New York-based designer Mimi So has been designing luxury jewelry with a dash of whimsy and art for over 20 years. Upon invitation to explore her new store at 21 Crosby Street from our friend Karen Robinovitz, whose eye for talent is second to none, we were immediately captivated by the range of her jewelry.
Modern and geometric like the Piece collection (the pinky signet ring is a must) or decadently playful like the Wonderland line featuring bunnies, orchids, and butterflies, Mimi’s pieces are like objet for seasoned collectors.
Beyond fine jewelry that is essential and original, Mimi herself is a strong and bold business mind with a flair for eye-catching fashion. We admire that her customer base is a group of creative and diverse women who trust her to adorn them accordingly. Line us up. -Jenna Wise for The Stone Set
How did your path lead you to be a jewelry designer?
Jewelry is in my DNA. As a young girl, I spent countless hours in my parents’ studio surrounded by precious gemstones and metals. I learned a great deal about art and beauty from my mother who was the designer, and about precision and craftsmanship from my father, the jeweler.
At the same time, growing up on the Lower East Side, I spent days surrounded by the energy of Latin music, crowded basketball courts and raw, urban street style. I was totally hooked on the way people use dress to define their tribes and personalities. It was such a contrast to my conservative Chinese upbringing, and this curiosity fuels my creativity. I ultimately went to school to study graphic design where I honed my eye for line and proportion. Shortly after school, I launched my brand, blending my three greatest passions: jewelry, fashion and design.
What does your line represent? How is it reflective of you?
My collection has an authentic point of view. Each collection is inspired by personal stories of growth, joy or perseverance. As a woman, mother, wife and entrepreneur, I have many stories to tell.
We love your jewelry’s playful and spirited qualities. Is there a certain collection that most resonate with you?
Wonderland is the most recent collection I designed — and is constantly growing. I just reached this place in life where I wanted to create a secret garden where I could freely express my creativity, color outside of the lines and bring some joy and happiness into the world.
What pieces do you wear every day?
For starters, I wear two Phoenix cuffs and a sideways pendant every day; they are precious reminders of how far I’ve come in life. All the risks I’ve taken and the obstacles I’ve overcome have all brought me to this satisfying point. I also wear my Piece signet ring on my pinky which symbolizes the past, present and future.
Your new store on Crosby Street is beautiful. What was your design vision?
I grew up in the concrete jungle, so I was always fascinated with lush forests and the creatures within them. I thought it would be ultra luxurious to live in a treehouse. I wanted to design a cozy place for people to come and feel welcome to explore my jewels, as if you were visiting me at home. This boutique is my Wonderland, an urban treehouse setting.
You have a love of high fashion. What’s your approach to personal style and what role does jewelry play?
I have loved fashion ever since I was a little girl growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. My personal approach varies depending on my mood and the event. Though the underlying theme for me is comfort and with a mix of whimsy. I can pair major heels with either a body-con dress that’s pretty major or a sporty outfit. Jewelry is definitely a major feature for me and is the cherry on the icing of a cake. Depending on the outfit, it can be major earrings or a handful of rings on each finger.
What have been breakout moments in your career?
One major breakout moment in my career was the year I dressed all three ladies from Destiny’s Child: Beyoncé, Kelly and Michelle —and that was the first year they won five Grammys! After that, I had a streak of five straight years dressing every major R&B artist including Alicia Keys winning her first Grammy, JLo in the movies, to A-list red carpet starlets and the women of Sex & the City.
We admire your decision to build your brand on your own rather than take investment. What have you learned?
What I’ve learned from standing alone instead of continuing with Richemont was to believe in myself and to nurture my true vision. I chose to follow my passion even when I no longer had a net beneath me. In doing so, I developed such a strong inner strength and I grew in so many ways which allowed me to fully understand and realize my brand identity. That is priceless.
Images courtesy of Mimi So