Monday, December 23, 2013

My Interview with Jewelry Designer Lydia McLaughlin -- Entrepreneur and Ex-OC Housewife!

(The sparkling Lydia McLaughlin!)

Yes, Lydia McLaughlin from "The Real Housewives of Orange County" is as down-to-earth as she appears on television! In my exclusive interview with the now Ex-OC Housewife (by choice), the mother of two as well as co-founder and managing editor of one of California's most high-end luxury publications - Beverly Hills Lifestyle -- we get the goods. Granddaughter of the founder of NTV, the largest privately held multi-media company in Canada, Lydia talks about her love for fashion, her new, limited-edited handcrafted jewelry line LYDIA M Jewelry, the importance of feeling unique and beautiful, and how she held her own as a regular on one of the hottest shows to hit Bravo TV

Having kept up with “The Real Housewives of Orange County” since its beginning, I have to say it’s so nice to be able to have the chance to speak with you because you appear so kind and down-to-earth. Also, it’s interesting to learn about the entrepreneurship that runs in your family…

It’s always fun to talk to someone too that knows a little bit about you, so that’s good!

OK, I’m excited to pick your brain about being a jewelry designer.  When did you start designing?

Well, I’ve always really been into fashion. When I was in high school, I would always wear necklaces in my hair and do things that I thought were super cool. I’ve always been interested in it, and then when my husband and I started our magazine, Beverly Hills Lifestyle, five years ago, I got to be on all these photo shoots and I was meeting other designers and other fashion people – I got to go in to all these showrooms. And I realized, 'Wow, they’re just people who are living out their dreams. So I could do it too.' So in a lot of ways, that gave me the confidence and the connection to meet with people so I could ask how they make a necklace and where do I get the products to put together a jewelry line. Like ‘I love these kinds of earrings, so how could I implement that?’ So I started doing the research for it, basically five years ago, and then I partnered up with a jeweler two years ago.  

    "Pandora Bangles" by LYDIA M Jewelry

So since you started, how do you feel now? Do you feel like “OK, I got this. This is my new calling”…?

As far as “I got this”...For me, when I feel like that, then I’m ready to move on with something. I’m into the challenge of learning, and I always like changing and evolving, so I do not feel like I’ve got this. I feel like it’s really exciting and I love it, and I love learning more. The first line we did was all with gold. I love sparkle and gold, and I love working with that material. So I think I’m still learning, and there’s so much to learn. This is just the beginning. As far as feeling like this is my calling, it’s  definitely something that I love. We have a bunch of other businesses and bunch of other ventures, but I’m definitely putting a lot of love and energy into it...I don’t think I’m finished yet – I’m only 32.

It’s great to know that you’re really getting in there, and it’s still new!

Yeah, I’m still growing as a jewelry designer and I’m still learning the ropes. Right now, you can get it on my website, I’m really passionate about making the jewelry, making what I would like to wear, and perfecting the products. We are also at one store ("Treasures") at the Montage in Laguna Beach. We really haven’t pursued yet getting it in a bunch of stores. One day I would love to have my line in Bloomingdales and Neiman Marcus, and stores like that. But all of that takes so much time, so we haven’t expanded yet or really pursued that. We’re mainly offering it on my website, and that’s working and being really successful right now. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll have another line and…I’ll take over the world!

I wouldn’t doubt that!

Right now, I’m comfortable where I am.

Besides designing for yourself and what you would like to wear, what type of woman do you envision wearing your jewelry?

You know, honestly, they are really versatile pieces.  And so, you can wear it to a play date with your kids at the park, and then you can wear it to dinner, and then you can wear it to a board meeting. I like to put it on in the morning, and kinda go through the day. It fits my lifestyle. I think it’s good for all sorts of women. At the mall, I’ve had younger girls come up to me wearing it. They probably were in high school, and they were wearing my hoop earrings. It was like their big Sweet Sixteen birthday present or something, and that was really cool to see that. And also, I wear my jewelry – my bangles – on the red carpet all the time. So it really is for anyone that likes sparkle and gold.

"Calypso Ring" by LYDIA M Jewelry

I love that your jewelry has a vintage feel!

It actually is modeled after that. I found a bunch of vintage brooches and old pins, and since those are one of a kind, I really wanted to find things that looked like those original vintage clips that I found.

How involved are you with the creation of each piece?

It’s all handmade in Orange County, so yes, every piece I have touched for sure. I’m not in my bedroom working on it, from 9 to 9. We have people that are doing that, but I’m really involved. Like I said, I see every piece and I touch every piece, and I make sure that I would wear it and it’s exactly up to par to what I had envisioned.

As for starting the line and being involved in the process of creating it, have there been some challenges that you had to overcome?

Well, maybe a challenge was just with being on the Real Housewives [of Orange County], you don’t get to control what they show. So I was kind of bummed that they didn’t show a really cool photo shoot at the beach and that I had met with my jewelry designer…And they didn’t put that in as part of my story.

That is a total bummer! That would have been amazing to watch…

But I think the show likes to show the drama or a challenge a lot of times, and it was just like, “Wow, here she is designing, and here she is at the beautiful beach with models.” I think if I had maybe got in a fight with someone, it would have made the cut! [laughs] I think in one of the scenes Vicki says “Oh, what do you do? You’re a jewelry designer?” After that, you could see orders coming in across the country. That’s how powerful the show is...or, maybe that’s just how awesome my jewelry is! [laughs] Imagining if people were to see those scenes, it would have made it more interesting. So that was a challenge. You never know what they’re gonna do.

("Hero Bracelet" by LYDIA M Jewelry)

 Well, I’m sure the exposure still feels really good from being on the show…

Oh my gosh! I’m so grateful for the opportunity, honestly. It’s a wonderful platform, and it’s so humbling. If I hadn’t done the show, I never would have 16 year old girls coming up to me at the mall when I’m with my kids, like “Hey, I’m wearing your earrings! Can I get a picture?” And that a thousand percent has to do with the Housewives, and only because I was a housewife. So I definitely don’t take that for granted.

I'd say it's apparent that many “reality stars” have made that life their path. But you have really created your own empire – your own life. So it’s really exciting to hear about this jewelry line!

Thank you, I appreciate that. I think the producers were interested in me because I do have my own stuff. Like we have our own magazine and I have the jewelry line, and we have a lot going on in our lives. And I think sometimes people become reality stars, and then they get to do those things because of the show. It was good for me, because I could just be myself and I didn’t need to play into it in any way. And I could walk away at any minute – and I did walk away. So it was freeing for me, because I didn’t need the show. And I think if you really need it, you’re more willing to compromise some things…

I really respect that. Thank you for sharing. As for the cost of your jewelry collection, what is the current price range?

Everything is basically under $400, and it’s starting at $50. It’s a pretty wide range; we sell rings that are around $150 and earrings around $100, and necklaces are about $300 – it just depends. We’re releasing two necklaces for Christmas, which are more affordable for a present…which is really cool. Also, there was a headband with a little bling that I wore a lot on the show, so I made my own which is really cool that I’ve been wearing. I’m gonna roll that out also on the website.

So exciting! You know I started Good Girl Gone Shopping in 2007, where it was just about finding everything on sale and that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on things. Now, it’s turned into a bit more of interviewing designers and getting into the inspiration and providing tips. So now, it’s not just about finding things that are cheap, it’s about quality as well…

That’s cool. Yeah, my jewelry is handmade and they’re gold, and it’s gold filled, not gold-plated.  I have super-sensitive skin, so I wanted to make the nicest, best stuff. And so they really are pieces that will last. They are really lightweight, and so you forget you’re wearing them. Like my bangles, I sleep in them sometime when I forget to take them off. They have that pop of bling, and it’s really comfortable jewelry. I hate wearing those earrings that at the end of the day, you just can’t wait to take them off. And mine, you just forget that you’re wearing them until someone compliments you.

(Supermom Lydia with the fam!)

 So it sounds like your line is a balance of comfort, chic wear, and quality…

Yeah, that’s how I am. I love fashion...I love being cute and expressing myself and how I’m feeling….and being kind of quirky through my clothes. But I really like comfort, and I always tend to wear the pair of jeans that are the most comfortable. So, you know, I think jewelry is the same way.

I agree! And I do see some statement styles from your collection too.

Definitely. I have some dainty pieces, but a lot of them are the rock star piece. It’s like yeah, you put that ring on, and your statement piece for sure, which is fun.

My last question: What type of emotional benefits would you want a woman to gain from wearing your jewelry?

I just want her to feel beautiful and to know that she’s unique.  I think today, in American culture, in society…There’s a very certain sense of beauty…that you should look a certain way. But I think that we’re all unique and special, and that nothing about us is a mistake. I think that if you put on a little extra bling and it makes you feel beautiful, then my work here is done.

I love that. What a great quote!

Also, 10 percent of everything goes to isanctuary, which is a non-profit jewelry line. They hire women that have ben rescued from human trafficking to make all their jewelry. So we give back to them and contribute to their whole slogan, which is “Purchase with a Purpose.” Their stuff is really affordable; a lot of it is like under 20 bucks, and on the back [of the pieces] it’s been signed by the woman who made the jewelry. She’s been a victim of human trafficking and has been rescued. 

Connect with Lydia (@OCLydia) on Twitter and Instagram

Photo Credits: Courtesy of Anderson Group PR


Unknown said...

I like her even more than I already did. Checked out the jewelery and looks like I'll be snagging some earrings for my bday.

Good Girl Gone Shopping said...

Thanks for checking out Lydia's interview! Yup, her jewelry is gorgeous :-) Happy Birthday to you!!

lady.ed said...

Wow, what a great ending to this interview...I didn't know about isanctuary and Lydia is amazing for creating jewelry with a purpose!

Good Girl Gone Shopping said...

Lady.ed, thanks for reading! I too, love, that Lydia has created jewelry with a purpose! It's refreshing. She's quite the talent. Love her collection!