SHAHLA KAREEN

NATALIA BONIFACCI MEETS SHAHLA KAREEN, THE DESIGNER BEHIND THE JEWELRY LINE LUDEVINE BY SHAHLA KAREEN LAUNCHED IN 2009. THEY MEET AT THE HOUSE SHE SHARES WITH HER HUSBAND IN SILVER LAKE, CALIFORNIA. IT'S A SUNNY FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN LOS ANGELES. THEY SIT IN THE SHADED BACKYARD OF KAREEN'S HOME SIPPING HOMEMADE COFFEE. FOR REDMILK THE DESIGNER SHARES HER THOUGHTS ON JEWELRY, HER CAREER, LIVING IN THE MOMENT, NOSTALGIA AND BEING CLOSE TO WHAT SHE LOVES.

INTERNO NATALIA MEETS_1

If you were to explain what you do for a living to a small a child, what would you tell him or her?
I would say that I make things: I get to play in the fantasy of my mind and I get to materialize things that I want to exist in reality.

What current project are you excited about?
I’m excited about finishing my oil painting. I’m excited about this new project that I am working on, the content for my website, and I’m also quite excited about the new collection. It’s almost ready, I’m hoping to launch it soon.

You are now a jewelry designer, how did you get into that?
I started off doing jewelry by accident when I was going through a separation. I couldn’t shop the way I was shopping during my marriage, I was put on a tight budget (we both laugh). I was window shopping one day to try to lift my spirits in Barney’s when I got lost in this pair of peruvian opal graduating drop earrings. I could see all the intricacies of the way they were designed and the mechanics of how they were built. It just clicked. I went straight to Kings Road Beads where I found very similar peruvian opals of much less quality and I bought some wire and some tools and some chain. I went home and I recreated them almost identical, except that mine were like 88 dollars and the ones at Barney’s were $ 3500,00. That, to me, was this discovery: it was something I could do to spice up my outfit or to give as gifts for my friends and family at a time when I was on such a tight budget feeling still current somehow.

Eventually, I was in Fred Segal and I ran into John Eshaya who was the old buyer there. He knew me from my old shopping days. He came out to me because he was really into these asymmetrical earrings I was wearing. “Who made them?” he asked. “I did.” and he said “I want to see your collection immediately.” I told him a little white lie “I’m really busy with appointments at the moment, give me a couple of weeks and I’ll make some time for you.” I went home and I spent a couple of weeks making a collection. I showed it to him and he bought the whole thing. It was suddenly something that came out of nowhere…

…and it became a job
That’s how it started, but I became really turned off by it after a while. When you handmade jewelry and then you get orders, well, as a creative it becomes really unfulfilling because you have to recreate the exact same thing over and over again. It ends up being really tedious. So I stopped doing my old line (it was called Shahla Kareen) and I decided I wasn’t gonna start again till I could find the right production that was able to recreate my vision and materialize it for me so that I could never have to remake a piece. I’ll just make them once and then they can produce it after that.

Would you say that meeting John was the most influential encounter in your career?
That was definitely important, but it would be between two moments. The first thing that comes to mind that really helped me shape the way I view my work and my philosophy on design was this friend of mine who had a line himself. He taught me how not really consider the market and instead make what is really individual for me. Even if you think it’s too expansive, even if you think it’s too far to the left, he taught me that there’s a clientele for it and that it’s more important to design for integrity than to design for the market. That was a huge influence just before I launched the first collection of Ludevine. At the time I scrapped out half of the designs because they were beautiful, but they didn’t really have any point to exist. Why do we need another pretty thing for? I became a lot more conceptual about my designs. They need to have some sort of connectivity to me: they need to have a reason for existing, so that the people that are interested in them also have a reason to connect with the pieces as opposed to just having another pretty thing that you grow sick of eventually.

What’s the quality you admire the most in people?
Authenticity. When people are really not scared to be exactly as they are and when they are not trying to be what they think they should be, falsely representing themselves. I really love when people are kind of just unapologetically as they are and accepting of themselves.

Which one do you like the least?
I hate liars and cheaters.

What’s Ludevine’s ideal kind of woman?
She’s someone who doesn’t necessarily follow trends, someone who likes to have and carry things close to her that have meaning to her. She finds deeper connection with items than just what’s the hottest trend at the moment. Initially, when I first launched the line a lot of my pieces were quite expansive, they only sold in very exclusive stores, so the clientele had to be pretty well off. Since then I worked quite hard to give the line a much broader range so that people of all kind of economic demographics can have access to it if they feel a connection to my pieces.

Do you ever get jewelry as a gift from other people?
I got jewelry as gift for my 30th birthday, which was interesting… And I kind of liked those pieces, yet I don’t wear other people’s designs, but my own, except of three pieces: ring inherited from my sister who passed away, a ring that my daughter gave me and my wedding band. Those are the only pieces that I wear every day and that I didn’t design myself.

Has your husband ever given you any jewelry?
No. He wouldn’t dare (we both laugh).

What’s the sexiest quality in a woman?
It’s such a boring answer, but confidence, for sure. Hands down that’s the sexiest quality in any person, also in a man.

What piece of jewelry do you think every woman should own?
A body chain. You’re supposed to live in it: you sleep in it, you shower in it… It’s a way of adorning your female form and wrapping it in threads of gold.

Which piece of jewelry you could never part from?
Those three pieces: my sentimental jewelry that I told you about. My daughter gave me this ring for Christmas when she was eight years old. She had saved her money to buy it herself and she held it in a box behind her back and she told me “Before I give you your present you have to promise me you’ll put it on and you’ll never take it off.” And I’m thinking “I don’t know if I can do that, I don’t know what it is!”. She pulls it out saying “I bought you a diamond!” It’s a QZ in silver, but she fully thought she had bought her mom a diamond. She was so happy, you could see the pride in her face. I’ve never taken it off.

What’s the best quality about you and what’s your biggest flaw….
I think I don’t take myself too seriously and I’m pretty silly, that’s good. Flaws? I procrastinate, that list can go on quite a bit… I’m impatient with myself and other people sometimes.

You are very good at getting people together
I’m pretty social. I like a party (we both laugh).

Not just in that sense, you’re a connector
I’m definitely a people’s person and I love to host. I’m also for sure one of those people that likes to bring different circles of friends together and assume that they will all connect.

You’ve introduced me to a few people with whom I’ve collaborated with over and over. You’re very generous with your contacts
Why wouldn’t I be? I love to hear that. It’s so weird when I find people that wanna keep their social lives segregated. I find that such a bizarre quality “No these are my people and you’re in that group of people and you’re staying over there.” It’s so strange to me, but there’s a lot of people that do that.

What piece of jewelry do you think represents you the best?
I think my human heart pendant it’s the one that translates the most because it has so much nostalgia in it as far as how it was conceived, what represents, how is used. It’s about holding on to things, it’s a keepsake for memories. It has compartments inside, you can put notes in or stones in if you believe in the energy that stones emit. I used to have one that I gave to my mother for mother’s day that has a lock of my sister’s hair, photos of my daughter and my daughter’s baby teeth. That piece represents me very well, because I’m very nostalgic and I want to hold on to all the precious things in my life as close as possible.

Didn’t Cara Delevingne order the human heart piece?
Yeah. She did and she also ordered a body chain in gold with diamonds.

If you were to meet your fifteen year old self what piece of advice would you give yourself?
I would probably try to explain to myself that the world as I know it is only a minute fraction of what I am going to experience and discover. Not feel like this is the only reality there is. I was very stack in a bubble, and angry. I would inform myself that what’s to come is so much bigger than what my imagination has the capacity to understand.

You have an eighteen year old daughter. What’s most precious advice you have given her?
I feel like the thing that I have tried to instill in her the most is believing in herself and encouraging her in taking risks in her interests. Not to limit herself by her insecurities and fears, but to dream real big and then go for it. I feel that’s been the most important thing for me to express to her. Confidence. I feel so many young girls overcompensate in really self-destructive ways when they don’t have a sense of self-esteem. Implementing and teaching her to have a sense of self-esteem is very important to me.

What do you mean when you’re referring to self-destructive ways?
A lot of girls end up seeking some sort of validation either through their peer group or the opposite sex. They start doing things that are shortchanging themselves, dressing too seductively at too young of an age, or falling for peer pressure, taking substances or having sex too early, when they aren’t emotionally developed enough. All kinds of ways. I think a lot of that stems form having a low self-esteem.

Do you have a motto?
I guess that if I have one is something along the lines of ‘Live for today’ kind of thing. I’m not really someone that plans too much for the future because you never know what’s gonna happen anyway. Sure you can die tomorrow, but you don’t know the unexpected twists and turns that are going to present themselves so… I think it has to do with my sister death when I was a teenager, I have that instilled in me: you have to really make sure that you’re happy now and living for now, so I guess if I were to have a motto that would be it.

Who’s the last person you said ‘I love you’ to?
My husband, like twenty minutes ago.

Official website: ludevine.com – @ludevinejewelry

INTERNO NATALIA MEETS_2