Los Angeles jewelry designer Lizzie Mandler has set down roots in the buzzy Sycamore District, opening her first boutique in the vicinity of Nili Lotan, Officine Générale, Just One Eye, Gigi’s Restaurant, Tartine and other hot spots on the new retail and restaurant row off La Brea.
The 1,600-square-foot boutique is the first place to shop Mandler’s full range of 18-karat gold women’s, men’s and bridal jewelry, including her signature knife-edge cuffs and rings (as worn by Rihanna); Cleo chain-link bracelets and necklaces, some inset with precious stones, and the V studs that have dotted Victoria Beckham’s ears.
“I felt for a long time the shift in retail coming to the brand experience,” said Mandler, who launched her business in 2012 and produces her collection in L.A. “I saw my clients wanted to connect with me and weren’t able to do that online. I felt there was enough of a pull to open a store.”
The L.A. native started designing when she was 16 years old, and her first client was her older brother, Anthony Mandler, a music video director who worked with Rihanna on “Diamonds,” as well as with Beyoncé, the Spice Girls, Taylor Swift and many more.
“Everything I made was for him, so men were my first clients,” she said, adding, “I’m on a path to fight for men’s jewelry. It’s a category that needs redefining. Men haven’t had the opportunity to see it in all the ways it needs to be seen….There’s nothing about jewelry that makes it masculine or feminine, there’s no constraints of biology…it’s more just a question of how it’s marketed or displayed.”
All of her pieces are designed to be unisex, and she’s big on layered chains and ear stacks. “Huggies we do in five sizes; they are easy to wear, you don’t have to take them out ever, and they are impactful,” she said.
There is something very L.A. in the way her jewelry can be worn with a T-shirt or a gown. “I work with yellow gold a lot, it’s really warm like sunshine. I also think there is nothing better than a lot of jewelry and a white T-shirt and that’s very L.A. Early in my career someone told me my brand was like a white T-shirt and they meant it as an insult. But what’s wrong with that? A white T-shirt is what we wear every day. I want my things to be what someone reaches for every day, not just once in a while.”
Mandler’s business is 60/40 direct-to-consumer/wholesale. She sells at Nordstrom, Matchesfashion, Dover Street Market and Browns, among other retailers. Of her d-to-c business, 50 percent is custom.
“Another part of building this store was giving my bridal clients a space that felt worthy of that experience. Custom jewelry is really intimate, it takes a lot of trust and I get really into people’s lives,” she said.
She collaborated with designer Lauren Feiner for the store’s warm interior with brass fixtures and off-black carpet, meant to evoke the sexy salons of ’70s vanguard Halston and Elsa Perretti. Jewelry cases were custom fabricated by local makers Hanson Works and De Winter Metalworks.
Mandler’s business has grown consistently year-over-year, mostly through word of mouth. She is heading to the Couture show in Las Vegas with a collection that plays with the motif of fluting, inspired by the ridged privacy glass that separates her store floor from her offices in the back.
“Early on, the first thing we decided on was the privacy glass and I fell in love with the fluting. So this season, a lot of the work I did mirrored that. I took this fluted idea and that transformed into a heavy ’70s feeling, which I love also,” she said, showing off a bold gold cuff with a fluted surface.
She’s also expanding the ’70s feeling into large, clear crystal beads. “It’s more playing on Bakelite, but not actually Bakelite, but that look and mixing in pearls.”