Every year around this time, I start dreaming of raffia hats, sand between my toes, and picking pretty seashells from the shore (say that 3 times fast!). It’s warm enough here in Florida to throw on my wedges, shorts and gauzy white tops, but cool enough still that I don’t want to punch summer in the blazing face while I pray for winter, well… “winter.”
So it should really be no surprise that I’m totally crushing on Tiffany Chou jewelry as of late (and throwing pennies in my wishwell to go to Turks & Caicos). Seashell necklaces, coral bracelets, starfish earrings – all her jewelry is inspired by her love of the ocean. The adorable Korean-born Hawaii native currently lives in New York, where she dabbled in knitwear design for Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters, and beading for Ralph Lauren, before starting Tiffany Chou Jewelry. Besides her too-cute-for-words designs, I can’t help by love how she gives back with charities (read more on that below.)
I was given the chance to try out some of her pieces (like the Wish On These earrings, Listen to the Ocean necklace, and the Oh My Urchin rose gold bracelet) and I fell in love faster than I could unwrap my packages! They are super high quality, plated with gold, rose gold, or sterling silver, and very well made. Though I have to send back my samples, I loved that conch shell necklace so much, I may have to scoop one up online. Well…and the adorable starfish earrings. Thankfully, for myself AND you, my lovely readers, Tiffany is extending a 10% off discount! Use code AJ10 for the next two weeks to cash in.
But, without further ado, meet Tiffany Chou.
Having grown up in Hawaii, how has living and working in New York affected your life and your work?
New York has been great because I have learned so much about the fashion and jewelry industries and aspects that I have never even thought of. Everything is at your fingertips, and it makes you feel like you can create anything here. The only downside of the city life is being so out of touch with nature.
How did you start making jewelry?
I took a jewelry and soldering class in middle school, and started selling jewelry in high school.
What inspires you during the jewelry design process?
Nature, ocean related documentaries and books, and Finding Nemo. If I am looking for inspiration, I usually look at tons of marine life and coral reef photographs.
What is a typical day like for you as a jewelry designer?
Sometimes I have dreams about designs, so I’ll try to draw it if I can remember it by the time I wake up. I usually run around the city checking on/picking up things that are being made. Most days I put a bunch of necklaces together, and try out new designs. I try to work on/improve my website regularly as well as drawing out designs until I get something that will translate into metal nicely.
Besides designing and jewelry, what are some of your other interests?
I love food, free diving and being active. I try to travel whenever there is an opportunity to. I also have a small gambling addiction, and am a pretty good poker player.
Tell us about your jewelry collection. What makes it special to those who own and wear your designs?
I think what makes my pieces special is that people can remember walking along a beach and picking up a shell that looked just like the necklace they are wearing. I think the ocean can be very calming and comforting, and with my jewelry people can always carry a part of that with them. They are statement pieces that can be worn every day.
Who is your typical customer?
A lot of young adult women enjoy my jewelry, but so do older women. Pieces of the ocean mean something different to everyone, but there is no age limit on someone being able to connect with a piece.
What is your design philosophy? What is important to you during the process?
I try to be as environmentally conscious as possible. There are a lot of designs that I would like to make but won’t because of the environmental consequences. I try not to think too hard about designing, the best designs come naturally. I think once you take things too seriously it is not as enjoyable.
You’re so passionate about the environment. Do you support any causes or charities?
The Coral Reef Alliance, because they work to save and protect our reefs. Having a living healthy ocean is important because it affects everything on the planet. Having grown up surrounded by water, the ocean and everything in it has always been very important to me.
Also, I started the Dancing Palette with a friend of mine back in high school to provide a safe environment for kids with disabilities to participate in and express themselves artistically. It is very close to me because one of my brothers is autistic and was turned away from several programs growing up because of it. We wanted to give them something they could look forward to and a place that would not discourage them but support them. The charity was adopted by the Easter Seals of Hawaii after I graduated from high school, and is still going strong today.
Which one of your pieces are you most proud of?
Probably the “My Fair Coral” cuff, because it started from scratch. I had an idea I wanted to create and sketched it out. The fact that other people love it makes me even more proud of the piece.
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