I first met Lori Epner when we worked together at SG: Surf, Snow, Skate Girl magazine. Very talented creatively, she exudes and aura of style and adores everything and anything about fashion. This past December, she took a leap of faith, put that passion to work and CLEEO was born. To get some insight into CLEEO, as well as how one goes about taking a hobby and turning it into a business, Breezy Mama sat down with Lori to get the full scoop.
How did you get involved in making jewelry? How long have you been doing it?
My parents made jewelry in the 70’s in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. It was pretty hippy, beachy stuff (shells, bone, teeth, African trade beads, & feathers)–but way-ahead of their time for what
they were doing. Finally the trend caught on, but by then, they had moved onto doing other things. I guess you could say it’s in my blood…I inherited my mother’s artistic skills. About five years ago a girlfriend and I started it [jewelry making] as a hobby. Like all hobbies, we tired of it and pushed the supplies into the back of the closet. However, one day while shopping at Barney’s, I saw a few necklaces that I wanted, but didn’t want to pay the high prices for them. So, I pulled the supplies back out from the closet and bought some new pieces that had more of the look; heavier chains, rhinestones etc… and went to work.
Your pieces are so involved–how do you go about creating them?
Searching for the perfect vintage elements are key in creating each piece. I grew up being dragged to flea markets and garage sales with my dad… little did I know it would lead me to discovering my love and appreciation of vintage jewelry. Once I’ve acquired the perfect vintage elements I look at the texture and feel of each item; bracelet, necklace, earrings, brooches, etc… then I ask myself what does this item need to make it modern or more wearable for today’s fashion female? Sometimes it’s adding length to a necklace or reworking parts–from a bracelet into a necklace. Each piece has its own unique personality so I never truly know what the final outcome will be until I sit down with all the supplies. It’s a trial and error process to see what elements work together.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by many aspects of my life; fashion, photography, my family & friends, a love of vintage and classic glamor, an obsession for jewelry and all things sparkling…
Which is your favorite piece?
This is hard to choose, but a few stand out items are the CHNKR necklace and the dangler earrings. (see photos)
How did you get started? Was it hard to launch?
I’ve always felt destined to start my own “something”. Before I knew exactly what that “something” was I read a ton of books (click on title to see on Amazon); The Girls Guide to Starting your own Business, Lessons of a Lipstick Queen, Rich Dad Poor Dad, Starting an Online Business for Dummies, The Money Book for the Young Fabulous & Broke and Retail in Detail were just a few.
My background is graphic arts and marketing so the business side is more of a challenge but it intrigues me, and I like a challenge. I started CLEEO in December of 2008. Inspired by the downturn in the economy and a milestone birthday quickly approaching, I wanted something to call my own.
Everything is hard until you just take the step to do it. I am fortunate that I have a good friend who owns the best boutique in Southern California–Goat. Once she saw the end products, she offered to try and sell some and the pieces sold out!
So many women love making jewelry–any advice for them on how to take it to the next level?
My advice is to network, network, network… social networking sites (Facebook & Twitter) are so great for getting the word out to new potential clients or just creating brand awareness. Start your own blog or website. They are many options to host your own storefront and sell your own designs. Etsy.com and BigCartel.com are just a few. Another good way to market is to coordinate group gatherings at your friends’ homes and have jewelry parties.
I once heard a boutique owner say, “If I had a nickel for every woman who brought a necklace she made in here. . .” How do you feel about this statement? What makes CLEEO stand out from the pack?
Hmm, I wonder if that boutique owner is still in business?!? They obviously didn’t support the local artists. There are a lot of people who do make jewelry. You need to determine how your items will be different than the next person’s. What’s your hook? What’s your story? Mine is the idea that each piece is one-of-a-kind, each is unique–no one will have the same
piece you’re wearing.
Your name is adorable, how did you come up with it?
CLEEO: Jewelry With A Modern Twist. “C” represents Cece (my great aunt), “LEE” are my initials and “O” is the emotional reaction of a woman, responding to something she adores, upon seeing it for the first time.
Anything else you’d like to add?
If you believe in yourself, others will believe in you, too. Research your subject–the Internet provides you with so many resources to explore. Anything can be answered, acquired or understood through utilizing the web. If there’s someone you admire–perhaps someone in the same field, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask them advice or questions. The worst that can happen is they don’t respond. Knowledge is a key part of learning and growing your ideas.
Breezy Mama Exclusive! CLEEO is offering 15% off your purchase with code:SMRSALE15. Offer expires 8/23/09. Click here to start shopping.
About Lori Epner:
Self taught jewelry artisan with an eye for daring details, Lori majored in graphic design and advertising at Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL, after which she moved to California. She begun working in the woman’s realm of the action sports industry right away and has held graphic design, Art Director, Stylist, Marketing & PR positions with companies like Quiksilver/Roxy, various Sole Technology brands, Fox, O’Neill, Split and Matix. Lori has always been intertwined with creative, artistic people and her love of fashion and style has been encouraged through these friendships. Last December she decided to make some necklaces for herself–which turned into friends inquiring about where to get them, so Lori made some more, took some photos and started her Jewelry Collection. Voila! CLEEO was born.
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