For nearly 20 years, Los Angeles-based designer Loree Rodkin has crafted fine jewelry with an edge—her precious pieces feature a combination of modern and medieval themes that have won raves from trend-setting clients like Madonna, Mary J. Blige, Cher and Aerosmith from the start. More recently Loree expanded her design realm to include handbags, perfume, candles and sunglasses. Loree met with Elite Traveler this spring in Beverly Hills’ exclusive Ilori eyewear boutique to preview her newest sunglass designs, which are manufactured by SAMA and sold in 40 countries now. Though her models are priced from $500 to $1,200, they were impulse purchases for shoppers in the Ilori boutique during our interview.
ET: Your jewelry collection is so successful around the world now. Why did you choose to expand it to include eyewear?
Loree Rodkin: We started the sunglass collection because we wanted to do jewelry for the face. I need glasses for my prescription, so before creating my own collection I used to buy pairs in every color and then customized them. I buy sunglasses like other women buy shoes. I collected Sheila’s [owner and designer of SAMA Eyewear]. And I learned that her company really is number one for eyewear and why. SAMA has the attention to the materials used, and they know how to incorporate jewelry designs into eyewear. There was a time when I bought cheap plastic frames and lenses. Then Sheila showed me what quality lenses are, what great frame materials are, so it has been a huge education for me! Sheila asked me to be a designer of a sunglass collection, but for the longest time we were each waiting for the other to ask. When we meet, she puts trays of things-color pallets, elements from my jewelry-in front of me and it’s like playing Barbie for grown-ups! In the design process for my sunglasses, I am like the interior designer and SAMA is the architect.
ET: What makes Loree Rodkin sunglasses distinctive?
Loree Rodkin: When my collection launched three years ago we started by doing laser-cutting of the metals. Now we also work with those metals plus leather, wood, and high-end plastics from Japan. I love to fuse color on color, and I’ll take ornamentation as far as I can go technically. For instance, the gems and stones are invisibly-set, so there are no sharp edges to catch your hair. I’ll also make sure the temples extend far back-other companies save costs here by making the temples short. What’s new for me now is that the look is not just Gothic. I love pattern on pattern, like a mix of stripes and plaids, so everything I design from sunglasses to fabrics to furniture is based on layers.
ET: What are the newest looks to arrive in stores this summer?
Loree Rodkin: New models I’m excited about include “Hunter,” which is leather and silver with a dragon at the temple. “Dylan” is also made with leather and features the Loree Rodkin logo at the temple. And “Lindsay” is a striped, plastic frame. I love the mushroom, gray and burgundy colors for now. I also love big frames for daytime because they are great to hide behind, and I wear smaller frames at night. I also like tough eyewear, like my bad girl jewelry, since everyone has their inner rock star. The latest editions to the collection are double-sided, and the most exclusive pieces incorporate diamonds and are made in limited edition color combinations.
ET: Who are some of your biggest sunglass fans?
Loree Rodkin: Cher, Elton John and Stephen Tyler are my muses. Cher probably has 100 pairs of my sunglasses and Elton must have 1,000 including pieces in all diamonds. I’ve also made pieces for the royal family of Monaco.
ET: How did your design career begin?
Loree Rodkin: I really just design for myself and follow my own aesthetic. Fortunately, other people respond to my aesthetic. I enjoyed making jewelry for myself from the age of 12-my birthday gift from my mom was always a budget for making it. I started my jewelry collection in 1989 at a time when all fine jewelry looked like everything else. At the time, I was managing stars [Robert Downey Jr., Brad Pitt, among others] and I made jewelry to stay awake at night and be ready to help my clients out of trouble. Maxfield’s became the first store to carry my jewelry, and Elizabeth Taylor was my first client. Soon Barbra Streisand and Cher purchased it. I like making jewelry for creative people. I’ve also designed houses for rock stars. I’m so visual that I design my own ads, from picking the model to selecting her make-up.
ET: What’s next on the design front for you?
Loree Rodkin: Now I am also designing a restaurant in Beverly Hills, called the Luau. It is located on Bedford, and is a contemporary version of the Luau from the Rat Pack years. The menu will feature Polynesian/Fusion food, and it opens this Labor Day. I’m also looking at opening a branch in Las Vegas.
Loree Rodkin boutiques are located in Hawaii and Japan, and her designs are also sold at fine stores in the U.S., Hong Kong, Shanghai, Milan, Russia and St. Barths. To purchase her sunglasses from Ilori Beverly Hills, contact Flagship Manager Andre Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 860-0634, or visit www.iloristyle.com.