Since Leslie Greene launched her namesake jewelry brand just over a decade ago, her signature, vintage-inspired designs have won her a coterie of devoted fans and been seen on celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Hilary Swank. From her start with a luxe 18K Couture collection to the recent launch of a line in sterling silver, Greene has hit on a winning formula for unfailing, accessible glamour. The designer and entrepreneur stopped by Elite Traveler’s New York headquarters to talk about the origins of her brand, her history with Hello Kitty and her designs on the future.
ET: How did you get your start?
Leslie Greene: I married and started my family relatively young. Once my sons were old enough I wanted to create a business of my own and I had always been interested in design and fashion. I studied at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), so I already had a background in those areas. At first, I thought about doing fashion but I ended up joining a jewelry company about eighteen years ago. We parted company after a few years and Leslie Greene has existed in its current form for about ten years.
ET: Did you have any jobs before you launched your jewelry collection?
Leslie Greene: Actually, I did marketing for Hello Kitty when the brand first came to the US! I traveled all over visiting retailers and did events, worked on displays. It was great experience to have under my belt when I started my own company.
ET: Are you involved in both the creative and business aspects of your brand?
Leslie Greene: Absolutely. And I love both. Both require creativity, just in different ways. Of course, I design the jewelry but I’m also involved in every aspect of the business right down to the look of the advertising.
ET: Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Leslie Greene: I can be inspired by anything. Inspiration is everywhere. That’s never a problem for me! I can be walking around New York and see an intricate design in a gate and suddenly I’m sketching a pattern that might work its way into a pair of earrings. My husband works in real estate and when I drive around the city with him I’m always pointing out fantastic details in the architecture—of course he can’t look because he has to keep his eyes on the road! I can see a pattern in a rug and those lines will give me a million ideas…fabrics, fashion, it’s endless.
ET: How would you describe the Leslie Greene customer?
Leslie Greene: Really, she can be any woman. Leslie Greene goes from the Upper East Side to the Lower East Side. A woman can wear it to the office during the week and then on the weekends when she’s out with her friends shopping. I understand my customer because I’m just like her. I get to meet a lot of them when I do events and we become friends. Jewelry is so personal and to hear how certain pieces have played an important part in special occasions like weddings or graduations is so moving. More and more, the age range of my clients keeps expanding. At first I think it was a woman from her 30s to 60s, but now, with the silver collection, I have college-aged customers. They make it their own and it works on all of them.
ET: Speaking of the silver collection… You launched your line of silver jewelry last year. What’s the reception been like?
Leslie Greene: It’s been doing really, really well! Naturally, with the economic climate, it has the extra appeal of being less expensive than gold jewelry, but I had been planning the silver line long before the current crisis came along. It’s exciting because I can experiment with different designs and do things that are a less classic than the couture gold line. Some of the pieces are chunkier and bolder than what you’ll see from me in gold—they’re a little more downtown but they’re still very Leslie Greene. It’s a different expression of the Leslie Greene look. The silver line has also been great for people who wanted Leslie Greene but couldn’t afford it at the higher price for the couture line. Or, for example, someone who wants to get her 16-year-old her first piece of Leslie Greene might choose the silver line for that purchase. And sometimes the woman who wears gold during the week mixes it up with some of the silver on the weekends when she’s hanging out and shopping with her friends. It’s really broadened my customer base. I love it.
ET: Can you give us a hint of what to expect from your next collections?
Leslie Greene: Sure! With the silver collection, you’ll see things that are a little edgier than what a lot of people expect to see from Leslie Greene. It’s really cool. There will be funkier pieces like cuffs that incorporate colored gemstones—edgier, darker, pieces with oxidized finishes. And I’m always developing new designs in gold. I’ll be launching lots of new pieces at the Las Vegas show.
ET: What are your hobbies?
Leslie Greene: I love to exercise. I try not to miss a workout. And I love to travel. Travel is really my thing!
ET: Any favorite destinations?
Leslie Greene: I really love Europe—especially France and Italy. The architecture is amazing—absolutely beautiful. I can wander the shops and markets and side streets forever trying to take it all in. The history and culture is just remarkable, and there’s so much to discover.