How Designer Ariel Gordon Gets — and Stays — Inspired
Photos courtesy of Emily Scott for Glitter Guide
Like many of us, Ariel Gordon's career path has taken some interesting turns. The jewelry designer studied English and Italian at UCLA, and then found her way into the marketing world. Eventually, that led into public relations, specifically producing gifting houses at awards shows and other major events. Gordon never felt totally fulfilled, and one of the ways she fed her creative spirit was by taking a few jewelry classes. This interest quickly turned into a passion she pursued by studying at San Francisco's Revere Academy, and after several years apprenticing under Maya Brenner, she launched her own LA-based line.
Now Gordon's pieces are well-known and loved for their timelessness: signet necklaces, stackable rings, and diamond pendants that are designed to wear with everything in your closet. Celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and and Gwyneth Paltrow can be counted as fans, and her jewels have been featured in fashionable publications including WWD, Allure, and Nylon among others. And while fans of the brand can always count on being able to shop classic pieces from AGJ, Gordon's always thinking of how to evolve her business — even with her growing family.
The mother of two recently relocated from Los Angeles — where her line is ethically produced — to the Bay Area. With this big change, as well as some new additions to the collection (hello, non-toxic nail polishes!) it got us wondering how she gets — and more importantly, stays — inspired while she keeps up with her bustling business and settles into home life. Read on to see how Ariel prioritizes her brand's mindfulness, the non-jewelry accessories she can't live without, and what she does to tap into creative mode and stay productive.
AGJ is designed for the woman who loves timeless pieces. What are three items in your closet that you will never part with and will wear forever — besides your jewelry?
Accessories really do make the outfit. I firmly believe that you can wear Zara and no one would know if your jewelry and handbag are dialed in. I’m never without my Goyard tote bag, Celine Sunglasses, and some easy-to-put-on-hands-free-because-I’m-always-carrying-a-child-when-I-leave-the-house Birkenstock Arizona sandals.
Who or what inspires you and in what ways do get into creative mode?
I actually try to turn everything off and shut everything out when I'm designing. I feel like I need to turn the static of the world down to really clear my head and design. I design a new collection twice a year and each time I go into hibernation mode to get it done. But in general I am inspired by my girlfriends and the everyday girls that I see on the street, in blogs, or around town who manage to look casual, elegant, and chic without fashion closets or stylists to help them out. They are confident women who have their own sense of style while living on a real budget. Necessity leads them to be creative and resourceful.
AGJ pieces are all made in LA and use conflict-free materials. Can you speak about the importance of sustainability to your line?
Being sustainable feels all the more important once you become a mom. I hope to teach my children the importance of taking care of the Earth and the people who share it with us by example. In a holistic sense, because my jewelry is fine it can last a lifetime. Most of my pieces are personalized so you emotionally want to wear them close to you and you’re able to sidestep the ‘fast fashion’ abyss. If you wear something for years (as opposed to months) the environmental ‘cost per wear’ all of a sudden gets lowered to a much more manageable level.
I also make everything locally in LA (cutting down on carbon gas emissions from shipping). But the human element is also so important to me. Being kind and fair to my team is my top priority. I only work with reputable vendors for all my materials. Every year I go to a few major gem shows (in Tucson and in Las Vegas) to source my stones directly from gem dealers who are trustworthy and accountable in the industry. I compensate my team above the industry standard. I believe that investing in the artisans who handle my production is so important. If they were to disappear, generations of knowledge and skill would disappear with them. I make jewelry. It’s a frivolous luxury item. I shouldn’t hurt the Earth or other humans in the process.
Not long ago you added non-toxic polishes to your offerings. What prompted that and how did you settle on your colors and formula?
The idea to launch nail polish seemed like a natural progression of my line; the perfect compliment to a great ring stack is a fresh mani. I've always been obsessed with having my nails done (it helps keep me from biting — a nasty habit). For the first collection, I picked the colors based on the classic shades I find myself wearing the most. Just like all AGJ, it’s handmade in Los Angeles with love. It’s formulated to be 7-Free (meaning it’s devoid of many of the harsh chemicals that are found in traditional polishes), not tested on animals, and comes with a vegan brush in a curated selection of our favorite shades. Also like all AGJ, it’s made to be worn every day. Naming them was the most fun part of the process - Basic Bitch, Yass Qween, Sixteen Candles, Candy Crush, Seance. All so fun.
What's coming up next for AGJ?
Always more beautiful jewelry! I’m about to launch my first foray into enamel which is very exciting for me. It took me a long time to find someone local who could do the production. It really is a dying art. I have a few fun things up my sleeve for 2019 as well (think curated vintage jewelry). Stay tuned!