If the best cooking is made with love, the best jewelry is made with heart. And it’s heart that French-born Virginie Millefiori brings to each of her delicately feminine pieces; from rings featuring a mini chevron accented with peach enamel to detailed, finely etched Space Invader earrings. “I have a fascination for visual storytelling and translate it into whimsical pieces; mingling poetry and wordplay with delicate, colorful silhouettes,” Virginie declares on her website.
We’re not the only ones who are huge fans of Virginie’s knack for whimsy. Her designs have been featured in InStyle, USA Today, Lucky and Racked, among others. And when Virginie’s not mastering new fanciful creations, you can find her crossing the country to share her work at trade shows and flea markets. Read on to see how Virginie fulfills each piece of jewelry from start to finish and learn more about what it’s like to live the life of a jewelry designer.
“We’re all influenced by trends, especially in this social era. But to truly stand out, one must have an original and authentic voice.”
What inspired you to start your own jewelry line? Did you always know you had a passion for jewelry design?
As far back as I can remember, I’ve been creating and drawing. One night during summer 2004, I was jetlagged after a trip from Vancouver to Paris and couldn’t sleep, so I decided to start sculpting with clay. It began to occupy my nights. Those compositions turned into brooches and necklaces for my friends. I don’t use polymer clay anymore, but it’s what inspired my artist name and where it all started.
For our readers who might be unfamiliar with your line, tell us what you feel makes it stand out from the competition?
My jewelry line is dainty and colorful. All of my designs are original drawings of mine that I then translate into metal stories. I don’t use charms or beads, but I do create my own enamel colors, which makes all of my pieces unique.
How do you organize your day?
What I love most about my job is that my day is never the same. As a small business owner, I get to touch absolutely every aspect of running a company. I hand-forge my pieces at my jewelry bench. I travel to New York City’s Diamond District to see my suppliers. I post all brand content on social media and am in charge of all accounting. I ship the orders, take pictures of the products and make the merchandising props for my shows. As you can see, every day is different.
What is the actual process of putting a piece of jewelry together? What steps do you take to bring an idea to a physical form that we wear?
The first thing I do is draw the design on paper (or on my computer) and saw the shape out from a piece of metal. For a ring, I’ll measure, cut and solder a wire on itself. Next, I bring the pieces to my polisher, then to my gold-plater, and when I get them back, I mix the pigments and decorate the jewelry pieces with resin enamel. Once the enamel’s dry, I assemble the final piece with jump rings, chains and a clasp.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
I love spreading my time between handmade artisan work at my jewelry bench, computer work and in-person contact with my contractors and customers. I also feel that being my own boss is the right fit for me.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
Sometimes 24 hours a day is not enough time for me to cross things off my to-do list. It can stress me out, because every aspect of my business relies on me.
As an entrepreneur, is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
This is hard. Most often, in a battle between “work time” and “me time,” the work time wins out. I’m so passionate about my job. My friends’ social invitations enable me to remain a human being. They help prevent me from turning into a machine.
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?
I’m an ambitious and passionate person, so I don’t feel like I’ve ever thought, “I made it!” I always feel like I can do something better.
What are some of the rules you live by?
As silly as it can sound, I strive on providing the best possible customer service. And I love to make people happy.
What qualities does it take for someone to be a successful entrepreneur?
It takes resiliency, consistency and passion.
What do you feel it takes to stand out in fashion, and what advice do you have for women who want your job?
To me, the most important qualities are to be sincere and true to yourself. As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”
We’re all influenced by trends, especially in this social era. But to truly stand out, one must have an original and authentic voice.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully, I’ll have had the opportunity to grow my company enough to hire someone full-time to help me out!
What are you working on right now?
I recently relaunched my website to make it easier to use and much more beautiful to look at. New pictures were taken by the amazing Ondrea Barbe, who deserves a special thanks. We’re also working on a video together, but shhh — it's kind of a secret!