Alison Chemla has always expressed herself using emoticons (and most recently emojis), but now, she’s turned digital forms of expression into a killer jewelry line titled Alison Lou. Here, she breaks it down for Life+Times.
Life+Times: You’re the Creative Director and Designer of Alison Lou, a brand you launched that takes inspiration from the “deceptive simplicity of contemporary means of communication.” What exactly does this mean?
Alison Chemla: I have always been the kind of person who is visually stimulated, and I enjoy expressing myself through images. Contemporary means of communication have completely transformed the way in which we articulate everything to others. Whether expressing an emotion or telling a joke – acronyms, emoticons, and abbreviations have become the norm. While in some way I mourn the lost elegance of language, I also embrace the humorous method of today, which I find beautiful in its own way.
L+T: This is your first foray into jewelry and your debut collection. How did you initially come up with the idea?
AC: Jewelry has always been an incredibly important part of the way I express myself, however it wasn’t until I came up with something I believed to be fresh and unique that I considered pursuing it as a career. Prior to Alison Lou, I was working in marketing and often found myself using emoticons. The reason for this mode of communication was two fold – most simply, it was quick and to the point, but most importantly, it was lighthearted. It sounds strange, but this method of exchange explained a lot about who I am. It was only a matter of time before I came up with the idea to combine emoticons and jewelry – two subjects that were seemingly unrelated, but worked so well together. I started with six large pendants and have been growing every day to keep up with demand.
L+T: You’ve taken the world of “emoticons” and documented them on beautiful necklaces, rings, and more. What was the editing process like? What emoticons did you want to ensure were used? Which ones got left on the cutting room floor?
AC: Because jewelry is such an incredibly powerful way to express oneself, and ones emotion, my customers’ choice in which piece to purchase is incredibly personal. As a result, I find it extremely important to balance my taste and desires with that of my clients. To begin, I chose the most commonly used emoticons, and sketched them in a variety of ways to ensure they would translate well into jewelry. Luckily, this is an ongoing process, and I take advice very seriously – based on customer requests, I have just drawn up a new group that will be coming out soon in the medium size pendants!
L+T: You’re an iPhone user. What emoticons are you constantly using?
AC: I rarely type a full sentence without using an emoticon. I love hearts, so I am always using the various color hearts. I am also quite fond of the “diamond” (occupational hazard) and the “crying face” (when I’m feeling dramatic). I honestly could write full paragraphs in emoticons – I was nervous I would tire of them, after using them in my personal life and now professional life every day, but I think they’re more hilarious than ever, and try and use them as much as possible! There is not one emoticon I don’t have some love for.
L+T: You’ve said you’re all about accessorizing. When it comes to getting dressed yourself, what are your rules for applying and wearing jewelry?
AC: I feel naked when I’m not wearing jewelry. I sleep in my necklaces, rings and earrings pretty much every night. I don’t think there should be any rules when it comes to jewelry, except wearing pieces that make you feel good about yourself. The particularly fun thing about my collection is that it allows people to wear jewelry based on their mood, quite literally. In addition, while my collection says a lot, it can be quite subtle, and I love mixing my jewelry with other pieces. My friends inspire a lot of what I create, and seeing the different ways they choose to wear my collection is certainly one of the biggest rewards so far.
L+T: So often jewelry doesn’t have a sense of humor, but yours does. Was this something that you wanted to make sure was embedded in your creations?
AC: Absolutely. This is one of the most important aspects of my collection. Too often people get caught up in the fashion of clothing or jewelry that they forget the most “fashionable” thing you can do is wear something that is honest and expresses who you are – there is nothing more attractive than that. However, I did notice a real void in the market because often times fun or humorous jewelry is neither beautiful nor fine. I wanted to combine both worlds. I love when jewelry tells a story – what makes my collection special is that the story is multifaceted, and it changes depending both on who is wearing it and who is viewing it. From afar, one of my necklaces may be viewed as a classic gold and diamond pendant, but up close suddenly it is transformed into a representation of personality and mood.
L+T: Out of your debut collection, what are three of your favorite designs? Why?
AC: This is an extremely difficult question for me! Of course, it depends on my frame of mind at any given moment, but the classic faces are extremely versatile and so easy to wear. I am never without my bar rings – and I love seeing them on other people because each person wears them differently. The ability to mix and match different eyes and mouths really allows people to use their own creative freedom to decide what combination best reflects who they are. My “Happy Sad by the Yard” necklace is simple, subtle, and looks beautiful layered with anything else. And finally, my “Love U & Screw U” bangles – like any girl, I alternate these regularly! Of course my classic faces and I couldn’t choose one, I love them all!
L+T: What’s next for the brand? What can we see from your secondary collection?
AC: I am currently in the process of designing my second collection. I will always make jewelry that balances a sense of humor with beauty. All I am going to say right now is that I will be looking beyond faces in the emoji keyboard.