Jewellery designer behind Ludevine brand keeps it personal

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 June, 2015, 6:07am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 June, 2015, 6:07am

Los Angeles-based designer Shahla Kareen discovered her passion for jewellery almost by accident, never dreaming she would one day spin it into a commercially successful brand.

The founder of Ludevine started making jewellery in 2002, inspired by a piece she saw in a luxury department store.

"I was wandering around Barneys New York and was struck by a pair of graduating Peruvian opal drop earrings constructed by method of wire wrapping. I got pulled into the detail of the wire looping around the chain and then wrapping around itself, and so on," says Kareen. "There was a logic to it that clicked for me."

She went to her neighbourhood and found similar, though cheaper, Peruvian opals, picked up some tools and went to work, almost recreating the pair she'd seen in Barneys, "though mine cost US$88 versus the US$3,500 price tag of the others"

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Kareen started making more items for herself, family and friends, but never thought of it as a business. It was only when a buyer from Fred Segal spotted a pair of her asymmetrical earrings that her work became truly commercial. She finished her first collection after meeting him and he ended up ordering everything, charmed by its unusual aesthetic.

Now years later, her brand is being shown on the other side of the world, at a high-end Plukka trunk show at Landmark Hong Kong.

Ludevine has a delicate eccentricity, anchored in three lines. "Primitive" uses motifs such as seahorses, fossils or shell shapes and other organic forms as the diamond-sprinkled centrepiece encased in gold.

Her "Sempt" line has a personal resonance for Kareen, "it's a reflection of the world within me", she says. A golden human heart locket is a standout piece.

Her "Peak" collection is a modern, conceptual style, coming in a range of materials and prices useful for stacking, making for what can become "randomly beautiful landscapes of feminine armoury" on some clients. Teardrop-shaped rings are a favourite, as well as delicate body chains, which she says give an empowered sensuality.

"Mine never comes off," she adds, "I sleep, shower and swim with it. It is now a part of me."

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that Kareen is also a sculptor and painter. In most of her work, she likes to "juxtapose the bold and fragile". While sculpture is a very physical process, painting is "slow, patient and meditative". But with each creative outlet, it's the process of production Kareen finds most gratifying.

Jewellery is always very personal, otherwise what is the point?
Shahla Kareen

"I hate handling the sales," she says. "It makes me the most uncomfortable."

For this idealistic designer, jewellery is very personal - "otherwise what's the point?" she asks. Asian clients looking to more unusual, conceptual labels and designs echo this sentiment. On a basic level, they are adornments, but perceptions of what jewellery should "do" for the wearer are changing.

"I usually wear the same jewellery every day, so there has to be a strong and meaningful connection I have to a piece." Kareen says.

"I think [it] should also be the final touch in an individual expression of style."