Hollywood's New 'It' Jewelry Designer Sets Up Shop in Brentwood
Karen Lazar, whose beaded bracelets have been sported by Angelina Jolie, Reese Witherspoon and Dana Walden, debuts a by-appointment-only studio.
Los Angeles' of-the-moment jewelry designer is a longtime fixture on the city's fashion scene: Angeleno native Karen Lazar, the force behind one-time Beverly Hills fashion destination Acacia and women’s pant label Gavin, has channeled her sartorial sensibilities into an eponymous accessories line centered around her Karen Lazar Design stackable 14k gold-filled beaded bracelets that have gained a sizeable following amongst Tinseltown's style set.
But long before Lazar's coveted designs were seen flashing on the wrists of Angelina Jolie, Reese Witherspoon and Mila Kunis, the designer's line gained a cult following closer to home — namely, among fellow Westside moms and their style-savvy kids.
Now, after several years of selling her made-in-L.A. jewelry out of her home, the designer has opened a light-filled, by-appointment-only studio in Brentwood Village, catering primarily to her robust Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, and Beverly Hills clientele. (Additionally, the line is currently carried by Aerin Lauder’s namesake lifestyle-driven site, Aspen’s Covet boutique, and at tony vacation destinations such as Four Seasons Resort Maui and One&Only Palmilla.)
"I have known Karen for years, so once I heard she was selling them I went over to see what all the options were," says Hollywood executive stylist Dana Asher Levine, who was introduced to the designer via her longtime client, Fox Television Group chair and CEO Dana Walden. "They remind me of New Age charm bracelets. You [can] wear a few or many. I recommended them to all my clients for Christmas gifts last year."
Priced between $45 and $600, the line spans classic 14k gold (yellow, rose) or sterling silver elasticated beaded bracelets (bead sizes range from 2mm to 10mm) to pieces decorated with gemstones or ornate charms, such as the diamond-encrusted Chiclet and a recently introduced evil eye — all artfully arranged in trays according to sizes on a wood dining table that once sat in Lazar's home and now anchors her studio. Two years ago, the designer also introduced necklaces to the collection, which has also expanded to include anklets and rings.
Lazar never set out to become a designer. "I know how to sell and I know what looks good," says Lazar, who studied merchandising at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco before landing a job at former luxury retailer Lina Lee on Rodeo Drive in the 1980s. "I remember I was scared to sell an $800 belt," she recalls. "I showed it to a lady and she bought two. After that, I was never scared to sell anything again."
Lazar continued to rack up retail experience, working at the likes of Diane Merrick before debuting her boutique, Acacia, in 1994 in Beverly Hills, which showcased then-emerging European designers. After its shuttering in 2003, Lazar teamed up with a designer to launch women’s trouser line Gavin, which they promptly sold in 2008 after the birth of Lazar’s son.
But it wasn't until she rediscovered gold beads in her jewelry box that she envisioned her first set of bracelets. "I took them to [someone who is] now my beader, and said, 'Can you make me bracelets out of this?'" recalls Lazar, who paired the original gold beads with stones from other bracelets. "For two years, I wore nine bracelets in 2mm and 3mm beads, and everyone kept asking me where I got them from."
Worn solo, stacked or teamed with other jewelry, clients quickly snapped up Lazar’s bracelets for their versatility. "Everybody was buying them to go with their Cartier Love bracelet. Everybody wanted something to go with their watch or their bangle," says Lazar. "It made it look modern, and they’re easy to wear, and you don’t have to take them off. You can swim in them, shower in them."
Through word of mouth, Lazar’s business — which launched in 2013 — started to grow, with the designer selling pieces out of her car before the collection got too big to tote around. At that point, she converted her kitchen and dining room into a makeshift studio, working alongside her team of beaders and continuing to sell to her clients. "I had to get this space because we grew," she says, gesturing to a wall festooned with bracelets behind her.
And it's not just Lazar’s life that has changed with the explosion of the line. "I’ve changed the business for the people in Downtown L.A. who I originally bought my beads from,” says Lazar with a smile. "I just placed an order for 200,000 beads last month."
Karen Lazar Design, 310-208-2300; karenlazardesign.com