The Affordable Jewelry Brand You Need to Know About, Like Yesterday
Have you ever wondered what editors at Who What Wear's NYC offices wear to work? You might assume that we're dressed in the latest spring trends or showing off our favorite Zara finds. But what may surprise you is that the majority of the time, we're all sporting the same jewelry brand: Jenny Bird. The success of the demi-fine label can be attributed to its thoughtful approach to jewelry-making, which blends timeless shapes with contemporary twists, resulting in pieces that have won the hearts of many. For instance, a pair of mid-size gold hoops boasts sculptural curves and a high-shine finish that transforms the earrings into wearable artwork.
Thanks to this approach, the brand has attracted the attention of leading retailers such as Nordstrom and Revolve, and has cultivated a celebrity following that includes stars like Selena Gomez and Kerry Washington. While having fashion editors, buyers, and A-listers endorse a brand is undoubtedly influential, the true driving force behind the line's continued relevance is Mrs. Jenny Bird herself. Despite being self-taught and operating from Canada, Bird has managed to establish her niche in the oversaturated U.S. market, which has been a significant factor in the brand's continued success. Some may attribute Bird’s success to her persistence over the last fifteen years, but I believe it goes beyond that.
As a designer, Jenny Bird embodies the same refreshing, approachable, and charming qualities that are reflected in her jewelry. When I recently visited Lysée in New York to view her collections, I was struck by her passion for creating "soulful" pieces that capture different aspects of her identity as a designer, mother, and woman. It's this commitment to using jewelry as a form of self-expression that has made her designs resonate with so many people, including myself. If you're curious about the woman behind the brand, keep reading. I sat down with Bird to discuss the evolution of her brand, the challenges she's faced along the way, and the jewelry trends she's excited about for spring. Whether you're already a member of the Jenny Bird fan club or about to join, you won't want to miss this exclusive interview with the designer herself.
For those who are unfamiliar with your work, how did you break into the fashion industry?
My first big break was a trunk show at Henri Bendel in its glory days (the late 2000s). Daily Candy wrote about the event, and the momentum began. At this point, I was creating accessible luxury handbags—this was during Rebecca Minkoff’s rise as well, and I found my way to designing jewelry after that.
What inspired you to start your own business?
The possibility of a life less ordinary. After working in a marketing career for 8 years, I knew I wouldn’t be truly happy if I continued on that path. I dreamed of a big beautiful life surrounded by extraordinary people that inspired me. One in which my work was to create things I loved and was a natural extension of who I was. I wanted to be fulfilled. And I wanted to have the freedom and adventure the life of a founder provides.
Many may not know that when you initially launched your brand in 2008, it was a handbag brand, but you pivoted into jewelry in 2010. Can you tell us how that shift came about for you? What made you decide to pursue creating jewelry?
My handbags debuted right before the recession of 2009, and at that time, they could not support entry-level luxury products from unknown designers. Gucci was on sale, and I was going out of business. I had to pivot to keep the brand alive and create for a living. I had been an avid flea market collector of vintage jewelry my whole life, and it was a joy spot for me. My appreciation for vintage design was central to my handbag collections. I realized standout bag design required unique hardware, so I would cast vintage earrings for metal adornments on a clutch and find a stellar vintage chain for a certain bag's handle. It made my collections special, and I started my self-education in casting and metal design. So when I had to pivot, I realized that jewelry was right under my nose and just followed that joy.
What advice would you give to a fellow entrepreneur?
I started and didn't overthink it. I knew it wouldn't be perfect out of the gate, but I wasn't afraid to improve and evolve in front of people. This perspective is critical for those thinking of creating a brand. Start. I created a brand with a few products and started sharing my collections with everyone I could get myself in front of. I didn't have anyone who could open one door in the industry for me; I had to find my way if this dream was going to become my reality. But I believed in myself and my product and envisioned my new life as a creative founder in fashion. That vision was so compelling I had to try it! I worked hard and hustled, day after day. It was as simple (and as hard) as that.
Founding any business, much less a jewelry brand, comes with its own set of challenges. As someone who is a self-taught designer, have you faced any challenges building your brand over the past thirteen years? What have you learned through that process?
Of course. Success isn't something you can acquire on your own. It's just a byproduct of challenges, failures, and a whole lot of tenacity. There is no creation of any new concept without challenges. The ones I faced were Olympic in scale and would have been insurmountable for the majority, but I was committed to not being in the majority from the outset. I believed unwaveringly in myself and that great accomplishments were born in great minds. I held a few sacred truths, and I still do: if you never give up, you can't fail. It will be hard, but it will be worth it. You can't be self-conscious about it at all. I've failed in front of the community, reinvented, succeeded, grown, and pivoted hundreds of times. My courage to keep trying things and evolving in front of the community makes it happen.
You've been able to build a bit of a cult following that includes the celebrity set, but also most of Who What Wear's editorial team. For you, what do you feel makes your brand stand out among so many other jewelry brands out there? What's the secret sauce that makes us all keep coming back?
My pieces are beautifully made and cool. Also, and importantly, you come to know that an authentic person and her joy for fashion are behind them. You can feel me in the pieces; they have their own soul.
When it comes to design, what's the most important part of creating a collection for you? Is there something that's always top of mind for you when you're in your creative process?
When I'm creating a collection, what will be cool is top of mind. I'm always weighing which shapes will be in, which aesthetics are trending, and what I feel our community will want to wear. I always need to deliver on these aspects in my work.
You're very transparent about where your jewelry is produced and the production standards you have in place. Why do you feel it's important to have transparency around how jewelry is made? Is there anything you wish more people knew about the jewelry industry?
Today's consumerism is conscious. Transparency is mandatory because consumers choose to support your products, your company, and its practices. As brands, we must proactively provide all the information they need to make these conscious choices. We need to open the doors of our companies to our most important stakeholders. We often jump to conclusions based on where the factory is located, but I have produced in three countries and have learned that what is most important is how the factory conditions are, how the workers are treated, and the qualifications it has for environmental responsibility.
Outside of your resume, it's clear that you have a distinct passion for fashion through your impeccable personal style. What role would you say fashion has played in your personal life?
Fashion is food for my soul and a major part of my identity. My style has definitely helped my brand succeed. I fearlessly enjoy putting myself together and take pride in my intuitive gift of understanding the zeitgeist, or the "spirit of the times." I love how we communicate this spirit and our perspective of it through our looks, showing each other the humanity, psychology, motivations, and conflicts of the moment.
How has your relationship with fashion influenced your approach to jewelry design?
Jewelry is a character in the stage play that is our outfits of the season. Its role in shapes and places on the body shifts as clothing trends do to complement those clothes. I create to ensure our community has the right jewelry to fulfill this formula. In this way, my work keeps my customers modern.
Unlike any other accessory, jewelry has a timeless nature that allows consumers to hold onto pieces for generations. As a designer, are there any staples you feel are worthwhile long-term investments?
Pearl earrings or a strand of round pearls. Metal shapes shift and evolve with time; nothing is more timeless than a pearl.
What advice would you give anyone looking to curate their own collection of jewelry? What should they know before buying?
Don't overthink it. Jewelry should be fun, and fashion jewelry isn't about commitment, so try things out and follow your feelings. Watch negative self-talk. The only people who can't pull things off are the ones who think that about themselves. You can pull off anything if you wear it with confidence. Putting on a piece that's right will light you up inside and make you stand a little taller. That's how you know it's a keeper.
Jewelry is perhaps the easiest way to refresh your wardrobe, and as an expert, are there any spring jewelry trends you recommend investing in?
I recommend silver, particularly contemporary, chunky, rounded, and high-shine shaped pieces worn as earrings or a ring. I also suggest sculptural, voluminous earrings that add some "puff." The great thing about this trend is that it pairs well with a monochromatic outfit or a great coat, which will instantly elevate your fashion status.
Do you have any jewelry styling hacks you swear by to make your spring wardrobe feel fresh?
I believe the best looks are personal and don't follow the rules. However, I always recommend creating good tension and visual interest by mixing and matching—pair vintage finds or family heirlooms with your favorite Jenny Bird pieces. I also love the idea of giving new life to an old ring by putting it on a chain or adding flair to an old pair of sneakers or boots with an ankle bracelet through the heel tab. When it comes to jewelry styling, if you think you can pull it off, you are pulling it off.
Besides your own jewelry, are there any other wardrobe staples you wear all the time?
I swear by a good pair of jeans—though I don't buy expensive ones. Instead, I splurge on high-end shoes and mix high and low pieces for everyday wear. I also love coordinated sets; they have become part of my style DNA. I find that the head-to-toe palette looks polished and sophisticated for my age (I just turned 47!).
We recommend pairing this with the matching Pinstripe Straight-Leg Pants ($170).
Imagine pairing these mules with a sculptural hoop from Jenny Bird's collection.
You’ve become known as one of the leading jewelry designers in Toronto; how has the Canadian fashion industry changed since you first started? And are there any other brands (besides your own) that you love and feel are putting the Canadian fashion community on the map?
Canadian consumers are known to support homegrown brands ferociously, but with the size of the market, Canadian brands now have a global mindset right from the start. Engaging in the global market is crucial to having a prosperous business, and there’s so much our fashion community can share with the world. Regarding other brands, I love Kotn’s products and what they stand for. Their long-sleeved tees and turtlenecks are staples in my wardrobe. I love what they do, they are fairly priced, and I like wearing socially responsible products; they are incredible. I’m also perpetually inspired by Beaufille. They are super-talented sisters who should be on everyone’s radar.
There's nothing like a simple blouse to make your jewelry stand out.
Hilary MacMillan's size-inclusive pieces are definitely worth checking out.
You’ve become known among the fashion and celebrity sets for your jewelry, but last year you launched an eyewear collection. Can you tell us a bit about why you wanted to expand into that category?
It’s jewelry for the face! Designing Jenny Bird Sun was a natural extension for me, especially with the metal frames where I can seamlessly bring my design sensibility from jewelry into the designs. Although the market is crowded, I had a hard time finding frames I loved without sacrificing something - whether it was comfort, design, or the sheer cost of cool frames. High-quality and high-design options were nearly impossible to find at a (fair) $200 price point. I decided I could make a line where no sacrifices were required. I’ve enjoyed it so far and feel very proud that our entire range is sustainable, made of recycled steel (for the metal frames) and biodegradable acetate that will compost and not add to our landfills.
These classic rectangle shades also come in an off-white matte hue, baby blue, and tortoiseshell.
You can buy the frame of these sunglasses in clear, black, and tortoiseshell.
Not a fan of cantaloupe? No worries, these frames also come in off-white matte, baby blue, and tortoiseshell.
Lastly, how do you envision the brand evolving in the future? What do you want the brand’s legacy to be?
My husband and I are still the sole owners of the company, and we have pledged that 1% of our sales will go to women in need of uplifting, from crisis to resources to mentoring, via our Impact Fund, the Possibilities Project. This means that every purchase matters because every single piece of jewelry gives back. As a community that enjoys the brand and its products, we are collectively making a positive impact on thousands of women through our programming and donations. We always ask ourselves, "How many people can we uplift along the way?" From our employees to partners, customers, and community members in need, we always want to give back. The brand's legacy will be in the depth and breadth of this impact and the inspiration it provides.
Bird's new Squiggle Collection, which launched in March, is sure to become a fan favorite among the fashion set.
Unlike traditional paper-clip chain necklaces, this Jenny Bird piece features a puffy silhouette on each link, giving the jewelry staple a trendy feel.
If you love earscaping but don't have the time to layer on multiple pieces, this ear cuff is the perfect solution as it gives off the illusion of wearing multiple pieces thanks to its tiered shape.
The great thing about this bangle, besides the shape, is that it features a discreet hinge and tab lock closure, making it easier to slide on and off.
These hoops are crafted from 14k gold-dipped brass and feature a hollowed-out design that makes them comfortable for everyday wear.
PSA: Mixing two-tone jewelry can be a stylish choice. Simply opt for elegant pieces, like the ring set above, to ease yourself into the trend.
Searching for the perfect everyday chain necklace? This silver-dipped brass necklace has extended rings so you can adjust the length based on your preference.
Looking for a more contemporary pair of hoops? Look no further than these two-tone high-shine dipped brass silver and gold earrings.
Bird's pieces often play with illusions and negative space in a way that creates pieces that meld function and fashion—e.g., this tiered ring.
The caterpillar construction of this piece offers a chic alternative to the traditional chunky cuffs or chain-link bracelets.
Many of our editors own these hoops and swear by them for everyday wear.
The great thing about this chain is that it can be styled as a long lariat necklace or wrapped around the wrist to create a delicate layered bracelet.
Based on your mood, these earrings allow you to add or detach the paper-clip-shaped puffy links making them one of the most versatile items you can purchase for spring.
Bangles have made a serious comeback, so why not invest in a two-tone set for spring?
Jenny Bird offers various types of ear cuffs, but what makes these stand out is their adjustability. You can customize the fit to your earlobes, making them more comfortable to wear.
Consider this contemporary chain the final proof that Jenny Bird is the place to shop for jewelry that is both practical and sophisticated.