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Dailies

It's Jewelry Month: The Last Line

11/05/2018
BY Anum Bashir

Jewelry Month continues on Desert Mannequin, and we’re heading all the way to LA to feature The Last Line, and its founder - Shelley Gibbs Sanders. Right off the bat, browsing through the brand’s Instagram account, you wonder if this is the manifestation of candy and rainbows in the form of fine jewelry. I'm thinking, "YES"! The whimsical creations instantly caught my eye, and I was keen to learn about Shelley's work, so here we go.

About Shelley

 

AB: Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

SGS: Born and raised California girl; I grew up in Beverly Hills, and I’m happily still here with my family.

AB: What was your childhood like?

SGS: I was a bit wild child with bad attitude and could be guilty of having too much fun most days. Growing up, I didn’t Iove school but always loved art and jewelry. Even when I was young, I would style myself and loved vintage from an early age. I would always find a way to personalize my  jewelry and my clothes. One thing that has never changed, is I would always pile jewelry on. I think I’m about 5 in the first picture where I’m full of rings and decked out in sparkle.

AB: Your earliest/ fondest jewelry related memories/influences?

SGS: For as long as I can remember, I have loved jewelry and not just because it is pretty (we can all agree, it is pretty) but for me, it was more than that. I  always loved design and the process, for jewelry I wanted to know everything from the stones to the gold work techniques during production. Even today, I love a challenge with creating a new piece. I can remember being young and looking at a Sotheby’s catalog that my mother’s friend had and being in awe of the pieces featured,  they were like works of art. Even in out pieces, you’ll find influence from classic design techniques, lots of handmade details that make pieces extra special.

AB: Childhood dreams/ heroes?

SGS: I always wanted to be free to do what I wanted and create. In the beginning, I wanted to be an artist which then evolved into a wanting to be a designer.

About The Last Line

 

AB: When did you know you wanted to become a jewelry designer and launch your own brand?

SGS: I have always been creative, but truthfully I didn’t understand the capacity of how I could get into jewelry and how much I would enjoy it when I was younger. As a little girl, I was immediately attracted to jewelry and not just the glamorous side of it, but actually the intricacies of a piece. I can remember collecting coins and doodling shapes and designs, at that time I had no idea I could and would make a future career of this. Even today, I sketch every piece before we begin production.

With time my creative brain and curiosity built and became more of pursuit for me to see how I could continue to create and maybe make a career of this. I studied Fine Arts at Parsons, but they cancelled the Metals program and I was so bummed. A West Coast girl at heart, I ultimately returned home to California to train with Master Jewelers in San Francisco and there I knew I was going to work in jewelry for a living, but I don’t think I ever thought I would do it at this level.

AB: How did that journey start? How did The Last Line come to be?

SGS: Journey is a good word to describe our story, the idea and ultimately the decision to launch The Last Line was a long time coming. I often say I have been designing The Last Line for my whole life without knowing it! Short story, I had been working in the jewelry industry since college but always for someone else from celebrity jewelry brands and high-end jewelry houses. The idea and opportunity for my own line came up a few times over the years, but it was not right until recently.  About four years ago, I was ready for a career change and I felt I could bring something new to the market, so together with my husband Teddy, we decided we would launch The Last Line. (The name came later, of course.)

Before we launched, I have been designing jewelry for other companies for years and felt like I had seen it all, but really when I started to look there were definite holes in the market. First, I felt that there was not a shopping destination for just jewelry, but with options. Second, I felt that offering was polarizing, there were two buckets: reasonably priced, not-so-great design or amazing design and quality, outrageous price with nothing in the middle.

In starting The Last Line, I knew we could present the best pieces under one roof from the most simple to the most fabulous, handmade pieces that could speak to a new fine jewelry shopper to the established collector. We say that our pieces can fit into anyone’s jewelry box, no matter where you are in the process of your collection.

AB: Take us inside your design process

SGS: Well, I have to tell you it’s not all that glamorous. I’m super focused when I’m designing a collection, I have to be alone and need lots of space and paper. I sketch everything, sometimes a few times over before we go into production. However, I  find inspiration all over, for example I have three children two boys and one sweet girl. They bring so much color to my life, figuratively and literally (read: lot of hearts, rainbows, and glittery items) and they are always picking me flowers. Those moments translate into my design process (each of my children have a Flower earring named after them) and provide inspiration. There is also a little nostalgia from my own childhood that translates into my designs.

 

AB: What is the toughest part of being a designer?

SGS: I think being a designer can be difficult, same with any other job, but running a business is a whole other game. As a designer, I try to steer away from having the line be led too much by my own aesthetic, I have to think big picture, but through my personal lens. The core of the brand for me had to be quality. My goal was to design classics with a twist and honor the craftsmanship of pieces from the past.

With the Heart, I try really hard to gauge the pieces women want and try to listen to their requests, whether from Instagram, e-mail, or even on the street.  I think there is a classic side to the line of pieces that every woman could use, reliable pieces that you can wear whenever. For us, Instagram has been a bit of a crowd-sourcing model for us, we were getting a lot of requests for white gold options, so we introduced them! I love to be reactionary in a good way and Instagram has helped us to do so.

AB: What are some of your favorite pieces you've designed over the years?

Early in my career, I was able to do some custom pieces for red carpet events and that were pretty awesome. A few of my TLL favorites are:

Our two-row and three-row twist rings (these are new and dreamy!)

The rainbow tennis bracelet is so fun, and one of our most popular pieces.

The Bombay Cocktail Ring, which is such a huge statement all on its own.

AB: Who do you design for? Who is the The Last Line girl/woman?

SGS: I still remember the first time I saw a piece I designed in a magazine, it was Harper’s Bazaar and I remember thinking to myself this is it (this was pre-TLL, of course). At that time, print magazines was a huge deal, there weren’t online versions and there definitely was no Instagram. Now having launched my own line, I love seeing who is buying the pieces, I always try and imagine how she will wear them. Are they gifts? Will she stack them? It’s so fun! it’s been  so great to see woman around the world wear my jewelry. These are women I’ve never met, wearing pieces from the line that they love, it truly the best; they are who I design for.

AB: How did you establish your style as a designer?

SGS: I have a very clear vision for The Last Line and I’m committed to it, you have to be. That’s not to say that you can’t do new things, but do it with your own lens. I have made a rule that I will only ever produce things that I am happy to present and wear myself, if I don’t believe in it, why would someone else? I find inspiration all over, years ago I bought a friendship bracelet in Capri on a trip long, long ago, i.e. before I had kids or a husband that inspired the entire rainbow collection in The Last Line.

A Little Bit More

 

AB: The best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?

SGS: A lot of people told me before launching The Last Line “Do what you want and never look back,” yes, but  I think it’s really important to look back, that’s how you learn. I am constantly checking in on what we did, what worked, what didn’t work, etc. it’s such an important learning for growth, personally and professionally! Equally important is to establish (and believe) a clear vision of what you are setting out to do, the worst thing you can do is lose authenticity of your goal, your business, your product, whatever it is.

AB: If there's one place in the world you could be, where would it be?

SGS: Mexico. It’s my happy place. If we have more time, Capri, Italy - another happy place.

AB: If you weren't a designer, what would you be?

SGS: Depends on the day! This answer varies from day to day. I love design of all kinds, from interiors, product, even stickers! I think I’d like develop branding for companies, logos, mailers, merch, the whole thing!

AB: Where are you taking your brand? Future plans, next steps?

SGS: Ten years ago, I would have never believed that I would have my own company and definitely not as developed as The Last Line. In my mind, I would have thought I would be more of an artist, maybe produce a few jewelry pieces for my friends or family, but nothing to the scale of what we are looking to accomplish with The Last Line.

AB: A fun fact about you no one knows.

SGS: I love coffee so much I get excited about it when I go to bed.

To shop The Last Line, click here!

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