PARIS — Nadine Ghosn, who broke into the realm of fine jewelry with hamburger rings, has set her sights on Legos.
Inspired by the colorful plastic pieces — instantly recognized the world over — the designer is launching the fourth pillar of her jewelry brand, called “Building Blocks.”
She came up with the idea while building a display for her pop-flavored jewelry at Le Bon Marché.
“This is cool — it’s multicolored, you can stack it the way you want,” she recalled thinking to herself. “I could take this very simple symbol and use my craft to elevate it.”
Wary of embarking on the project before ensuring there wouldn’t be risk of copyright infringement, Ghosn sought out the toy-maker’s lawyers before proceeding, and traveled to offices in Singapore to turn up a contact at the company. Ghosn had hoped to strike up a collaboration but was declined.
“My hope is that it gains momentum so they revert back to me and say ‘Hey, I like what you’re doing, maybe we can do something together,’” she said.
Ghosn gained early success in her venture — which was founded in 2015 — thanks in part to a collaboration with McDonald’s. In that case, the company reached out to her, seeking to create a prize for a Big Mac launch.
“This is exactly what my brand is trying to do,” she said.
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Ghosn likened the process of bringing together the grimy world of fast food with fine jewelry as similar to what the fashion industry has done with streetwear. She described it as elevating both realms by uncovering synergies that haven’t existed in the past.
The popularity of her brand also got a boost from the star power of Beyoncé, who sported her “Shut Up” earrings, and Karl Lagerfeld was pictured wearing a gold sautoir with dangling earphones, as well as prizes from the Las Vegas jewelry trade show Couture and Vogue Arabia.
The building block rings took time to develop, said Ghosn, who described the challenge of cutting the stones into the geometric shape and assembling them into a ring.
“There were a million iterations of people gluing these four pieces — and then you have to test the stone to make sure it’s steady,” she said.
The rings come in colorful stones, like jade and turquoise or, in clear crystal or pavé diamonds. Prices start at around $3,800 and will stay in the label’s range that goes up to around $15,000.
“This one looks like an engagement ring — I was thinking the concept is obviously building something, so people who don’t want to buy a diamond, the idea is ‘Hey, let’s start the building block of our life in the future,’” she suggested, with a laugh, holding up a ring to the screen during a video call.
Ghosn said she was thankful she has suppliers in different geographic locations — Lebanon, Italy and Thailand — given the disruption from the coronavirus crisis, and got orders through Instagram and email during the lockdown period.
Asked if she had concerns about operating a label under her name after her father Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan chairman was arrested in Japan and made international headlines for fleeing the country, she said there were times she had doubts.
“At one point I wondered, do I continue my brand?” she said, describing it as “a huge life changer.”
“I have to say I was very, very lucky at the time it hit, I had gained enough of a reputation in the industry independently that I found that if anything, people were much more understanding of my situation and much more supportive of me continuing,” she said.
The designer, who sells her jewelry through high-end outlets including Bergdorf Goodman, The Webster and Net-a-porter, said she’s not interested in opening stores. Instead, she sees growth coming from creating niche communities through events linked with art, meeting people one-on-one.
She also has her eye on larger luxury labels, and expects they will be interested in recruiting new generations of talents in the coming years. A hard luxury brand could set up an incubator with a handful of young designers, she suggested. In the meantime, the Stanford art and economics graduate is pursuing her MBA at Insead — the reason behind her “Too Cool for School” collection of pencil bracelets and paper clip necklaces.
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