WOMEN WHO LAUNCH

Women Who Launch: J. Lingnau Jewelry

Joanna Lingnau, 37
President & Designer, J. Lingnau Jewelry

Joanna Lingnau is a Chicago-based fine jewelry designer from Bainbridge Island, Washington who uses recycled metals and precious stones in her jewelry creations. Having recently moved to Singapore from Chicago, IL with her husband and two daughters, I met Joanna at an art painting workshop last summer. Joanna attended the famed Université Paris-Sorbonne in Paris, and Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City. Her budding career as young fashion designer took an interesting detour midway when she signed up for a jewelry making class. In this interview, you will discover that this friendly, open and sprightly woman is the person she is today by always stepping out of boundaries with her creative talent.

What is your ethnic background?
I’m mixed-race person – Korean, German and Norwegian.

How did you get into making jewelry?
Since I was a teenager. I was a creative kid, always designing and making something or other. Before I started my company J. Lingnau Jewelry, I was a fashion designer. After I moved to Chicago, I was looking for something to do and signed up for a jewelry making class.

And how was that experience?
It was wonderfully strange to work with new materials, like precious metals and stones instead of my usual medium of fabric. It was very exciting.

What prompted you to start a handmade fine jewelry making business?
In 2007 when my eldest daughter was just starting to walk, I decided I wanted to start working again. And my new passion for designing jewelry seemed a natural choice. Everything progressed for me from there.

Do you remember your first sale?
I don’t remember my first jewelry sale. But I do remember the first time my clothing designs sold in a retail boutique. I was 16 years old. I had no idea who the customers were. I was super thrilled that my designs were out there in the world, people bought them and they were worn by stylist women I had never even met.

Are you still designing clothes?
Just for myself, not professionally. I’ve done it for so many years, it’s like a habit. I don’t think I will ever be able to stop designing clothes.

When you started J. Lingnau Jewelry, why the use of recycled metals and precious stones?
I try to be mindful of my impact on the world. So why not recycle these precious materials whenever possible? I believe luxury is neither wasteful nor disposable.

How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?
I focus on designing the most beautiful jewelry I can – pieces that I would want to wear again and again. I think that intention translates very well to the customer.

Do you sell your jewelry in Singapore? In your opinion, what is the difference between US and Singaporean customers?
I don’t sell my jewelry in Singapore, yet. I’ll have to see if the right relationship develops. From causal observation, Singaporeans highly value the well-known global luxury brands;. In other major cities in the world, a trend towards a more individual sense of style has evolved, one that is focused on uniqueness and personality. Since Singapore is part of the global community, that trend will eventually catch on here as well.

What brings you to Singapore?
My husband and I were up for an international adventure. Also, we wanted to expose our girls to another culture. Singapore seemed the perfect fit.

How are you running your US-based jewelry business while living in Singapore?
I still manage the day-to-day aspects like designing, sales, managing orders and responding to inquiries. It has been more of a challenge than I envisioned before the move. Thankfully, technology allows me to stay in touch with everything. But nothing can take the place of seeing things with your own eyes. Without the personal relationships I built before we moved, it would not be possible at all.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Oh, all over the place….characters in books, art, historical artifacts, movies, architectural and decorative elements in the places we visit while traveling around Asia…you name it!

From a financial aspect, is handmade fine jewelry a viable business?
It is not an easy path to choose, but absolutely! It is a matter of priorities. With the support of family and friends, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to prioritize creative freedom, work with the best people, be flexible for my young family and give back to the community. The opportunity to design my own pieces and make them accessible to my customers fulfills me.

Your jewelry pieces have been sported on Hollywood celebrities, and featured in some women’s fashion magazines such as Elle, Instyle and even MTV. Of the lot, which would you say was your most exciting publicity feature?
Actually, I don’t keep up with celebrity magazines and I respect the privacy of my celebrity customers. The customers I am most honored by, are those looking for a special surprise for their wife, husband, mother, sister, best friend and couples choosing their wedding bands. I guess the most exciting thing for me is to unexpectedly see one of my pieces in print or on screen. It is a surprise that is so delightful…like seeing an old friend at a crowded party.

What is your best selling collection?
The Arielle diamond necklace and earrings and the Nick and Nora rings, have been the best sellers for years. The Infinity Snake diamond necklace and the Crossed Fingers necklace are also favorites.

lingnau jewelry

What advice would you give to young women entrepreneurs thinking of setting up a jewelry design business?
You must have a true passion for not only the product, but also for the creative process. It comes through in your work and distinguishes you from the crowd.

What is jewelry making to you?
The ultimate goal for me as a designer is to create something of value. Not just the value of gold and precious stones, but also the sentimental value. What I love about jewelry is that it is intimate and meaningful, and can be passed on for generations.

Do you practice eco-consicous living?
I do my best, although it is more difficult in Singapore than it is in the US. Back home, we recycle almost everything. But in Singapore, there is almost no recycling! We try to use energy as efficiently as possible at home. I teach my kids to reuse things for new purposes and donate, rather than throw away what we don’t need.

If you could play your part in saving the plant in just ONE way in your everyday life, what would it be?
I would teach my kids to develop an understanding of the importance of saving reseources – the reuse, reduce and recycle mantra. I want to encourage them to be responsible citizens of the 21st century.

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Thanks Joanna ♥
For more information on J. Lingnau Jewelry, visit her website.


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