Designer Michele Varian on How Jewelry IS Design

By Michele Varian, as told to Emily R. Pellerin

11.09.18 | By
Designer Michele Varian on How Jewelry IS Design

Celebrating the inaugural NYC Jewelry Week with “Out of This World,” a shoppable jewelry exhibition co-curated with Adorn Milk through the end of December, with a Design Roundtable on November 13th + designer launch party November 15th. RSVP

The power of design extends—crisscrosses and runs through—creative industries in their manufacturing, but also by aesthetic application to different product categories. That’s why, as a product designer and home goods retailer, I’ve always had a healthy selection of jewelry in my shop, too. I started out as a fashion designer, so it has been a satisfying way to keep my fingers in the fashion pie.

NYC Jewelry Week: The Happenings

Just like my design practice has expanded across multiple disciplines, so have the practices of many of the jewelers I carry, which stretch across architecture and product design. To celebrate this expansion and crossover of medium and practice—and the kinship between jewelry and product design—I’m hosting a jewelry exhibition during this year’s inaugural NYC Jewelry Week: “Out of This World.” Since I already have one of the largest selections of fine jewelry from “indie” designers in NYC, for this event I wanted to showcase pieces that go beyond the ordinary, and beyond my store’s usual inventory, while also nodding to that inventory’s typical curiousness and offbeat design inclination. So, for “Out of This World” I’m showcasing jewelers whose collections feature otherworldly components such as UFOs, zombies (in 14k gold & rubies!), mythical creatures (Medusa! Aliens!), shooting stars, celestial motifs, constellations, oceanic oddities, futuristic and sculptural or amorphous shapes and materials, nods to 2001 A Space Odyssey and Star Trek… and more!

Powered by through a new retail model called “pop-share,” the exhibit features jewelers Eva Noga, Kimberlin Brown, Annika Inez, and Sofia Zakia. Plus, a selection of more futuristic and sculptural work co-curated with Adorn Milk, featuring its jewelers Gossamer, Daniela Barone, Pico Design, Kyla Katz, MGG Studio, and WKNDLA. (S/o to Guesst for its quick and easy facilitation of the exhibit, which is up till the end of December! It gave us the infrastructure and sales tools to automate the process of working with all these lovely designers, easily incorporating them into our brick and mortar store for our specified period of time.)

Also in conjunction with NYC Jewelry Week, I’m hosting a panel discussion featuring industry experts Annika Inez, JB Jones, Liz Kantner, and Natalya Geremesz. We’ll be discussing the Design Talk Roundtable theme, “The Jewelry Industry: Beyond Aesthetics,” to keep on, keepin’ on with the ins and outs of the business of jewelry.

Why Jewelry, Too?

Just like Design Milk’s expansion into jewelry with Adorn Milk, the Michele Varian shop started as an interior design and home goods resource but has grown into a destination for fine jewelry. And just like I mentioned above, the design industry’s crisscrossing with many mediums and modes of production is paralleled by the jewelry industry’s similar diversity of manufacturing and design processes.

Michele Varian store

As a jewelry retailer, one thing I’ve witnessed—and absolutely enjoyed—are the shifts in trends. Sometimes the trends are initiated by a single visionary who introduces a collection that inspires others to follow suit. Sometimes there is a common zeitgeist that dictates a new trajectory in design. Either way, each new trend brings new designers to the forefront because of their ability to create a collection that excites us in a new way.

The Power of Pretty Pretty Product as an Economic Driver

Every time design crosses from one medium to another, it creates a potential new source of revenue, and potential new businesses and jobs. I love that someone with a strong design vocabulary can apply it to so many different potential enterprises. In NYC, jewelry is a BILLION DOLLAR industry! I applaud the visionaries Bella Neyman & JB Jones, who have initiated and organized this first NYC Jewelry Week. I think they deserve a round of applause for bringing a worthy awareness to an enormous economic contributor that is really driven by design, and is a testament to the importance of supporting and nurturing design communities.

Jewelry has the Power to Transform

People frequently comment on the boldness of the jewelry I wear (all of which is of course from my store!). They’ll toss out a compliment followed by a self-dismissal, saying, “I could never wear that. I’m too short, too big, too whatever!” But these sorts of “who can wear what” rules drive me crazy. Scale never weighs into my decision to wear something. Do you like it? Then make it work! Have fun with it! Jewelry as design is fantastic, because if you’re wearing a killer piece, it has the power to transform you; jewelry offers a reliable fashion statement that doesn’t depend on your outfit, or on having a good hair day. Whatever your stature or identity, jewelry always fits! It creates significant moments on the body in the same way home design pieces create significant, memorable moments in physical spaces.

I hope to cross paths with you during NYCJW this November 12th-18th as we fête the beauty of jewelry design, and the importance of jewelry as a design enterprise. RSVP for Michele Varian events here, or catch us out and about! See you around, lovelies!

Michele Varian is a designer, micro-manufacturer, retailer, and Co-Founder of, a retail-matchmaking platform offering pop-shares as a solution to sustaining brick and mortar retail.