Jean Won has set the foundations of her edgy and chic Jean & Merce brand, mixing up her materials, forms and favorite colors in a characteristically playful and charismatic manner, following her instinct, femininity and love for art. This magical, affordable and eclectic cocktail of inspirations comes down into a long series of one-of-a-kind pieces and smaller lines – true pieces of eye-catching jewelry – from bracelets, necklaces and earrings to incredible hair fascinators. What is very unique about her is the smart and elegant way she integrates different cultures and realities into her own reality and cultural background, making her own style applicable to many other personal styles, creating something genuine for each woman. It’s so appealing that most of you can find something from her treasures that expresses you 100%. And if you don’t, you can ask it from her and she can make it! For Spring/Summer 2012, Jean is heavily and adorably inspired by the Mediterranean beauties, a source of creativity that I LOVE! Interviewing her, I came across a lot of surprises, listening to her ideas and entering her amazing world!
J: My career as an architect and interior designer has offered me an amazing education in color, materiality, form and proportion within a physical space. These teachings have been invaluable as I’ve reinvented these learnings to the medium of jewelry design. The craft of jewelry making has many similarities to architectural model making and as a result, the technical transition felt very natural to me. I love working with my hands and have an endless amount of creative energy, which has led me to the fabulous world of jewelry. I feel incredibly lucky to have two passions in life – architecture and jewelry design.
J: I love a classic, feminine with a hint of edge in my jewelry. I like to mix these different styles together in my accessories by layering and combining different elements to make it my own. I design for someone like myself and for my amazing close friends, who are constantly working to be Super Women – balancing Work, Family, Relationships and of course Fashion into our lives! Jean & Merce was created for the active woman whose accessories need to work for them from day to night no matter what the event!
J: Since I am a visually motivated person, I am inspired by the aesthetics of beauty that surround me. Currently, I am obsessed with the Sea, in particular the Mediterranean. The J&M Spring/Summer 2012 line is inspired by the Mediterranean colors, lifestyle and spirit.
F: What are your favorite materials, shapes and colors for jewelry pieces?
J: I love all metals, natural stones, interesting textures and of course sparkly gems. One of J&M’s signature colors is a Mauve Pink that we incorporate in many of our pieces. We love all the warm colors of the art nouveau and art deco eras. I like to mix rough textures (raw brass, pewter unhoned stones) with smoother textures (polished stones/gems, vermeil and sterling silver). I love creating interesting compositions and creating unexpected juxtapositions of materials. I am a huge fan of the art of collage and I approach my jewelry making as if I was putting together a collage of materials. Many of my necklace pieces in the Louise Collection are one-of-a-kind and this is the reason for that. Each one is handmade and has variations depending on what materials are in front of me. Each one is unique and I am happy to say that each Louise Necklace has found a home with a unique woman locally and abroad!
J: I admire and respect any woman who makes effort to express themselves through their own personal style. It takes courage to express yourself through fashion and it is extremely difficult to then make something your own. Some fashion icons that I love and respect are: Coco Chanel, she was a visionary in both fashion style and way of life, Katherine Hepburn – I love how strong she was and how she expressed this independent spirit through her style and lastly Grace Kelly, I am awe of her stunningly elegant style.
F: How do you produce hand-crafted and at the same time affordable items? Hand-made things are by definition precious and usually expensive!
J: One of J&M’s goals was to create a Jewelry and Hair Line that would be accessible to the masses. We want ALL women to feel special and we don’t want them to break the bank to do so. My team has spent a lot of effort in sourcing the most interesting materials at the best prices and then creating unique designs that give each piece a personal touch that gives its distinction from other similarly priced jewelry in the marketplace.
J: Early on in life, my Dad said there are two important things in life, Education and Giving Back. Charity was encouraged in my household growing up and I often try to incorporate how to Give Back in all aspects of my life. In my personal life I work closely with the Young Survival Coalition and I had held my first jewelry workshop with an amazing group of Breast Cancer Survivors from the YSC. It was an amazing experience and as a result I have had the honor of volunteering more jewelry workshops to organizations such as the Lower East Side Girl’s Club, NY and the Andrew Glover Program. We’ve enjoyed giving back with sparkle and we hope to spread the sparkle to many more organizations throughout NYC and beyond in the future!
F: Which are your favorite techniques when it comes to jewelry and what’s special in them?
J: I love the act of knotting, weaving and sewing when it comes to Jewelry making. I think that reinventing an existing material such as metal or trim by layering on string or by knotting a few materials together to make a singular piece gives me the greatest joy and surprise.
J: Merce, my Brussels Griffon, is someone who brings so much joy to my life. My boyfriend and I adopted her three years ago the minute we met her! We named her after one of my inspirations, Merce Cunningham, the choreographer and dancer who passed away the year that we adopted our Merce.
F: Can you give us a few hints about the shopping experience one can get through your new project, your J&M online boutique?
J: We wanted to introduce our Signature Jewelry and Hair Pieces our online shop as well as include seasonal new products. We are currently working on a new e-commerce shop that will feature our entire collection!
J: Yes absolutely! We are happy to customize to our customer’s needs!
F: Why do you name the 12 categories of your collection after some women (Sophia, Penelope etc)? Is it celebrity names like Penelope Cruz and Sophia Loren or names of simple women?
J: As we were building the collection names, we wanted to choose names that resonated with the styles, spirit and genre we were inspired by while creating Jean & Merce Jewelry. We were inspired by the styles of the 20’s and Old Hollywood actresses/singers, as well as of the actresses of today. Some inspirational women we thought of who we directly took inspiration from for the collections are: Louise Brooks, Josephine Baker, Sophia Loren, Ella Fitzgerald and Vivien Leigh. We were also inspired by some of the actresses of today such as Penelope Cruz’s Old Hollywood style as well as Charlotte Gainsborough and her laid back, effortless style.
J: My designer Beliz Gorgul added her mark to Jean & Merce with her brilliant hair accessory designs. We worked together to create a hair accessory collection that could be worn effortlessly and would make any woman feel special. Hair is a wonderful canvas to express yourself onto with jewelry and our J&M designs are jewels for your hair. We are inspired by the hairstyles and hair accessories of the 20’s and who could forget the memorable hairstyles and hair pins worn by Brigitte Bardot!
F: Is New York a place that means something special to you as an artist?
J: NYC means so many things to me – a place where my parents immigrated to in the 70’s, where I was born, where I dreamed of working and living and also the place that taught me how to be a strong independent woman. Growing up, my mom would often say, “There is no place like NYC. It is the best place on Earth.” As a woman and an artist, I would have to agree with her, NYC is one of those special places that can inspire, motivate and support you all at once. For all these reasons and more, NYC will always hold a special place in my heart.