Margaret Lajara-Ruiz created a line called Xpressions by ML out of a passion of doing what she loved and being her own boss. That hit so close to home. That was me once. I’ll be the first to admit that I while I do not glorify being being busy, I’ve been drowning lately in work. Between the new baby, the new house, the new writing gigs, new clients, my inbox was drowning as well. A few months back, I received an email about a new jewelry designer in NYC with a link to Lajara-Ruiz’s shop and lookbook. I bookmarked the email and it got lost in the hundreds that soon followed. Then a few weeks later, I received an email from the designer herself, telling me her story and how she would love my support as a fellow business woman and Latina. My heart dropped. Had I gotten so busy, so self absorbed, that I forgot the people that read my blog and follow my work do so because they share my passions? That they, too, are seeking to expand themselves? I took one look at the etsy shop (hey, I’m a shopper first and foremost) and within 5 minutes, I was placing an order. However, it wasn’t guilt that made me purchase, it was pure talent. I loved the earrings and they were so underpriced (note to self, tell her to raise prices) that I didn’t even blink when purchasing. So, you all know my story about how I got here, now I got to ask Margaret Lajara-Ruiz about hers.
What inspired you to launch your collection and ultimately your brand? Was there a turning point?
I love fashion, and I especially love jewelry. Before even thinking about launching my line, I remember walking into stores looking at the different jewelry collections and thinking, oh I can make this! In 2009, I purchased my first set of tools and made my first pair of wire earrings. I was afraid of the feedback I was going to get, so I decided to wear the earrings for a few days without letting anyone know I made them. I got positive feedback. I went as far as, lying to my cousin and friend. I showed them my earrings and told them I found them and wanted to know what they thought of them, and if I should keep them. They loved the earrings! Afterwards, of course, I told them the truth (we still laugh at that story). In 2010, I decided to create a small line of jewelry. I created a small website, I had several items auctioned at the Dominican Women Development Center fundraiser gala, and prepared small jewelry parties with family and friends. The different promotional events went well but, everything after that just felt apart. I was not ready to make the transition from designer to business owner. I decide to take time to prepare myself, therefore, I closed the website and stop hosting jewelry parties. I enrolled in FIT and took several jewelry design courses. I took two years to re-focus on my goals and passion. Even though I was not involved in the jewelry making business, I was still in love with jewelry making and designing. So after much soul, spiritual searching and getting engaged, in 2012, I decided to give it another try. At this point, I was more educated in the business and I was ready to make the transition from designer to business owner. Even though, my love for jewelry played a big part on my decision to launch my line; the biggest factor was the passion to be my own boss and run a business where I’m allowed to be creative and have fun. I love jewelry! I love designing it, making it, and selling it and Xpressions by ML is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
FIT is a great school, congrats on your willingness to better yourself and your craft. Now, living in New York, I am sure you are surrounded by inspiration but what in particular inspired your hand crafted creations?
I get inspiration from several different aspects that surround me. My mind is constantly thinking and creating. I don’t have a particular source of inspiration, living in NYC, I live in a world full of diversity, colors, and uniqueness. My inspiration comes from the color of flowers, a piece of jewelry I might see in a store, a piece of metal, and from looking at the different outfits people wear on the streets of New York. I must say one thing, and it might sound really funny and weird, but most of the pieces in my collection were created and inspired by my daily commute taking the MTA number 1 train. While riding the train I tend to think of the outcome of my day while I observe what people are wearing, their attitude, and the different colors and patterns they wear. After, I imagine these designs which I later incorporate into the line.
Doesn’t sound weird at all. Do you source your materials in NYC as well and is this important to your brand?
Buying the materials for my pieces is both fun and a bit of a scavenger hunt. I get most of my chains online because I love the quality and look. For the other components of my designs, I search an array of different beads and supply stores in midtown and downtown NYC. I find all kinds of beautiful and colorful beads, components, crystals etc. Even though entering these stores is dangerous because the moment I step in my creative mind starts to wonder and I want to purchase everything. I take my material purchases very seriously. My goal is to find the best materials for my collection. My mission is to provide my customers with quality, trendy and affordable handmade jewelry. In order to fulfill this mission, I need to pay close attention to my material purchase because the quality and cost of my materials need to be perfect.
What can we expect to see in your Fall | Winter 2014 pieces?
I am currently working on my Fall/Winter 2014 collection, while still adding a few pieces to my Spring collection. I don’t have any specific designs yet, but I am researching materials, colors and NYC inspirations. I am really looking forward to my Fall collection because it will be the first collection to be introduce to boutiques and stores. I love selling my pieces online, at sip and shops, and pop up shops. Nonetheless, I believe that I am ready for the next level, and that is boutiques and stores. I am working really hard to make this my best line yet. Stay tuned for my fall collection you can expect to see fall colors and bold pieces.
In your bio, you identify as Dominican American. Does being Latina influence your work?
My work is influence by many aspects and people. But yes, I do believe that being Latina does influence my work. I like to add color, boldness, elegance, and a little of sensuality to my work. As a Latina and being surrounded by Latinas my entire life, I see the Latina as a bold and elegant woman, who is not afraid to shine and impress. As a matter of fact, when I first started my collection and I had to think of “my customer” I would picture young professional Latinas who are balancing work and a social life while looking great doing it. I am not saying that my collection is only for Latinas, my collection is inspired and created for the every day woman that wants to look beautiful and wants to impress.
For more of Xpressions by ML visit here.
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