Stylish Moments

Are you wearing a knockoff? Jeweler Suzanne Kalan makes the case for investing in creativity

Published 15th February 2018
Suzanne Kalan Collection,     
Model: Charlie Austin,     
Makeup: Jose Corella,     
Hair Stylist: Glen Coco Oropeza,     
Wordrop Stylist: Kaycee Kund,     
@ Dogbone Studios,     
© 2017 D.W. Kim Photography and Design
Credit: Courtesy Suzanne Kalan/D.W. Kim Photography and Design
Are you wearing a knockoff? Jeweler Suzanne Kalan makes the case for investing in creativity
Written by CNN Staff
Suzanne Kalan may be based in Los Angeles, but her jewelry designs are truly international. Influenced by her Armenian-Lebanese background of international upbringing, they're now stocked in prestigious boutiques from London and New York to Tokyo and Dubai.
Ahead of this year's Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition, Kalan opened up to CNN about how she designs for her international clientele -- and makes the case for why you should avoid buying knockoffs.
Los Angeles-based jeweler designer Suzanne Kalan started her eponymous brand in 1988.
Los Angeles-based jeweler designer Suzanne Kalan started her eponymous brand in 1988. Credit: Courtesy Suzanne Kalan
CNN: Where do you look for inspiration?
Suzanne Kalan: I start by thinking about what I need. I'll just be sitting and I think, "It would be nice to have a piece like that to wear," or a piece with a certain color. I start imagining something that would look great with this choker, a pinkie ring. That's how it starts.
How does your Lebanese background influence your work?
It influences it a lot. I'm Armenian-Middle Eastern, so I know how Middle Eastern women think and feel. I've also grow up in Canada and in the U.S., so I know how Americans and Europeans will think and feel. So it's a little bit of both worlds. It's about creating a design and thinking about who would wear this piece, who would be comfortable wearing this piece. That's why we have a huge market in the Middle East and in the U.S., and also a big one in London.
What kind of jewelry -- and how much -- do you wear yourself?
I do (wear a lot of jewelry), except when I'm home cooking and doing stuff around the house. I'm a bracelets and ring person. I love beautiful rings. I love a big stack of bracelets.
Anything I wear needs to be comfortable. I don't want to feel that I have things on that are getting caught, that are in the way.
Courtesy Suzanne Kalan/D.W. Kim Photography and Design
What piece couldn't you live without?
It's hard to say because there are so many choices, but my engagement ring and my stack of bracelets. I have to have the bracelets.
How do you hope the wearer feels when wearing one of your pieces?
Happy, proud, comfortable. I hope the pieces they wear make them feel good.
Which era are you most influenced by?
I think it's right now, the moment. I'm not into old, antique jewelry, or very modern either. It's more contemporary.
I also want to create things that will not get out of style; that you can pass on to your children, grandchildren; that you could wear all the time. I want you to be able to wear it during the day, in the evening. It looks good with any type of clothing you wear.
What is it about precious stones that appeal to so many cultures through time?
It's the color. I think it attracts attention. Some people are in love with red, some love green. (Color) just attracts attention, and it makes (a piece) more special and makes it a little bit different from everybody else's jewelry.
A lot of my one-of-a-kinds are with color stones. I'll find a beautiful center stone and then work around it, or create something around that stone. My latest collection is with multicolor sapphires, and they are beautiful and very versatile.
D.W. Kim Photography and Design/Photographer: D.W. Kim
Would you describe jewelry making as more of art or a craft?
I think it's more of an art. I mean you could learn the craft, but art comes naturally. It's great to have both.
Who -- living or dead -- would you most like to have worn your jewelry?
I'm really proud of anyone wearing my pieces. If I'm walking into a store and I see someone wearing a piece of jewelry that's mine, then that just makes me feel great. It doesn't really matter if it's a celebrity or not.
Which issue do you think the jewelry industry must take more seriously?
The biggest issue is the copies. You come up with ideas, and then you turn around and there are knockoffs, and it takes away a lot of your business. You've taken so much time and energy and effort to create something beautiful and, in a minute, all that work is taken away from you.
At the same time, if a lot of people are copying you, that means you're doing something great, but it shouldn't be that way.
Quickfire: Gold or silver?
Diamonds or pearls?
Minimalism or maximalism?
Contemporary or vintage?
This interview is part of a series profiling jewelers showing at this year's Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition, on from Feb. 21 to Feb. 28, 2018.