Q&A: Rachel Dooley From Gemma Redux

Gemma Redux’s Rachel Dooley actually began her career in jewelry design while studying to be a lawyer. While prepping for the Bar Exam, she made a mixed metal necklace from vintage and industrial materials. This became a great way for her to express her creativity and let off some steam from studying. Soon, her works started appearing in major publications like Harper’s BAZAAR and WWD, and on the popular television series Gossip Girl. Rachel’s designs are incredibly unique and yet totally wearable. We spoke with Rachel about inspiration, her design process, and how she sparkles.

Why did you decide to start Gemma Redux?
It was less of a decision than an evolution. I have been making jewelry my whole life, although more of the friendship bracelet and seed bead variety.  When I moved to NYC I found the Garment District, and I was instantly inspired to create and experiment with the amazing stones, feathers, and chains.  I made some pieces for friends and word started spreading a bit, so I just kept trying new things (sending pieces to magazines, doing the Henri Bendel Open See) to get the brand out there. I thought, “why not?”  And the exposure started gowing — to the extent that I finally had to quit my job to design full-time.  But because I had a day job initially, I didn’t want to name it after myself (as it might have been seen in press), so I had my dad help me come up with something in Latin (he’s a Latin scholar). “GemmaRedux” means “reconstructed gems,” which refers to our use of non-traditional materials like industrial steel to make feminine, serpentine pieces.

Many of us dream of launching our own business. Do you have any suggestions for someone trying to start a company of their own? Own your voice.You will no doubt have a lot of people offering suggestions and advice, especially if you are entering an industry that is new to you as I did. I always think it’s important to consider every piece of feedback and to reflect on how it might relate to your vision, but then to also keep moving forward in your own direction and in the way that feels genuine to you. There are so many ways to create a business or a brand — especially now, with countless ways to reach your customer — and finding a new way to do things can often be more rewarding. And ultimately, you don’t want a brand that meshes with someone else’s vision; you want your brand.

What are your favorite websites to browse for design inspiration?
Tumblr is amazing for brainstorming and finding eye candy. For purely beautiful images, I love NASA’s website with its archive of images from space. Seriously breathtaking.

What’s your current favorite Gemma Redux product?
I am obsessed with the bismuth crystal-inspired pieces we did for Spring. This cuff (seen above) in particular is my current favorite; it’s definitely a bold aesthetic, but the construction is clean, so it’s a great piece to wear with everything.

Tell us a little bit more about your process. How do you go from daydreaming to a finished product?
I shop first. I search for inspiring elements – the stones, gems, feathers, leathers – and then I spend most design hours sorting out how to celebrate them in a design.  Sometimes I have a specific vision in mind (Spring ‘12 is all about Socotra Island – Google it; it’s crazy!), but often times I’m just letting my hands work through the elements.  I am driven by the natural beauty in the elements I use, and I just work to best showcase them. I sketch only to remember a good idea, like taking notes. To finish a collection and pull all the silhouettes together, I spend the last few weeks in my studio listening to archives of This American Life — it calms my brain and brings clarity to the finishing touches.

Did you have any New Year’s Resolutions?
Less ponytails, more time spent with friends.

How do you sparkle?
With jewelry of course!  But mom always said that a smile makes all the difference, and I totally buy into that theory.

Images from Gemma Redux Spring 12′

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