Meet Your Neighbor: Jewelry Designer Madhuri Parson
The jewelry designer Madhuri Parson stretches out on the sofa in her Hudson Yards apartment, strumming a necklace of her own creation delicately with hot pink fingernails. Bright and sinuous, the regal object doesn’t so much hang as it does drape, flowing over every bend in her neck like a silk scarf.
“Come feel it,” She beckons. Touching it is like dipping your hand into a pool of water – slinky, cool and almost too soft to fully grasp. It took one artisan in Jaipur, India 25 days to string the sapphire, diamond, spinel and emerald beads on this necklace onto an 18K-gold wire – a process that can only be done by one person, by hand. It retails for nearly $30,000.
This kind of painstaking attention to detail elevates Parson’s work to the highest level of design, where it can almost be considered artwork. No wonder, then, that Christie’s invited her to showcase her wares at its September opening for Asian Art Week, alongside pieces like a 1948 Zhang Daqian print that later sells for nearly $600,000, and a Tang Dynasty metal bowl that goes for almost $3.5 million.
Parson herself rejects the title of artist, however. "I think about the customer too much," she says.
That focus on what her customer wants – what flatters her, what will be comfortable, what will make her happy – has translated into a robust and thriving business; she currently has a trunk show running at Moda Operandi, and her pieces are also available at Bloomingdales and on her own site. Pieces frequently sell out.
Parson launched her eponymous label in 2011, but her connection to the jewelry industry goes back even further than that; her family has six generations of jewelry making, and her great-grandfather was a well-known emerald dealer and jeweler in India, who created elaborate pieces for European nobility in the 1930s. She still has his original sketches and is considering modernizing his designs for a future collection.
"When people ask me, 'What’s your ultimate inspiration?' It’s my jewelry heritage," she says, "It sounds kind of corny, but connecting to my roots makes me feel grounded as a designer."
Parson’s heritage is what drew her to jewelry making, but it’s been her determination to learn everything she could about the industry that’s allowed her to succeed. She had been working in the tech industry in Silicon Valley after college, taking jewelry classes in her spare time, when a nudge from one of her classmates made her realize that she wanted jewelry to be more than just a hobby.
After quitting her corporate job, she moved to New York and took a massive pay cut to learn the trade from the ground up, working retail at the now-closed store Calypso Bijoux, where Nicole Kidman used to frequent, while taking classes at FIT and the Gemology Institute of America. She later worked at Liz Claiborne as a product engineer in the jewelry department and then at David Yurman.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, Parson insists she is “risk-averse,” and that she only felt comfortable striking out on her own once she felt she had learned about every element of the business.
“I would say to anyone thinking about starting a brand, think through it. Keep your job and maybe actively pursue your entrepreneurial idea for 10-20 percent of your time,” she says, “It’s a huge financial risk, and emotional.”
Once she finally felt like she was in the right position, Parson launched her collection in 2011 at the Pierre Hotel through a showcase with the retailer Exclusively.In, and every piece from her collection sold out. “It really gave me more confidence,” she says, “People weren’t just saying my pieces were beautiful – they actually wanted to wear them. That’s the difference, that’s when I started calling it wearable art.”
Today, she has three collections – her One-of-A-Kind Collection (what Moda Operandi sells), her Diamond Essentials Collection (available at Bloomingdales), and her most accessible line, her Surf Yoga collection, with prices ranging from $125-$250. A percentage of each item sold through the Surf Yoga collection goes back to the artisans in India who create them.
Parson also creates custom pieces, including engagement rings, and pieces for men and children.
Her one advice to all of her clients, no matter what their price point? Choose your “jewelry first” when selecting an outfit.
“Jewelry’s not just an accessory, it’s a lifestyle,” she says, “When we’re sad, we can wear this and it makes us feel brighter. We feel a dose of joy.”
The Related Life is written and produced by Related Luxury Rentals. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest events, news and announcements in your area, and tag us for a chance to be featured @therelatedlife and #therelatedlife.