Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Caroline Ventura: Owner/Designer at Brvtvs

Before I started interning at Of a Kind, I naturally stalked the site for months. I’m talking reading up on every designer and knowing each product’s name and price by heart. Through my pre-education I came across BRVTVS, a jewelry line specializing in minimalist jewelry that begs never to be taken off. After I learned how to properly pronounce the name (it’s ˈbrü-təs in case you were wondering) I was hooked, and became equally obsessed with Caroline Ventura who designs the line, and sells it in her NYC retail space Calliope. I sat down with Caroline to get the backstory on BRVTVS and her advice to designers in training.

What were you doing career wise before you started BRVTVS?

I normally don't mention it, just because I try and separate that part of my life from what I do now. I was doing hair styling for a lot of editorials, photo shoots. I also used to do a lot of music videos. I grew up in L.A. and kind of floated back and forth between Europe, N.Y., and L.A. When I moved back to Los Angeles, I started getting into a bunch of music videos and doing styling for them. Then I came back here [N.Y.] and I just hated doing it. It wasn’t what I wanted to do, I wasn’t doing projects of my own that were creatively my ideas. I just needed to get out. I’ve always done stuff in a creative field — I like making stuff.

So did you kind of parlay those relationships from your editorial days into your new business?

Sort of, I kind of already knew the inner workings of a magazine and I knew a lot of editors. But in that world people change jobs like every second, so I kind of had my feet on the ground in terms of the fashion world. The buying aspect of it, the marketing of myself, how to brand, that was all really new. 

How did you muster up the courage to make BRVTVS a full-time thing?
I just did it. I started making a few pieces and I liked making them, but I was also scared to leave a job that I knew really well and knew that I could do well at. It was more a realization that what I was doing currently I didn’t love, and wasn’t worth sweating through the shit in hopes of maybe making it. I dreaded going to work, and that’s not a good way to start your day. I had found something that I loved doing, and I still don’t know if I’m going to make it but at least I’m loving what I’m doing along the way.

Where do you look to for inspiration when creating your pieces?

Kind of everywhere. I try and design with a person in mind. I used to create these characters, well these girls who became characters, and I would dress them and figure out what they would want to to wear and go from there. It’s also a lot of “what would I want to wear?’. I’m really selfish with design, if I’m not going to wear it, I’m not going to design it. It’s tricky, because there’s certain pieces that I’ve made and I like them, but I’m not sure that they’re going to do well. Some people gravitate towards them and other people don’t. It’s interesting to see who likes what. In the end, I think I just make stuff that I myself would want to wear. That’s kind of how it started. Every piece is handmade, especially the ones that are hammered out. Each one is slightly different, and there are little imperfections, which took me a long time to accept. I’m a total perfectionist, the band rings are really smooth and identical, but the little hammered out guys and some of the earrings each have their own personality.

Also, I think being in the city. Like if I see a cool building that has interesting lines, a lot of my stuff is just simple shapes. It’s fun for me to figure out how to translate that into something that you can wear. Lines and figures, and shapes. I always have a sketchbook in my bag, and I’m constantly jotting down notes, making doodles, terrible sketches on the subway. I try and make it something special, my stuff is very minimal, but I want the experience of buying it and interacting with me, knowing that I made it and packaged it for you. It’s an exchange between you and I. I like that, jewelry is personal and it makes it special. I have pieces that I wear from other girls that I really admire and it’s nice when I put them on, that someone took the time to make this.

In the past jewelry making was mainly a boy’s only game, so how does it feel to be a trailblazer for girls?

It’s fun, it’s great. It’s weird, being a stylist too, it’s such a feminine career. Jewelry is a lot of men making things for women. I was chatting with someone last night, and we were talking about getting dressed and we were laughing that a lot of girls dress for other girls. I definitely dress for other women more than I dress for men.

I think that there is a feminine point of view that needs to be given more. There’s an amazing group of girls, especially in New York, Chicago and L.A. that are starting to make stuff and it’s great. I hate sounding like a feminist, I don’t want to be like “women can do anything!”, but why not? I like making stuff with my hands and getting dirty. For both men and women, we have differing points of view. It’s cool to see what a man’s point of view thinks in terms of women, but it’s also nice to have something dainty and delicate.

What freedoms (and challenges) do you feel come with owning and designing your own jewelry business?

I can set my own hours, work at my own pace. It can sometimes work against me, I’m my own worst critic. I have a hard time knowing when something is good enough, and when to stop. This whole process has been a lesson in restraint and when to just step away. I can always easily add something to a bracelet, add this to that. It’s been a real learning curve on simplicity. I’ve always done jobs where I worked for myself, but I haven’t always been the creative force behind those jobs. That’s what I love most about Brvtvs, it’s something that I create from start to finish. That’s my favorite part, seeing something through to fruition.

I love that everything within what I call the “Brvtvs-phere” is authentic and stays true to who you are. Any tips on staying authentic to yourself when starting a business?

It’s tough, outside influence is great and people’s opinions and thoughts and criticisms are wonderful. I’ve been able to develop a really thick skin, and for me it comes down to being happy with what you’re doing. I love the stuff that I make. If I didn't, then I would have to second guess what I’m doing. Not everyone is going to like what you do. There’s always going to be someone who thinks that it’s crap.

There’s gonna be people that are unhappy with what you do, but as long as you’re happy, haters gonna hate. Don’t sweat the small stuff, especially in fashion. Everything is so fleeting, that someone’s going to be upset about something you do one second, then they’re going to love it. Opinions change, trends change, people change.

Any other advice for girls on the come-up?

I allowed myself to be hindered by the fact that I didn’t go to jewelry school. I didn’t get quote-on-quote proper jewelry training. I took some classes, I learned how to work with metal and basic techniques. A lot of it I taught myself, it took me a long time to actually be comfortable with the title of a designer/jeweler. I always had it stuck in my head that you need to go to school and get a degree in order to be a professional in something. In this day and age, it’s not necessarily true. I’m not knocking an education, but I happened to get an education in something completely unrelated.
If there’s something that you love and you really want to do, just do it. You have nothing to lose. I wish that I would have realized that a lot sooner. I had a lot of fear when I started BRVTVS. I held myself back from doing a lot of things that I realize now, like “fuck, I should have done that.” or “I should have made this piece.” I was too afraid it wasn’t going to work out. Just do it, there’s no shame in failing because you learn something. You can take that and focus that experience into something else. It’s all about learning along the way.