Local Designer Series: The Ladies of the VK Collection Share How They Got Into Willys Detroit (and M
Valentina and Krista of the VK Collection met as interns in the corporate world with many similarities – they both immigrated to the United States when they were younger and they had a serious passion for jewelry, for starters – and their friendship blossomed from there into a business partnership. Their jewelry has landed at Willys Detroit only months after launching their very first collection, and we got a chance to talk to them about their line and get their story.
DG3: What’s the VK Collection’s story?
Valentina + Krista: We both have loved jewelry since childhood, made jewelry as a hobby growing up, and at the time were guilty of spending our savings on the finer pieces our intern salaries really could not afford. Every woman has that one thing she doesn’t leave the house without, whether it’s mascara, lipstick, watch – you name it. For us, it’s jewelry – it’s our channel for self-expression, a way to complete a look and tell a story. With our collection we aim to have pieces you can put on while wearing jeans and a t-shirt, or complete an evening look.
We officially launched VK in December 2012, and at the time we wanted to be a destination boutique for women looking for unique, chic jewelry. We carried different brands of jewelry, as well as pieces we found at jewelry shows, etc. Several months into it we realized that what we wouldn’t be fulfilled until we designed and made our own jewelry, so we started focusing on our next collection. We designed the collection combining Swarovski crystals and different brass chains, as we wanted our pieces to be unique and versatile, timeless yet edgy.
Our designs were near being final, and we were faced with our biggest obstacle yet – we couldn’t find a way to bring our pieces to life: no one to manufacture them, and in addition, we were continuously told that what we wanted to do wasn’t feasible. This was hard reality for us to swallow, so we did what we do best – refused to take "no" for an answer and started our research on doing it ourselves! We had some experience in metalsmithing, but once we embarked on this, we realized there was a lot more to learn. We sought advice, looked for professional help, researched online information – really did anything and everything we could to make our collection a reality. We ended up purchasing all the tools and equipment we needed and learned the techniques of our entire process: making molds, soldering, oxidizing and stone setting. In March of 2014, we realized our biggest dream yet – we launched our new collection that we designed and made ourselves.
DG3: Congratulations on getting your collection into Willys Detroit! How did that come about and where else do you sell your products?
V+K: Thank you! We couldn't be more excited about having our collection at Willys Detroit! We were actually at Willys the other weekend, and it was surreal to see our jewelry on display. The way that this came about was as close to a dream as you can get. We went to an event at Willys, and the first person we spoke to complimented us on our jewelry. We proudly proceeded to tell her that it was our brand, to which she replied, "I’m a buyer for Willys, and we should talk." The rest was history. It has been a great pleasure working with the team there. In addition to Willys, you can also find our jewelry at Complex in Birmingham. In terms of advice that we would give - take chances and don't be afraid of being told "no." You will get many of those and that’s ok; it is just a part of the process!
DG3: What has been the most important business lesson you have learned during the process of creating your business and establishing your brand?
V+K: Great question, one that we could probably dedicate an entire blog post to, as we learn something new every day. Most importantly, you can't give up or lose hope when things get tough (and they do periodically), believing in yourself is very important and that THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY. We have learned that everything takes time; things don’t just happen overnight so you have to be patient and continue to work hard.
DG3: What materials and techniques do you favor?
V+K: In terms of materials, there is nothing like Swarovski crystals - they are perfect in every way, from the sparkle, to variety of decadent colors and shapes. Currently, we weld our jewelry so by default it's our most favored technique.
DG3: Do you wear other jewelry or strictly the VK Collection?
V+K: Always at least one VK piece - we both own quite a few pieces of jewelry and refer to them as our "archives," so if we are not covered in VK from head to toe, we mix VK with our archives. It very much benefits our company – it shows that our pieces are versatile and can be mixed and layered with other jewelry brands, and if asked, it gives us a chance to share the story behind our brand.
DG3: Right now, what does your workspace look like?
V+K: Definitely scattered, scattered all over the place (insert embarrassed faces). We try to keep things neat when we can, but during high production times - everything is everywhere.
DG3: If you could have any movie character's jewelry collection, whose would it be and why?
V+K: Hmmm… Daisy from The Great Gatsby comes to mind - the decadence from that era is incredible!
DG3: How do you take your coffee?
V+K: With milk (and sugar for V) and often. (We don't sleep)
DG3: Cartier or Harry Winston?
V+K: Cartier, although we would never say “no” to a Harry Winston piece.
DG3: Brigitte Bardot or Jane Birkin?
V+K: Brigitte Bardot.
Model: Francina Juncaj, Photo: Mioara Dragan photography
Images Courtesy of VK Collection