Inside the Designer's Studio: Lady Grey Jewelry

Lady Grey's Brooklyn studio is stacked high with metals, chemicals and found objects from an abandoned pantyhose factory on Brooklyn's Dead Horse Bay.
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Lady Grey's Brooklyn studio is stacked high with metals, chemicals and found objects from an abandoned pantyhose factory on Brooklyn's Dead Horse Bay.
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Lady Grey's Brooklyn studio is stacked high with metals, chemicals and found objects from an abandoned pantyhose factory on Brooklyn's Dead Horse Bay. Among the warped bottles and welding tools is a collection of works in progress, works past and various experiments in metal that looked scary to me and calming to them. The designers, Sabine LeGuyader and Jill Martinelli, met at art school, had similar style and moved to New York two years ago to kick start their line. Since then, they've been featured in, among others, Nylon and Purple. Their jewelry's sold at Curve, Earnest Sewn and a couple of London boutiques. I swung by their studio last weekend to find out how two girls get their jewelry on Ashley Olsen's arms and photographed by Jeurgen Teller and what it's like to try and make it in a city where everyone's trying to make it.

Let's start with the basics. Where are you from? S: I'm from Massachusetts, right outside of Boston, though my parents aren't from here. I mean, one's Egyptian and one's French. But I stuck around for school but knew I'd end up in New York. J: And I'm from Miami. But I'm never leaving New York. So, how'd you meet? S: We met at Mass Art, in Boston. J: I came in late. I mean I was studying science so I came into school later and knowing that I wanted to be a jewelry major. I mean, as a kid, I would shop at the hardware store and make jewelry out of whatever I found there - like, I'd put nails through my ears. S: I started freshman year. And freshman year you do a little bit of everything. I'd always drawn and painted as a kid, but after one jewelry class I was hooked. I used to try and put multiple earrings through one hole in my ear. But I'm not sure if that was a sign of my future career. And you guys just clicked? J: We started being friends because we liked each other's stuff. S: I mean, it's an art school. So a lot of the kids are doing one of a kind jewelry with the intention of selling to collectors. And we really wanted to be designers. J: Yeah, we wanted to our work to have the integrity of handmade art, but still be wearable. It's like, first we think of art and sculpture, and then we think of the customer. S: And that really set us apart from our class, we were the only ones who wanted our work to bridge that gap.

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Sabine, left. Jill, right. Ok, so you knew you wanted to sell your stuff, but how do you know what to do? I mean, every designer wants to be sold in stores, but how does it happen? S: Well, the first store we sold to was in Boston. This awesome store called Mottsu, they sell Commes des Garçons and stuff. We knew the owner and she liked our work, so she asked for some. J: It actually did really well. But then we were moving to New York and needed to focus on building a cohesive collection, website etc. so we stopped. Let's talk about inspiration. Do you pay attention to the runways? Where do you start? S: (Laughing) No! I mean, we try not to look at other people's stuff. Not even consciously, things just develop organically in our heads. J: Yeah, it's a very natural process. Like when I go home, in the suburbs, it's really clean - life just seems uninspired, manicured, perfect - so my brain needs to fill up with all this stuff to decorate it. Does that make sense?

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Totally. That's a cool way of putting it. So this natural process feeds into a very natural aesthetic. You guys use a lot of bones and teeth. J: Yeah I mean I was using branches back in college and Sabine was really into teeth and I guess our ideas just work really well together. We're working on our new collection and it's more - well, it's cleaner. S: My friend actually gave me her baby teeth to use in a necklace. Ew. Jewelry collaborations are a great way to get your stuff on a runway in front of buyers and editors - would you consider collaborating with a designer? J: I would like to do Alexander McQueen. Or Wang, but I think he's pretty much sworn to Erin Wasson. S: I've never really thought of it, but if a designer's aesthetic matched ours that would be really fun.

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The chain's on your inspiration wall remind me of Ricardo Tisci's necklaces on Givenchy's runway. J: That was part of my senior thesis! I saw that show, which I loved by the way, and was like, what the fuck? But I mean, it's actually kind of cool. I'm sure he'd love your stuff! Have you approached designers/stylists/celebrities? I imagine there'd be a lot of opportunity in New York, though it would definitely take courage. S: Actually we were at Sweet and Vicious one night, and Ashley Olsen was there, and I was really embarrased but our friend Jen took off all of her bone bangles and gave them to her. But the best part was we saw her later in the night and she was still wearing them. So I guess she really liked them! J: Zoe Kravitz came up to me in Starbucks and asked where she could get my rings. I get really embarrassed when people ask that, I hate to be like, "Oh I made it!" but she's just so sweet so I sent her a bunch. S: And now in pictures we always analyze her hands to see if she's wearing them. J: And then we found out the Olsens are designing a jewelry line and I freaked! I mean, I don't care if mass lines like Forever21 copy our stuff, because I don't feel like they infringe on our customers, but when smaller designers in our own league do it, it just sucks.

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Has that happened to you guys already? S: Yes. Do you want to talk about it? J: It's just really aggravating. I just don't understand. But it does make us, or at least me, want to work harder, make better things. Ok, so you guys are sort of on this precipice. Things are going really well, people know who you are. You're getting press. S: Teen Vogue was just here today. They loved the bone stuff and pulled stuff for a few different shoots. J: And one of my friends works at W, I think they, actually I think Jeurgen Teller, shot some of our stuff for the September issue.

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Which is great exposure. You're building momentum, where do you hope to be in a year? J: Maxfield. S: Barneys. I don't want to be in all these little stores and have Barneys be like, "Oh, we see them everywhere." So I mean, we're in Earnest Sewn, Curve and in Brooklyn. We've been offered other accounts but I'm holding out for Barneys! J: Also, I want an employee. Someone to do all the shit I don't want to do. I just want to design, to make the jewelry. Someone else can do the press, fill the orders and do anything else that doesn't involve designing and building. That sounds like a good plan. You need interns! J: Yes! Send us yours! OK, now for the semi-Proust questionnare: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WORD? S: Narf. J: Flux - it's a jewelry word. WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE WORD? S: Teat. J: When Derek says, "Clean!" WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SOUND/NOISE? S: I like violins. J: Poprocks. WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE SOUND/NOISE? S: You know that sound when you pull apart cotton? I hate that. I know it's a feeling, but I can hear it. J: That i-beam driver outside my window at seven in the morning. WHAT PROFESSION, OTHER THAN YOURS, DO YOU WISH TO ATTEMPT? S: I would be a chef. I like to cook. J: Toxicologist. I guess I did attempt that since I went to school for it first, but, yeah. WHAT PROFESSION WOULD YOU NEVER WANT? S: Garbage man. Gross. J: A housewife. WHAT MAKES YOU INSPIRED? S: Me. J: The suburbs, grocery stores, malls, things like that. WHAT MAKES YOU NEVER WANT TO WORK AGAIN? J: Crappy people. S: Yeah. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SWEAR WORD? S: Possibly fuck. Or shit. J: Fuck, yeah. IF HEAVEN EXISTS, WHAT DO YOU WANT GOD TO SAY TO YOU WHEN YOU DIE? S: "Nice work." J: I hope I see God when I die. My mom tells me I won't because I don't go to church.