What if you could buy jewelry knowing your purchase was tied to a meaningful cause? With AZLEE, each purchase gifts 10 pounds of food to the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. As a native Californian and surfer, designer Baylee Zwart bridges this connection between her love of the ocean and delicately dramatic jewelry.
Worn by the likes of Rihanna, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Zoë Kravitz, AZLEE has emerged as a top new force within fine jewelry. The collections have substantial range, whether quietly elegant, Deco-style baguette diamond clusters within a ring or spiky and geometric collars.
On a blustery morning during Fashion Week, we kicked off our morning at French-inspired Lafayette with Baylee and learned about her impressive background in sustainability and less-is-more approach to wearing jewelry. -Jenna Fain for The Stone Set
I’m generally in all black, that is one thing you can count on with me. I’m just not a big color person. I love clean, sleek, easy pieces that are comfortable but sophisticated. Here I am in a black lace button up, with a great wide Spanish sleeve for a slight flair, high-waisted black pants, and Paco Rabanne boots. The coat was my mom’s vintage St. John, which is a bit more ornate than my taste, but seeing as we are based in LA, I don’t have very many coats! I keep makeup pretty natural and light, and just try and focus on taking care of my skin so that I don’t have to wear a lot of makeup. I’m always on the run, so I generally just stick to basics for the everyday, casual LA vibe.
I am drinking black tea, which is a staple. I grew up with my grandmother always taking me to tea, so it has a special place in my heart. It always reminds me of her. I usually add steamed almond milk and Stevia. I love a creamy tea latte! I was in New York for Fashion Week, so I jumped at the opportunity to have some food at our meeting. It gets so hectic with appointments, that sit-down meals are few and far between! So I throughly enjoyed my granola, berry and yogurt bowl. I love Lafayette in NoHo because it’s warm, cozy, and easy to pop in and out. They also get a lot of fashion people, so we always seem to run into friends there.
Jewelry came to me unexpectedly. I had always adored fashion, and worked at fashion magazines for a bit in New York, but knew quickly that wasn’t how I wanted to be involved in the fashion world. I was interested in learning more about the intersection of fashion and philanthropy which lead me down to Guatemala to work at a fair-trade non-profit that worked with artisans to create accessories & jewelry. While I was living down there I, through a series of random events, started studying metal working and fell madly in love with it.
I found so much freedom in being able to create something you could wear from the ground up with no limitations. I think it was the perfect time in my life to find this passion as I had the time to explore it while I was down there. I lost sleep dreaming about what I was going to design next. I dove fully into it and any time outside of work was devoted to jewelry. By making it myself at the beginning (everything is now manufactured locally in LA), I learned a lot about settings, metals, and the structural elements of jewelry.
Once back in the States, I was hired by TOMS Shoes to work on their high-end capsule collections for their luxury retailers. It was there I learned about giving responsibility (each piece sold helps ocean-related causes) and also many of the other facets that go into running a fashion company. That experience was invaluable. While still at TOMS I was working on AZLEE at night, and developed the whole first collection while still there. Once I couldn’t balance the two anymore, I made the jump to leave TOMS and do AZLEE full time.
Back to Lafayette. My Glow Diamond Earrings and Collar are part of the Abyss II Collection which was inspired by the endless and immeasurable galaxy. I wanted to create something slightly otherworldly which is where the shape and placement of the baguettes derived from. The Electric Diamond Collar is one of our staple pieces, and personally a staple for me. It’s so easy to wear. It’s basically just a thread of diamonds around your neck, and feels so special.
I am also wearing the Glow Diamond Ring that matches the collar and earrings. It is such a killer, all baguette diamond ring. It can be worn facing up or down. It’s so unique but wearable and stunning. It also looks killer this way with other bands stacked on top of it. Very dramatic. The other ring I’m wearing is the Flare Diamond Ring. It can be worn facing up or down. I have it facing down towards my knuckles because I love how it feels armor-like draped over the knuckles. It is inspired by movement and electricity. I just love the feeling of chaos it provokes.
The pinky rings top everything off and I never take them off. The Glow Diamond Pinky Ring features princess-cut diamonds and is a really sleek and modern piece. I always layer it with the All Over Diamond Pinky Ring which takes it to the next level. When I want to keep things minimal, I will just wear these two pinky rings and nothing else.
Photography by Emerald Carroll for The Stone Set