I first met Amy, one half of the indomitable force of Eleanore Kalle, through a mutual friend of ours. We had gone for drinks one night and she had mentioned that she had recently met two designers that had contemporary jewelry company that I would love. Always on a quest to discover cool new brands, I immediately set up a meeting to see the pieces the next day.
It was love at first sight! Tiny crystal shard chokers on a rose gold chain, large statement cuffs with twisting metal details, layers upon layers of rings in every shape and colorway. Each piece being unique and different but still forming a collection that could be worn together. I wanted every piece I saw.
What was even cooler about the brand were the designers themselves. Both have loads of style and every time I ever see them they look amazing, but they also dress nothing alike. Amy’s quirky downtown vintage aesthetic pairs well next to Randi’s more polished, refined style. It is really like seeing the beautiful pieces they create come to life. Edgy and polished mixed with delicate quirky pieces.
So I’m turning the reins over to Amy, our lovely muse this month, while she talks about her inspirations and all things Eleanor Kalle.
Was jewelry design something you always wanted to do?
Jewelry was something we both always loved. When Randi and I met, that was something we really bonded over. We both were majorly into wearing jewelry with sentimental value–be it from our grandmothers, our travels, a friend, or a gift from someone special. Jewelry was really important to both of us, as was our personal style.
How did you get your start?
I started collecting coins when I was 6 or 7 and eventually brought this box of coins to my local jeweler to solder little loops on them so I could string them on chain. I had all of these “treasures,” as my mom would say, and I started taking things apart and putting new things together. I liked to wear my treasures.
I also had a few “junk jewelry” boxes, handed down from my cool babysitter Kenya and from my grandmas; I began antiquing on family vacations when I was really young. I liked the hunt and I liked having special things that reflected where I had been and what my personal style was. In Milwaukee, WI, I didn’t have access to the chic, polished stores, so I’d have to make my own inspiration.
I was always really into watching my mom get ready to go out on Saturday nights. I liked sitting on her bed and looking through her jewelry box and seeing how she’d put her looks together.
Making jewelry was fun for me and I liked making things for my friends–things that suited them. I really focused more on mixed media art until college, where I met Randi. She had always been influenced by fashion, going to New York Fashion Week shows at an early age (probably while I was digging through trinkets).
What are some of the challenges you faced early in your career?
We started our company in college after pitching the name Eleanor Kalle to a panel. We had one product at that point–really we had a concept–that was all about versatility. A big challenge for us initially was moving past just one product to develop a full collection that serviced the original concept: high quality jewelry that can be worn many ways to highlight personal style.
When did the idea of starting up your own business come to you?
In college at Lehigh University. Randi was a year above me, we met in the costume shop and began working on studio art class projects together. We enjoyed working together, I would often pitch something a bit out there, Randi would reel it in, asking me, “how can we make that?” or “how much is that going to cost?” We went out to a formal business lunch, I was 18 at the time, Randi 19, and from that point forward, we were in the jewelry business. It probably wasn’t really until we were both living in our sorority house and girls were borrowing/stealing our pieces to wear to at parties…that’s when we were both like, “okay, let’s sell these.”
What are some of the challenges you face daily with running your own business?
There are so many ways to do things that sometimes making a simple decision and sticking with it is the hardest. We are the only two employees at our company, so keeping everything in-house can definitely be a challenge. At the end of the day, we both respect each other and feel extremely fortunate to have each other to weigh in on major and minor decisions.
What are some tips you would give to someone wanting to start up a jewelry design business?
I would tell them to think of the jewelry industry–and any business–as a marathon, not a sprint. It takes a long time to make a small mark, so patience really is a virtue.
Where do you get your inspirations?
As I mentioned, I started as a mixed media artist, so texture has always been a huge element for me. Randi and I both love texture, we used to spend hours in the hardware store mixing silvers and golds, holding up mesh and rope and taking pictures of layered chains. Travel is also inspirational to me–I was just in Big Sur and the sunsets are a visual I continue to go back to. Personal style is a really big part of what we make, and the subway in NYC offers up such an eclectic mix that always inspires. Cool men and women get me excited to go home and sketch and build mood boards. The Row [The Olsen Twins’ label] has also been important to our design, thinking about what jewelry would go with their elevated basics. Their quality is impeccable, it’s very aspirational.
What material do you love designing jewelry with most?
I love mixed metals! Mixed metal stacks of cocktail rings.
What are some of your favorite pieces you’ve worked on?
Our cocktail rings. We recently worked on a photoshoot to launch our Spring collection and a few of the looks really highlighted the mixing and matching of our rings. We titled the collection Future Nostalgia; to us, this means adding something new into your personal jewelry and loving it so much that immediately it becomes something of nostalgic value. That’s what our cocktail rings are to me. I wear them stacked up to my fingertips with my grandmas’ rings and vintage pieces I collect.
When buying jewelry for someone else what would you recommend?
I’d recommend buying what feels cool and timeless. To me, the word “cool” implies timelessness, I don’t see “trendy” and “cool” as interchangeable. I like to think “is this something I want to wear with ripped jeans but also give to my daughter someday?” Especially with costume jewelry, it’s not a huge investment, so you can really have fun. I also like to think about adding something in that goes with that person’s everyday “jewelry look.” I find most people have that–their go-to pieces that never really end up back in the jewelry box or on the night stand. If it would match and elevate the pieces they already wear, it’ll be a hit.
What tips can you give about mixing antique or fine jewelry with costume pieces?
Jewelry looks best mixed!! I’m of the Iris Apfel school of thought…more is more and less is a bore.
What are some of your favorite ways to wear jewelry?
Gobs of rings stacked up to my fingertips. Randi and I both mix and match so many of our heirloom rings with our cocktail rings (The Clayton, Clay, Cleo, and Chase!). Randi builds these really great, really deliberate ring stacks. They’re beautiful. I just pile mine on. Lately I’ve been really loving huge odd lucite rings mixed with our cocktail rings.
We also both are obsessed with mismatched earrings, even mixing little diamonds with our Eleanor Kalle studs.
I’ve also been into stacking choker necklaces lately–one of our photoshoot looks for Spring included The Harding choker stacked in all three color ways; this trinity mix has trickled into both of our jewelry wardrobes.
If you could only wear one type of jewelry (rings, earrings, necklaces, etc…) what would it be.
We can’t pick a favorite child 🙂
What are some of the best ways to keep jewelry in good condition?
I started keeping my jewelry in matchboxes that I’d take from my favorite restaurants; I’d lose all my tiny pieces while traveling–that works really well. Now we sell our jewelry with our own little matchboxes! Plus cloth bags are always a great keepsake and organizer. Lately, I’ve been using a weekly pill organizer for all of my tiny studs. I get weird looks, but I have yet to lose an earring!
If you had one tip on how to live a more stylish life what would it be?
Don’t save your special things only for special occasions. You’ll never end up wearing them, and pretty things are meant to be enjoyed.
Hope you all enjoyed this post. If you want to see more from Amy and Randi’s line, Eleanor Kalle, you can check it out here. As always, thanks for reading and if you have any other articles you would like to see on the site leave the ideas down in the comments below.
The Everyday Editor
Photos by Evan Browning