INTRODUCING: ILANA ARIEL
Ilana Ariel Sarna has been steadily creating intelligently designed fine jewelry for her namesake brand since 2013. Rendered in 14k and 18k gold, Ilana Ariel jewelry encapsulates one of the basic tenets of Art Therapy – the final products become treasures illustrative of beloved people and memories – in which the designer had previously delved in as a student at New York University. Sarna’s passion for jewelry started at an early age, but did not flourish until while she was receiving her J.D. at Brooklyn Law School. To balance the monotony and logic of school, she found creative refuge in jewelry design by wire-wrapping bracelets at home, at the same time continuing her formal jewelry education by taking classes in Manhattan, as well as apprenticing with a seasoned jewelry designer abroad. We sat down with Sarna to discuss everything – from her diverse background to her collections and growing celebrity fan base.
What are the main materials you use?
I work with 14k and 18k gold (yellow, white, rose, oxidized). I use a lot of diamonds (smaller goods for pave), and precious and semi-precious stones. I very much enjoy working with opal. It’s my birthstone, and my grandmother wore a lot of opal, so I’m probably bias.
How often do you launch new collections? Do you feel the need to produce more than two yearly?
I actually don’t design by season. I have designed four collections (Legacy, Ten Eleven, Stepping Stone, and Grounded being the latest), each of which has been expanded on every few months.
The Legacy Collection pays homage to the women who nurtured my creative aspirations. Initially inspired by my late maternal grandmother Ella, the collection has grown into a retrospective of my relatives’ styles and jewelry collections. Scalloped edges and circular motifs give the collection a notably nostalgic quality.
The Ten Eleven Collection originates from patterns in a tapestry I found while traveling in Peru. What began as an exploration of shapes, developed into a medley of triangles, manipulated to highlight and contrast negative space. Named for my birthday, October 11th, and comprised of clean lines, the collection suggests beginnings and is reminiscent of the building blocks necessary for a stable foundation and steady growth.
The Stepping Stone Collection playfully unites mismatched shapes, colors and motifs through a combination of various gems. The jewelry mimics an actual stepping stone path, signifying journeys and endless possibilities, promoting reflection and welcoming the unexpected.
My newest collection is called Grounded. Spending a lot of my time in Tel Aviv, it’s been impossible to avoid the plentiful Mediterranean tiles found all over the city. I knew I had to design jewelry representing the tiles’ playful shapes and colors. The collection’s name has a double meaning – the jewelry is derived from what I literally saw on the ground, and it was designed during a time when I began settling into a new place, grounding myself in a new chapter and home.
My first three collections (Legacy, Ten Eleven, and Stepping Stone) represent my history, personal beginning, and journey, respectively. This new collection, Grounded, was designed during the my newest and current chapter, one in which I feel grounded in my surroundings.
How do you try to establish a client/press following?
Thankfully, the press has demonstrated high regard for Ilana Ariel. I work with an excellent publicist who pitches my jewelry designs to media outlets and stylists. As a result, Ilana Ariel has been featured on Elle.com, Women’s Wear Daily, Harper’s Bazaar, W Magazine, Town and Country, Glamour and more. Likewise, Ilana Ariel has bolstered its brand positioning by aligning with like-minded and intelligent women in music and film, who have worn pieces from the collections, including Emma Roberts, Jessica Alba, Lake Bell, Hayden Panettiere, Elisabeth Moss, Carrie Underwood and Ilana Glazer.
Gaining and maintaining clients is a lot of work. I think a lot of my repeat customers are just that because I’m also open to working with them on customizing the pieces. They get a piece of jewelry that’s distinctive to the brand, but also tailor-made for them.
To what extent do you experiment with trends, as a fine-jewelry designer?
I don’t like to assertively seek out trends as my inspiration for design. If I happen to be naturally inspired by something that’s trendy, so be it. But, generally speaking, my designs come from my memories as well as my daily exposure to people and places. They are also very conceptual.
How easy is it to take risks when it comes to working with precious metals and stones?
I think the possibilities are endless. You can play around with the finishing on the metal, the type of setting, or the stones and create jewelry that’s either really polished or rougher, all the while making something that’s still fine and substantial.
Nowadays, it seems to me that designers already have a degree – and usually not a fashion-related one – before pursuing fashion, like you. Do you think that at the end of the day having an additional, different background can be beneficial for the brand?
Absolutely. I’m not only a jewelry designer – I wear many hats when I work. Having a law degree definitely comes in handy with the more administrative aspects of the business.
How do you stay relevant and up-to-date with your work? Do you feel the need to take workshops to enhance/develop your technique and knowledge?
I read a lot, and I stay up-to-date with what retailers are picking up, as well as what celebrities are wearing and media outlets printing. Workshops can’t hurt, but I view the design process as a means of storytelling, so at the end of the day, I design best when I’m listening to myself and focused on the story I want to tell.
How do you feel about designer collaborations in your field?
I’m all for it. I would love to find a RTW brand to collaborate with! Collaboration is always an enriching experience, and the idea of working with a designer who uses a different medium is very appealing to me.
What are your future plans?
I recently launched the Grounded collection, and hope to spend the next few months expanding it. I also have another collection in the works. It’s a larger undertaking than my other collections, so it will take some time to develop.
Images © Ilana Ariel