Viviana Langhoff: Defining Success
NYC Jewelry Week is proud to partner with Viviana Langhoff on the release of her latest fine jewelry collection Dia. Following NYCJW, the collection will be available online at Viviana’s shop Adornment & Theory, so stay tuned for that! We sat down with the multi-hyphenate to learn more how she gets it all done!
NYCJW: We all know you as an accomplished jewelry designer, entrepreneur, and a respected voice on behalf of the BIPOC jewelry industry. Can you share with us how and when your path in the jewelry world began?
Viviana Langhoff: It started when I was in college at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I was studying fashion and contemporary art. I took a small metals class and I ended up loving it. I preferred the meticulous work with metal over fabric. The exploration of jewelry also married my love of archaeology with design.
NYCJW: What is your design process? Do you have time to sit down at your bench?
VL: After scaling my business I am no longer a bench jeweler. My main focus now is being a designer and vision caster for the business. Nowadays my custom design process looks like me carving out an hour or two and reviewing my client brief. I ideate for some time by sketching and then once I’ve narrowed down my top designs I hand render several designs based off of our consultation.
My full collections are a bit different. By the time I am sitting down to build a collection I’ve been squirreling away inspo for months. Inspiration for me comes in the form of poetry, architecture when I travel, contemporary art, etc.
My collections are a combination of visual and philosophical ideas I’ve been playing with along with functionality. I always ask myself basic questions such as: Is this stunning? And would I want to wear this everyday? Would I stop someone on the street and ask about this? Is it dope? And the most important question of all : Am I proud?
NYCJW: As a designer when did you decide to make the leap to business owner?
VL: I’ve wanted to own my own store since I was a teenager. At that time I thought I was going to be a fashion designer and start a small atelier, as I grew artistically and spiritually so did my creative practice. By the time I graduated college my life passion had morphed into jewelry.
I never wanted to own a traditional jewelry store. I wanted to curate a space that treated the work like the art form that it is, but also create a stunning studio where everyday people felt welcomed.
NYCJW: How does wearing both hats – designers and retailers- inform your decisions?
VL: It informs all of my decisions daily. I can’t extrapolate my jewelry designs from commerce. When designing I need to consider functionality, design, my resources and the customer. It’s all entwined. I give myself a margin of play with designs as an artist, but not without the consideration of commerce and client.
As an artist I have other mediums that I freely play in that are not tied to commerce (i.e. painting, drawing, interior design). I think every creative needs a little of both. A medium that challenges you with parameters and another that is not bound by anything but joy.
NYCJW: Tell us about the Chicago jewelry scene. What’s trending and what’s next?
VL: Chicago is freaking AMAZING! The jewelry talent and businesses here are wide ranging; from fine luxury, alternative bridal to experimental art jewelry. When it comes to high luxury jewelry, clients in the midwest still lean towards more conservative brands with clients opting for more traditional legacy brands such as Roberto Coin and Bulgari.
In regards to art jewelry and indie fine jewelry clients want to purchase pieces that are one of a kind. I see a lot of designers playing with alternative gemstones with a clean girl aesthetic. The midwest prides itself for being hard working, understated but quite progressive. People here are conscious consumers. They do their research, they shop small and select causes to support that are important to them and stay loyal to brands.
NYCJW: Can you tell us about your work in the BIPOC space- what changes do you see happening or what else needs to be done?
VL: In the last 16 years of being in the industry I have witnessed a lot of progress in the BIPOC space. The real steroid shot of opportunity for most of us came in 2020. The jewelry industry had to do some morality triage to respond “correctly” to the lack of diversity in every aspect of the industry from wholesalers, gemologist, designers, to corporate executives. Many BIPOC initiatives were created in 2020 in a rush to respond. Some were more successful than others.
Three years later much of the energy behind these initiatives have died down.
I believe some people in positions of power have become comfortable again. Not wanting to do proper audits of their organizations to see where their biases still sway the future of their companies.As a business owner I believe that future growth is in embracing more diversity within organizations. Not just ethnic diversity, but diversity of thought, politics, gender, age. There’s such a richness and growth opportunity to bring others to the table. The key is to know how to manage it and coach those under you to be the best they can be.
The reality is our industry is expensive and has many financial barriers of entry. I still believe we have a ways to go in regards to equity work. Getting financial resources into the hands of future BIPOC coming into this industry. Whether they are seeking education by becoming GG, wholesale buyers/seller, access to the latest technology, and business capital.
NYCJW: Tell me more about the BIPOC Seed Grants that you offer?
VL: Three years ago we started the Artist Seed Grants. Small grants with no strings attached, given to working artists and jewelers. The title of the grants came from the Mexican proverb, “They tried to bury us but they didn’t know we were seeds”. The first year I took my paycheck to fund three $500 grants. By year two we had done some collaborations that created passive income so we could offer more. Now in our third year we were able to offer four $1,000 grants.
NYCJW: You are a mentor to many in the industry- do you have any mentors and what was the most solid advice imparted on you and, flipping the switch, what’s some of the advice that you give your mentees?
VL: I have had the blessing of several mentors in my life including several family members who are also in business. Most of my mentors are not in the jewelry industry, they come from varied backgrounds but have all scaled their business to 7 figure companies with employees. This is important to me because I truly respect wisdom and real world experience.
I also have other “non official” mentors, LOL. Meaning I listen to podcasts from Tim Ferriss, Marcus Limones, and other thought leaders who I respect not only their work but their personal ethics. Money isn’t everything and if you don’t have a proper perspective on morality and humanity then this is all for nothing.
I have tons of advice for my mentees. Some of the general things I say: “If you don’t know your numbers you don’t know your business”. You need to be financially literate. This is important so you can make wise decisions and hit your goals.
Define success for yourself. I see a lot of people trying to follow others’ footsteps without taking into account what they want for their lives. What lifestyle do you want to live? Do you actually want to manage people? Running a store 7 days a week? Do you actually want to travel for work all the time, etc? You need to ask yourself brutally honest questions of yourself so you don’t get lost in the comparison game.
NYCJW: You are one of the hardest working individuals in the business, often hopping on planes for appearances and rarely saying no. How do you maintain a balance and take time for yourself?
VL: Hahaha it’s funny to be perceived that way. I actually did say “no” a fair amount this past year to protect my personal time. Relationships are of the utmost importance to me, so I keep a margin in my life to show up for those people who I love and deeply value.
In regards to work life balance I am still figuring it out. Ambition and contentment are a tightrope I walk daily. I am very grateful to have been riding a wave of growth the last 6 years. What helps me is that I am extremely clear about my goals. I have a vision on how I want to see Adornment and Theory and my personal brand Viviana Langhoff Designs grow.
In order to realize these goals I try to be discerning about what projects to take on and what appearances I need to be at. I try to work smart and not hard but the truth is I have an amazing team. I have the privilege of managing 5 extraordinary women, and with their help we are able to pull our talents together to make it happen. Don’t be fooled by socials, it takes a village honey.
NYCJW: What is your jewelry style? And how do you choose whose work to stock at Adornment & Theory?
VL: At Adornment and Theory we seek out designers who are creating work that clients can easily style but still has its own unique voice. We purposefully take on designers who are aesthetically different from each other so as to not cannibalize the work.
My personal jewelry style is a little sexy and edgy, I enjoy mixing high and low. I have a collection of chunky ethnic adornments from my travels, as well as door knockers from hair supply stores. I mix all of it with my diamonds and fine jewelry and I find it works for my style.
NYCJW: What is your favorite piece from the Dia collection?
VL: My favorite pieces are the Rayo wrap ring and matching statement cuff. The designs are bold, edgy with fine meticulous details that are signature to my designs.
Below, Viviana shares more info about Dia, the latest collection by Viviana Langhoff launching at NYC Jewelry Week 2023.
I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being. – Hafiz
“There are few greater needs right now in this world than hope. My desire was to bring beauty, light, and hope into the world through my designs. ‘Let there be light’ was God’s first creative utterance. It is an invocation of hope, new beginnings, and the subjugation of darkness. This simple phrase calls for the eradication of ignorance and invites spiritual enlightenment. I sought to embody these words in my work, while intentionally using the phrase as a channel to produce my latest collection…Dia.”
Dia is comprised of 12 luminous pieces made out of luxe 14k yellow gold, warm citrines, champagne diamonds, and a radiant shimmer of white diamonds. Each piece was meticulously finished with fine milgrain details that tell the story of the dawning of a new day.
The main visual inspiration for the collection was derived from the Art Deco futurism of Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis and Latin American pre-Columbian art.
Shop the collection soon online at Adornment & Theory. Stay tuned!