Our interview with the talented Gretchen Julius, Design Director for Premier Manufacturing.
How did you get into this field? Have you always wanted to design jewelry or did you stumble into it?
Ever since I was little, I’ve always collected sparkly things. Growing up in a family that appreciated works of art, my mother and I constantly painted and composed mini architectural projects. I was constantly creating and immersed in the art of craft. In my early teens I took my first jewelry class at the Toledo Museum of Art and fell madly in love with the idea of putting small works of art together. Not long after, I began working in my father’s orthodontic lab where I mastered the use of small tools, casting and polishing. After that, I was hooked. I wanted an art degree. By the time I enrolled at The Rhode Island School of Design, I had already experimented with ceramics, glass blowing, architecture and furniture, and decided to set my sites on jewelry and light metals.
You used to work at Liz Claiborne; have you always been in fashion jewelry?
Liz Claiborne was actually my first introduction to the fashion jewelry industry. Before that, I had worked only in fine jewelry. And although I’ll always appreciate real diamonds, I’ve fallen for faux diamonds too. I want every girl to feel special and believe you don’t need to spend a fortune to look amazing. This is one of the many reasons I love Premier Designs.
You travel to Asia annually. What do you do there and how long are you gone?
Asia has a large presence in jewelry development and manufacturing. For me, a typical trip is about two weeks, but with all the various travel locations and vendor meetings, it often feels much longer! Premier has a committed partnership with the manufacturers and we communicate daily. By traveling to Asia, I’m able to meet with contacts face to face, grow our friendships and keep it personal.
Where does your inspiration come from? Do you go to Asia with a plan, or is it more fly by the seat of your pants?
I am a girl with a plan! Before I leave, our Design Team at Premier Manufacturing puts together a wish list. We brainstorm as a team, researching trends via blogs, fashion magazines, trade magazines, found treasures, etc. Then, I’ll compile a list of all the new beads, colors, materials and ideas I want to see when I’m there. Before my departure my binder is packed with images, trends, and colors. This is very helpful when I’m at the market shopping beads or working with our partners on new development concepts.
BUT… I’m always looking for new ideas. So while I may leave the country with a full agenda, I always keep an open mind and am ready to explore and think creatively.
Do you bring anything back?
Definitely! After every trip, I bring home new treasures for our design teams to transform into one-of-a-kind pieces. We then source the markets and work with our vendors on new concepts and techniques. Our focus is to keep Premier ahead of the trends and our Jewelers equipped with fabulous pieces you won’t find anywhere else.
Can you give us a sneak peek at the Spring Collection?
COLOR! LAYERING! DETAIL! VERSATILITY! Premier Designs is setting trends; we have styles for everyone and every budget. Each piece in this new collection is thought out – down to the smallest detail. The Spring Collection fully embraces a mix and match vibe, plus you’ll find amazing new pieces to coordinate with the favorites you already own. Anyone who knows me, will tell you, I LOVE versatility, and believe a great piece should offer more than one look. With the amount of versatility in our designs, you’re guaranteed more bang for your buck. You absolutely can’t go wrong – we’ve designed this collection to make sure you’ll get more. So, go for it! This will definitely be the season to accessorize!
What makes Premier Designs different than other jewelry?
We design with our Premier Jewelers and their customers in mind. We want to serve them with the very best product. As a company, we care deeply about the details and how each piece will best represent the Premier Designs Family. We’re blessed to get feedback straight from our Jewelers. We review and discuss every comment. Having one-on-one feedback with the Jeweler helps us to continuously improve our jewelry lines and stay flexible to foster the growing markets. This interaction makes us different from most design houses.
As I’ve mentioned before, we take great pride in creating extra details and versatility for our jewelry. Versatility means more options. And we offer fantastic designs that bring functionality and style. I haven’t seen any brand with designs that do so much! Versatility is key!
How do you feel about your chosen career path? What advice would you give someone who is interested in designing or selling jewelry?
I am a driven designer and have been blessed to work with some of the best jewelry professionals in the field. I’m also blessed to be able to do what I love every day!
My advice: Don’t be afraid to give your dreams a try. It may not always be easy, but with hope, faith and strong work ethics you can do anything!