelle credits her parents for her artistic ambitions — her entrepreneurial father is also a sculptor and her mother is a painter and former high fashion model. The designer says that she draws from her artistic heritage and innate passion for creativity for her diverse jewelry collections.
The designer’s passion for jewelry design began in 2003 after her move to New York City. While working as a fashion stylist she started introducing her own creations, which quickly gained favor among celebrities, models, and fashion editors. She launched her first collection in 2005. Her pieces can be customized in sterling silver, gold vermeil, and 18-karat yellow, white, or rose gold. She uses natural semi-precious and precious stones. The combinations are endless.
We caught-up with the wonderfully personable designer who was kind enough to share with us some of her influences and talk about her upcoming collaboration with Walther, whose fall 2009 collection she will be accessorizing.
Q: Do you find yourself influenced by the city?
A: Absolutely, everyday! New York City always gives me a hand whenever I’m in need of inspiration. I feel like it kind of winks at me and all I have to do is look around at the living canvas around me: the subway, parks, buildings, neighborhoods, the people and the energy, it all brings a great deal of inspiration to my work
Q: What is your background in fashion/jewelry/design?
A: It goes as far as I can remember. As a little girl, I would make necklaces with whatever I could find. Then I went through a phase where I was making lots of hair pieces with flowers, candy, puzzle pieces, buttons. I would give them as presents to friends and family and sometimes sell them at school! I didn’t pick it up again until years later, while I was in acting school I started doing workshops in jewelry making to learn about different techniques. After a stint in acting in short films and some modeling, I realized that my passion was always in styling and especially, accessorizing others on set.
I started my career in fashion as a wardrobe stylist and personal shopping where I would always have my jewelry creations on hand. The people I was styling, as well as editors, photographers and clients started to take notice, and it wasn’t long before the orders started coming my way. That’s when I came to a crossroad and had to make a choice, because I couldn’t do both anymore at that pace. It was actually really obvious to me at that point that I had to take the jump and start designing full time, to say the least!
Q: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
A: Versatile (most pieces I make can be worn in many different ways), sometimes deconstructed and architectural (you will see more of that in my new collections),but mainly organic, since I work with a lot of real flowers and leaves, feminine and definitely always sure to be noticed.
Q: How would you describe your clientele?
A: Although I’m told by the big marketers that I need to target one niche of clientele, it’s hard for me because if you look at the collections, they are quite diversified. Although you can recognize my style throughout all of them, there is something that can be suited for so many different types. For example one type my jewelry appeals to are the "Brigittes," as I like to call them, are young (20’s to mid 30’s), independent, enjoy dressing up when going out but can also be very laid back, have their own personal styles and carry a more "downtown" vibe. Then there are the "Victorias," which tend to fall age-wise into the late 30’s and up. The Victorias are very much into fashion; they like to attend the big fashion shows, make appearances at the swanky black tie events (charities, galas, etc.), have a very busy social calendar and always dressed to the "T"; they travel to St. Barth’s in the winter, St. Tropez in the summer, and spend a lot of time in the Hamptons. I often have private showings for the “Victorias.” Finally, there are the Natalies, Nadine’s an Sandrines, who are everything in between and beyond… all of these women wear my jewelry in different ways and all look fabulous in it! And soon I may have the Ians, the Richards, the Joes, and who knows!
Q: What is the price range for your pieces?
A: Most pieces are between 150.00 and 500.00 USD. However, I have sales twice a year, when almost everything from previous collections drops to about 50% off! I do also have custom pieces that go up to about 1000.00 USD. The price of a piece really always depend on what kind of stones and materials I use and how much time is put into a specific piece. I can also design engagement rings and the prices on those vary greatly depending on the diamond.
Q: Most memorable work experience?
Another one would be, my being part of the fundraiser for the Gandhi Tour produced by Gobal Kinect, which is designed to spread philosophy through music and art at the studio of late Stephan Weiss. Gandhi’s grandson, Dr. Arun Gandhi who’s one of the most prolific speakers of the 21st century, spread his message of love and peace…it was amazing! My orchid collection was displayed and sold in the silent auction. One of my big Cattaleya Orchid necklaces was picked up by Donna Karan herself. It was such an honor for me…the whole evening was.
Also, every time I get thank you letters from people who either purchased something from me or who got it as present is always a highlight, often accompanied by a picture of the person wearing the piece. It makes me love what I do even more!
Q: If you could choose one celebrity to wear one of your pieces who would it be?
A: Cate Blanchett. She is an unbelievable actress who always looks stunning, no matter what red carpet choices she makes. Even when critics say she makes "fashion no-no’s," her confidence, unique sense of style and timeless beauty make her one of my all time favorites. Cate, are you reading this??
Q: What are some of your favorite pieces?
A: I’m really into the new ones I’m working on at the moment with layers of chains that can be worn around the shoulders with links that connect on the back. They can also be worn as multi chain necklaces… Again, versatility is my thing!
Q: How did the partnership with Walter Baker come about? Can you give us a little sneak peak as to what to expect?
A: The stylist who is in charge of the fashion show, Holly Copeland, knew about my jewelry and approached me to accessorize the models. Walter agreed that it would be a perfect match! Come on by to the show and you’ll see for your self!
Q: Do you have any tips for aspiring jewelry designers?
A: Just get out there and do it! Don’t get intimidated by the competition. Try to be ahead of the game while staying faithful to yourself and what makes you different. Learn from your mistakes. Oh yeah…. Get a GOOD chair! Your back will thank you later!
Q; Do you have any plans to expand into other accessories?
A: Yes, definitely- I’m working a men’s line right now! Wait until you see my little black orchid cuff links. Also hair pieces for the ladies are coming out on time for summer!
For more information on Marie-Lise Lachapelle check-out www.marielise.net.