Jewelry Designer Loree Rodkin
Her jewelry has been described as non-conformist luxury. Her clientele includes the likes of Christina Aguilera, Cher, Madonna, Elton John, Jennifer Aniston, Anne Hathaway, Keith Richards, Steven Tyler, Jessica Simpson and her jewelry was worn by First Lady Michelle Obama at the inauguration and is now permanently in the Smithsonian. While other jewelry designers hunkered down for the recession, Loree Rodkin hit the road and now has a global network that is rapidly growing. Recently Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan caught up to Rodkin for a sunshine filled lunch at Los Angeles’ SoHo Club.
ET: You have been really expanding your international profile?
Loree Rodkin Right now I am in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Dubai, London, Moscow, Paris, Kiev, Astana, Athens, Mykonos. I am opening in Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and I am dying to do Brazil.
ET: Do you design differently for these different markets?
Loree Rodkin Nobody is asking for different (styles). People want what I do. That’s the attraction.
ET: How is it going?
Loree Rodkin We’ve been very lucky. When the economy got hit I was going full expansion overseas and our business has gone up. One of my strongest markets is Russians, and they buy me everywhere they go from France to Dubai to New York. I like their style (of shopping). My first trip there people were lined up with literally piles of jewelry. I had to ask why are they just taking piles of jewelry like that, and the answer was ‘they’re buying it.’ I liked that.
ET: You are really on the move?
Loree Rodkin I am in Los Angeles about two months a year and the rest of the time I am traveling and I try to split it between business and pleasure.
ET: So any travel tips?
Loree Rodkin I fly privately quite a bit here (in the United States). My only bad experience was I tried a company that was offering ‘scheduled’ private jet flights between New York and Los Angeles. I was the only one, so they put on a smaller jet and we had to make a stop. Never again. Other than that, it’s the way to go. Emirates, Lufthansa, British Airways and Singapore Airlines are the best as far as commercial airlines. Their planes are nice and clean. Emirates feels as close to a private jet as you can get. They have enclosed suites, and there is a shower. When I boarded, the flight attendant asked me, “Ms. Rodkin, when would you like to take your shower.’ I told her ‘two hours before we get to Dubai.’ In the bathroom there is a makeup table with proper lighting. Singapore Airlines has the Suites on its A380s. They are really terrific too, and the Asian airlines just really understand good service. Lufthansa takes you by a car to your plane. That’s like flying private.
ET: What about hotels?
Loree Rodkin My new favorite hotel is in London. It’s the Corinthia. It has an amazing spa. The décor is nice and bright but they really excel on the service side. The Armani Hotel is Dubai, the Shangri-la in Tokyo and Four Seasons in Hong Kong.
ET: Are you adding new product categories?
Loree Rodkin In the last five to seven years I’ve expanded with fragrances, candles and eyewear. It is natural expansion. I make my own perfume and everyone would ask me what I wear, so it made sense to start selling it. It was the same with candles and then with eyewear, it’s a license, but I design it.
ET: Why do you think you have been so successful despite the downturn?
Loree Rodkin My jewelry is unique. I have an amazing clientele. I have celebrities who buy, and everyone says, ‘celebrities don’t buy jewelry.’ The first piece Steven Tyler bought from me was a ring he pulled off my finger. He said he didn’t feel cool until he started wearing my jewelry. That really blew me away.
ET: How do you sell to celebrities when others say they won’t actually buy?
Loree Rodkin I’m a rock chick at heart. I’ve always been counter culture, and I don’t care. I don’t take myself seriously. I don’t look at them as celebrities. I started as a manager and to me Brad Pitt was always just a nice boy from Missouri.
ET: Any thoughts about slowing down?
Loree Rodkin I do two collections a year but I am always designing. I never know what’s next. I’ll slow down when I’m dead. Is there anything else I want to do besides what I’m doing now. I don’t think so.
ET: You seem happy and energized?
Loree Rodkin I was at a private dinner at Westminister Abbey. All of a sudden there is Mikhail Gorbachev. I went to a wedding in Rome and all of sudden I am on a private tour in the Vatican. I’m a nice Jewish girl from Chicago. Steven Tyler once told me, ‘Loree you’re not in Kansas anymore.’
ET: How did Mrs. Obama come to wear your jewelry?
Loree Rodkin Oprah bought a pair of earrings and gifted them to Mrs. Obama years ago before she was the First Lady. So I knew she was wearing my jewelry, and I knew she liked it. I got a call before the inauguration from (then White House social secretary) Desiree Rogers and I thought it was a prank. I think she started to wonder about me because I really thought it was a prank. Anyway, she said Mrs. Obama wants your jewelry (among other designers) to possibly wear for the inauguration. It was nerve racking waiting to see if she would wear it. Then I saw her wear the earrings in the weeks before. I thought that could be a good sign that she likes it. Then I thought it could be a bad sign because maybe that meant she wouldn’t wear it at the inaugural. She ended up wearing the earrings, a diamond signet ring and a set of diamond bangle bracelets. And of course she donated them to the Smithsonian where they are part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of American History.
ET: How does it feel to have your jewelry in The Smithsonian?
Loree Rodkin It’s like winning the Academy Awards. This started as a hobby. Sometimes I have to remind myself. Then Neiman Marcus discovered me, then I became popular in Japan.
ET: You are also involved in charity work?
Loree Rodkin Giving back is an important part of what I do. Right now I am really focused on Blessings in a Backpack. It is about ensuring impoverished elementary school children are fed during the weekend.