These days, it feels like there are more jewelry brands on Instagram than drops of water in the ocean, but one brand that always manages to stand out on social (and make a splash!) is Colette. The brains behind the business— Colette Steckel—has skin in the game, having started her first successful accessories line at the tender age of 14. Her eponymous jewelry line combines heirloom- and talismanic-inspired pieces with a modern cool girl sensibility, earning her fans in the likes of Rihanna, the Hadid sisters, every Victoria’s Secret Angel you can think of, and many more. We caught up with the LA-based designer to hear her story.
Congrats on 25 years in business! Looking back, what’s one major thing that’s changed and one thing that’s stayed the same?
Thank you! I can’t believe it’s been 25 years. Social media didn’t exist when I founded the business, and that has probably been the biggest game changer. Instagram, in particular, has given brands like mine an incredible platform to share our work, connect with collectors and industry-friends, and discover talent from all over the world. That otherworldly feeling of seeing a woman in my jewelry never changes—from day one to 25 years later, it is the highest form of flattery when I see someone wearing Colette and I know I will always feel that way.
Your daughter Victoria recently became the new face of the brand, in what way has she always been your muse?
In what way hasn’t she been my muse! Victoria has been a force ever since she was a little girl. She always loved trying on the jewelry and would tell me, ‘One day, I’ll wear these.’ Now, she’s grown into this incredibly smart, compassionate, stylish young woman who puts her whole heart into everything she sets her mind to. I am in awe of her open-mindedness and her ability to constantly challenge me. She is an extension of me in so many ways, but I’ve learned so much from her at the same time.
Victoria looks so like you! What’s one personality trait you’ve got in common too?
We both have this innate curiosity about the world and are obsessed with seeing and experiencing different cultures. We’ve traveled for months at a time together and it’s quite special to see how these experiences have shaped her values and influenced the woman she is today.
What other strong women inspire you these days?
The women I see and meet in my travels all over the world. I am moved by their personal stories and what they’ve been through to get to where they are today. I’ve always been inspired by women who are not afraid to challenge the norm and incite change. One that comes to mind is Carmen Busquets, but the list is long…
How does your background and heritage inspire the aesthetic of Colette?
My French-Mexican heritage plays a big role in who I am and my aesthetic. My jewelry is daring and reflects the drama and vibrancy of Mexico City, but has a feminine undertone that is informed by the elegance and delicate details of Paris. Some collections are directly influenced by one culture, like Penacho, which honors my Mexican roots by paying homage to Aztecan warriors, or my floral collections that call to mind the ivy-lined facades of Parisian buildings and my favorite roses at Hôtel Costes. Other collections blend the two, or reference other places I’ve visited in my travels.
Do you think living in LA inspires you too? How so?
LA has an incredibly free-spirited atmosphere unlike anywhere else. It’s a city of artists and entrepreneurs who have come here to pursue their dreams and being surrounded by such creativity fuels me to create myself. The light and landscape of LA is also a source of motivation for me. The sunlight gives me a dose of energy and makes me feel like I can take on anything that the day is going to bring. I hustle downtown all day, working on new designs, production, and everything else involved in running the business, and in the evening, I can go to the ocean to decompress and let my mind wander. The balance between city and beach is so unique to LA.
Medallions and talismanic-like jewelry are synonymous with your brand. Why are they important to you?
I’ve always had a lot of faith and believed in a higher power that influences our lives. Talismans are a way of bringing us closer to that guiding force, offering a tangible source of luck to carry along with us each day. I also believe that jewelry can act as a sort of armor, protecting us from harm’s way; prior to my father’s passing, I made a few small medallions that he wore every day for protection. This idea was the catalyst for [the collection] Santos y Cielos, which gives the wearer an opportunity to build a collection of talismans to hold close to their heart for strength as they navigate their day-to-day.
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You hand paint the pieces in your Santos y Cielos collection, can you let us in on the process behind creating each unique offering?
I use a centuries-old French enameling technique called Limoges to create the small paintings, inspired by artwork from the Renaissance period. They are set in 18-karat gold with diamonds, colored sapphires, and other precious stones.
Everyone on Instagram is obsessed with your gold, enamel, and diamond Gatsby pieces! Can you share the influences behind the collection?
As the name suggests, the Gatsby collection is inspired by 1920s Art Deco. Design during that period was so highly stylized; balancing straight lines and curves in a beautiful way. I adapted that concept to create the lettering that serves as the foundation for the collection and chose a really vibrant enamel color palette. People love personalization, so it’s fun for our clients to choose their letter and color to create something completely unique to them. Aside from the Deco influence, there is a subtle nod to Paris: each letter is encased in an octagonal frame that represents the shape of Place Vendôme, one of my favorite landmarks in the city.
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Your work often references symbols of luck. Beyond luck, what do you think has contributed to the lasting success of Colette?
My desire to constantly evolve and push boundaries as a designer, my willingness to learn from the people around me, and most importantly—the support from my family, friends, and our industry.
What’s in store for the brand in 2021?
So many things! I’m working on a few really exciting initiatives to celebrate our 25 years. Stay tuned!