WHITLEY Designs is a handcrafted jewelry line based in San Francisco that has been recently spotted on Vanessa Hudgens, Maria Menounos, Audrina Patridge and Bella Thorne, to name a few celebs. The collection includes bracelets, earrings, necklaces (shown: Carly), rings, bobby pins, and one-of-a-kind reclaimed vintage pieces. It also offers pieces that are customizable via colorful charms, modern initials, and initial/zodiac discs.
Conceptualized by California-born sisters Whitney and Hayley Stevens (hence the name “Whitley”), the line balances Whitney’s classic style (she is a practicing attorney) with Hayley’s innovative perspective (she is an artist). Each piece is extremely versatile, layers well and goes with almost anything. We caught up with Whitley and Hayley recently to chat about their inspiration behind the line, as well as how they got it off the ground:
TDO: When we first saw WHITLEY designs, we were immediately struck by the simplicity, artisan elegance and uniqueness of the pieces. Where did you two get such good taste?
W&H: You are too kind! We both love modern architecture and tend to be minimalistic. We love the clean, yet striking simplicity of modern design and this carries over into our design aesthetic. We also are mindful of not junking up a piece and letting the form, as opposed to the garnishment, stand out.
TDO: Where do you get your inspiration?
W&H: We get inspiration from the people and sights that surround us. We are always observing the people around us and the way in which they express their particular style. … We also love modern architecture and organic, simple forms and incorporate this inspiration into our designs.
TDO: Why and how did you start designing jewelry?
W&H: We have always been creative-minded and love working with our hands. As kids, we taught craft classes to make extra money … [and] we were especially proud of our hemp necklaces adorned with fimo beads. [Also], we wanted to figure out a way to keep in touch despite the distance between us, so we decided to start a jewelry line. We figured, why not give it a shot?! The worst thing that could happen was that the line failed.
TDO: How did living on both coasts shape your design perspective (assuming it did)?
W&H: Hayley, living in San Francisco, tends to design pieces that are more urban with an edge. There is so much inspiration in San Francisco and people tend to enjoy designs that push the limits of originality. I was living in Charlottesville, Virginia, initially, where people are not as forward-thinking in terms of design and want pieces for the modern, everyday woman. As a result, my designs were more traditional and designed for daily wear.
TDO: When did you first know that the collection was a hit?
W&H: There are many stores that will take a chance on your line and place an initial order. However, we knew our collection was a hit when these stores started reordering our pieces over and over again!
TDO: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced with the line?
W&H: The greatest challenge for us as a handcrafted line is balancing supply and demand. We’re a small scale operation but have to be able to ramp up to meet surges of demand, particularly around the holidays.
TDO: Which pieces do you wear the most?
W&H: We really love our personalized pieces, like our modern initials, initial tags and contemporary disc necklaces.
TDO: Which pieces are most popular with your clients?
W&H: We’ve enjoyed putting our own original twist on the traditional initial necklaces you see. Clients seem to love wearing pieces that have meaning, but not in an obvious, traditional way.
TDO: What other designers do you love?
W&H: A couple of jewelry lines we admire are Love + Keep and Sahlia Jewelry. Both of these lines are very innovative with their use of materials. Love + Keep has found a skillful way to integrate a knitting technique into their jewelry that is truly unique and beautiful. Sahlia uses recycled molten silver droplets throughout her designs that give all of her pieces a signature look.
TDO: What’s next for you?
W&H: We’re focusing on our spring collection right now, which we are excited about! We are playing with geometric shapes and introducing a lot of fun colors to make pieces pop. We are also working on continued expansion of our brand throughout the U.S. and internationally. Our brand has really taken off in Japan, which has been exciting and unexpected!
Interview has been condensed and edited.