Alex Woo is a Jewelry Wizard!
As soon as I started watching The Carrie Diaries on Netflix, the first thing I noticed about Carrie Bradshaw’s stylish ensemble was her “C” necklace. I had the exact same one! I asked my mom and she confirmed it: she had gifted me the necklace--made by jewelry designer Alex Woo---a few years ago. Somehow, Woo’s little “C” still stood out when Carrie Bradshaw wore her colorful blazers, billowy maxi skirts, and leopard cardigans. I was thrilled to have been given the opportunity to interview Woo about the magic that goes behind making her precious accessories. Full disclosure: they make up the majority of my jewelry collection ;-)
How did you first get your start as a designer?
I loved jewelry as a child. But it wasn't until I enrolled at Parsons to formally study jewelry design did I truly discover my passion for it. My professor encouraged me to enter a national design competition that was sponsored by the Women’s Jewelry Association. That year, in 1998, I entered and won the grand prize, despite the fact that I was competing with professional designers from all across the country. Winning that prize gave me a vote of confidence and inspired me to design my own collection.
What about jewelry is so special to you?
I've always had an appreciation for sculpture because it's so tangible and three-dimensional. But I eventually came to the realization that with jewelry, I could create and design in the same way that I sculpted and be able to reach a larger audience. My designs are bold and personal--you can look at each piece as a tiny masterpiece. For example, if you look at my little letter “a," it can rest on a table like a miniature sculpture. It has a chunky quality and the subtle shiny beveled edge is what makes it special and different. A chain runs through the piece because it is solid and substantial in weight. It's a piece that I hope a woman can treasure for many years to come.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
I love clean and modern designs. Whether in interior design or clothing design, I have such an appreciation for classic and timeless styles, so these are all aspects that I incorporate into my collections. Additionally, I love to tell stories through my designs and represent different facets of all women. In doing so, I have also been lucky enough to hear stories from women who have worn my designs for different reasons than my original inspiration. It's wonderful to hear feedback and suggestions from all my customers, and that sometimes inspires my next designs. I love to hear how my pieces can touch their lives, or commemorate special moments. One time, there was a man who bought his wife a number “5” charm because he met her in May, they lived on the 5th floor of their building, and got married on the 5th. It wasn't their intention, but that number found its way into their lives, and it was special to them.
Does NYC inspire your designs at all?
My workshop, showroom, and studio are in the heart of New York, specifically, across from Rockefeller Center. As a born and bred New Yorker, I only felt it appropriate that my jewelry was also made here. My philosophy is that if someone wears my brand, they are supporting an essential part of this great city. That's why we rebranded our logo a few years ago with "Made in New York" as an essential element of the design. Also, everything is so central and easily accessible in New York. If I need inspiration, it's all at my fingertips, whether I visit Fifth Avenue or Soho.
How do you differentiate your company from other brands?
Storytelling is a really important aspect of my business. All of my “Little Icons” stand for a story: who you are, what you've done, or where you've been, with an infinite number of interpretations for each piece. Although I design with an idea in mind of what the jewelry can mean or represent, the meanings of each piece can change by who wears it. One of my favorite stories is of a woman named Julie who purchased my little number “8.” I designed it to represent infinite meanings: a favorite lucky number, a birth date, a life path number...the list goes on and on. Julie chose to share her empowering story with me. She was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and needed a liver and stem cell transplant. She was at such a late stage in her illness that she was actually read her last rites three times. Thankfully, she miraculously received a liver and her sister donated her stem cells. After this rare and successful procedure, she learned she was the eighth living survivor. Later that year, she also lost her sister, but she realized that when she turned the “8” sideways, it was the infinity symbol, which further represented the bond that they shared, and was a way to keep her close to her heart. Stories like these make what I do so remarkable.
You collaborate with local charities as well. Can you elaborate on that?
I am fortunate to have collaborated and supported numerous charities throughout the years! I most recently partnered with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and March of Dimes on two respective designs to help raise awareness for their causes. Both charities share a special place in my heart and support a cause that I’m passionate about. As a mother, I know the unconditional love and sense of protection every mother has for her child, so I designed the “Activist BABY” necklace featuring a little footprint to support March of Dimes and improve the health of premature babies. I designed my “Activist Pink” necklace for BCRF because I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was a teenager. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for this organization and helping other women around the world win the battle against breast cancer.
What was it like designing the “C” necklace for AnnaSophia Robb on The Carrie Diaries?
My “Little Letters” are a classic accessory for any woman. A letter can stand for your own name, a loved one’s name, a last name..the possibilities are endless. I was honored that my Little Letter “c” in 14kt Gold was chosen as the signature necklace of young Carrie Bradshaw as the precursor to the "Carrie" Bradshaw nameplate necklace from Sex and the City! The fact that The Carrie Diaries takes place in the 80s is a true testament to the classic design and proves how it has stood the test of time in outlasting trends throughout the years. I'm honored to be a part of the Carrie Bradshaw legacy and have our jewelry speak to such a big part of her character.
Who are some of the other celebrities you have enjoyed working with?
It's really so exciting to see anyone wearing my designs. I actually get just as much a thrill seeing someone on the subway or on the street wearing my jewelry, but of course, it's an honor to see a celebrity like Jessica Alba, Behati Prinsloo, or Eva Longoria sporting my brand. It was also amazing to have Blair Waldorf on Gossip Girl wear a "bw" initial necklace I made her. People choose to wear my pendants not just as decoration, but as a representation of something meaningful and special to them.
What do you see in the future of your brand?
Trends are great, but jewelry is an investment that is purchased repeatedly to celebrate a special moment in one's life. My pieces are ones that that you will want to keep and treasure. I design for that classic woman who wants to invest in a beautiful piece of jewelry she can wear year after year. We want to continue to foster relationships with our fans and grow with the changes and milestones in their lives. At the same time, we are always evolving and growing the brand for new generations of women to wear, with new brand collaborations, designs, and price points. As a designer, this is a really exciting time, as we have the chance to really interact with our customers and design something that they will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.
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