Is Azature the next David Yurman, John Hardy or Fawaz Gruosi? Time will tell but the young Los Angeles-based creator has created a stir with both celebrity clients and a distinctive look that has generated over 50 placements in fashion magazines. On a recent New York trip Azature sat down at The Four Seasons for martinis and conversation with Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan.
ET: Why don’t you tell us a little about your personal background, where you grew up and how you got into the jewelry business?
AZATURE: I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and studied business economics at UCLA and turned to graduate studies in fashion design at Parsons Design School. During school I worked with celebrity stylist Andrea Lieberman, styling for Jennifer Lopez and Gwen Stefani. My experience lead to a few smaller projects with Christian Dior as well as Alexander McQueen. After moving back to Los Angeles and leaving a creative director position I decided to pursue other interests and celebrated my new beginning by going to Vegas for New Years Eve. Coincidentally I missed my flight back to Los Angeles the next day. After a few phone calls and realizing my uncle was in Vegas, we head off to an impromptu road trip, where he suggested I start my own jewelry company. After some research, and discovering the black diamond, it was the perfect match.
ET: Tell us a little bit about the line. You have two lines, right? Can you explain the difference?
AZATURE: All my lines are based off of my AZATURE black diamond collection. The result is a diffusion line A.Z. by AZATURE, which carries the essence of fashion forward. AZATURE designs using semi precious metals and stones. AZATURE ATELIER is a new and unique private service for clients to customize jewelry from start to finish using only the finest of precious stones and premium metals. AZATURE ATELIER is an attempt to bring fine jewelry back to its personal service origins.
ET: So if somebody wanted you to design a piece, they would call you and schedule a meeting? What would happen from there?
AZATURE: Basically what they would do is they would contact our headquarters, and a personal design meeting would be set up. This can be on their private yacht, home, or jet. It can be in Russia, St. Tropez, or Abu Dhabi. With this private service the sky is the limit. Individuals select from the best gemstones to the most select precious metals adding their own flavor to their signature AZATURE pieces. Additionally, because of our resources we are able to customize any existing pieces with an alternative stone or metal. We have tapped into the most unique resources in craftsmanship, using craftsmen that have worked with Fabergé to make sure all details are made to AZATURE perfection.
ET: So out of the three lines, are they all rolled out? Or what’s the plan?
AZATURE: AZATURE and the private service AZATURE ATELIER, and A.Z. by AZATURE are all currently available, and are launching online in our new e-boutique section soon. I am happy my designs have become celebrity favorites amongst, Beyonce, Fergie, Rihanna, and international royalty. I am also proud to announce that we are about to launch our A.Z. DYNASTY collection. This new series of statement-making pieces combines the over-the-top opulence of the 1980s with my signature, youthful edge. I think everyone needs a little bit of light in these tough times. When times get tough, and economic pressures kick in, there is nothing better than wearing your most opulent piece and taking yourself into a fantasy. What better reference than the epic Aaron Spelling series, DYNASTY, where I will never forget the tongue lashes between Alexis and Krystle over their diamonds. Now everyone can indulge in their guilty pleasures.
ET: So you do jewelry for both men and women?
AZATURE: I do. I try to take a unisex approach because I do believe that a good design should appeal to both sexes.
ET: Any things in particular inspire you when you’re designing?
AZATURE: AZATURE is not just about design. It is about a sociological approach and a look at our surroundings of what is happening and an outlook on what is going to happen. Majority of designers and designers in training look at different time periods in history as a source of inspiration. My greatest inspiration is the future. In a fast moving world, where marriage, war, race, gender, are ever changing and evolving, AZATURE designs change as emotion and imagination get aligned from the daily struggles of humanity.
ET: The jewelry business, and the design business in general, is a very competitive one. So what are some of the challenges in starting your own company?
AZATURE: You know any sort of business has its own challenges, with positioning and setting its own market share. Where I have been able to set myself apart is to offer unique designs that offer an infusion of fashion within an environment that is traditionally known to be safe and stale. Taking this new perspective to fine jewelry has allowed me to stand on my own when I am being compared to Van Cleef and Arpels and/ or Graff Diamonds. I continue to stay true to my vision and offer consumers the quality that comes from this heritage and innovation that comes from my design.
ET: So Azature, tell us about your name. Is that your real name?
AZATURE: Azature is my real name. It was grandfather’s name as well. I really don’t know a lot about the origins, but my parents always said that it was a Greek name and an Armenian name combined.
ET: So Madonna and Cher and Azature.
AZATURE: Right. It’s kind of like that.
ET: Tell us a little bit about where you’d like to see the brand go in the next three to five years. What are your goals?
AZATURE: Well, currently I am working on launching in Saudi Arabia in September with Harvey Nichols for AZ for AZATURE, and also AZATURE. I’m also working on hosting an event in Dubai. My main goal with this line is to really touch people and be very personable and offer them something new, because at the end of the day, I think a lot of markets are playing it really safe. So I’d like this line to be a little bit for those individuals who really do what they love and are the rebels of this country—they’re the movers and shakers, and they want something new, something different. I would just love to see the line grow to its own stand-alone stores, which would be the epitome of my goal, to really give people a different kind of shopping experience, along with new mediums. I think a lot of luxury companies still like to keep a lot of traditionalism. I want to combine the luxury aspect of my company with modern-day technology.
ET: When you’re not busy launching your company, any hobbies, passions, things you like to do?
AZATURE: I think I’m just infatuated with beauty—so anything, whether it’s the people around me, whether it’s art or days of just strolling in Los Angeles. L.A. inspires me greatly on every angle; that’s part of the reason why I moved back and launched my company from there. I find everything inspirational, actually. So my hobbies range from sketching or reading books or even just listening to music. Music is a pinnacle for my creativity, and I can’t work right without it. My office always has music going, whether I’m on the phone, on the computer, there’s always music.
ET: What type of music?
AZATURE: All sorts of music—from classical to top 40. I also listen to a lot of world music. Music in general inspires me.
ET: You mentioned launching a new company in the middle of a recession. Are there any changes from when you first got the idea to actually doing it, now that you’ve had to take into consideration everything that’s happening?
AZATURE: I’m so glad I did it. I think that during a recession, the individuals that want to actually buy something are looking for something unique and different if they’re going to spend the money. There have been challenges in regards to being a young designer and trying to really align myself with a lot of luxury brands and becoming their competitor and trying to build a company. I think the greatest challenge always is to try to do what you love, and also appeal to as many people as possible. So I think I feel very humbled for the success that I have had.
ET: If you hadn’t ended up doing jewelry, what would you have done?
AZATURE: You know what? I think it was meant to be, because I grew up in it and understand the product from beginning to end. My family’s very supportive, and the discovery of the black diamond, I mean, come on. Black has been my favorite color for years and I feel that there is so much to explore in it. Well, it’s a shade, really.
ET: Is there anything that sets the way you deal with black diamonds apart from other designers?
AZATURE: Well, I use a very specific black diamond shade. Being a designer that has designed in black, I’ve realized that black has many, many facets and many, many colors. Black has thousands of shades, more gray tint, more of a black tint, so many options. But I’m most fond of one particular shade, and that is what I look for inside my AZATURE black diamonds. It’s actually not a pure black. It’s a black with a grayish undertone, so it actually shines a lot more than a solid dark black.
ET: Anything else that you’d want to add or tell our readers?
AZATURE: I would just like to, in general, say that when you wear an AZATURE black diamond piece, it’s a different kind of experience. If you are an individual who really is inspired by uniqueness, that’s what the company is really known for. As I was selected for Gen Art Fresh Faces and was selected as a semi-finalist for the Ecco Domani Fashion Fund, it reminds me to be humble and continue to strive forward and be able to design pieces for people that truly appreciate something different.
ET: So any advice to someone who’s maybe two or three years behind you and has a vision for starting their own line?
AZATURE: I always say, don’t ever let anyone tell you what to do. My other rule is there is never a right time. You want to do something, you do it today, regardless of a recession or not, spending or not, economy downfall, whatever it is. There’s never a right time. Do what you love, and do it now.