Meet Sorelle, The Minimal Jewelry Line that Downtown NYC is Gushing Over
I’ve always admired a copiously accessorized woman. There’s something about her that says, “I’m responsible,” “I have a low threshold for pain,” and “I sit on chairs, not sunglasses.” Such conclusions might be a stretch for some—cheek piercings notwithstanding, something tells me that Fergie has sat on many a pair of sunglasses in her day. But if there’s one person who lends credence to this belief, it’s Francesca Grosso. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, then Sorelle—the jewelry line that she founded back in 2012—likely will.
Any designer who manages to make a name for him or herself today has already succeeded where so many have not. Fashion today is oversaturated, in case you’ve been living under a rock—or, more likely, under The Rock himself (née Dwayne Johnson). But what makes Francesca’s success particularly impressive is that she’s not only carved out a name for herself amidst the multitude of designers trying to make it in New York, but she’s done so with notably simple and pared-down designs.
Francesca’s primary objective with her line is to foster a community between girls and women, and to provide a platform for women to grow on. And with the Sorelle blog that she recently started, that goal doesn’t seem too far off.
“Jewelry should stand out by itself, but not take away from the person.”
I first met Francesca while working at Opening Ceremony as a sales associate; she was my manager and, to say the least, the lifeblood of the sales floor. Francesca has always had that rare ability to be equal parts professional and silly. As fastidious at working as she is at partying, she could sell the shit out of a Repossi knuckle ring while simultaneously nailing a moon walk. One minute you’ll find her expatiating on the difference between gold, gold plated, and gold filled; and the next minute, you’ll find her zipping past you on a bodega run. So when Francesca lent us some Sorelle pieces to shoot, we decided to highlight the jewelry as much as the girl behind the jewelry.
Without further ado, meet the Bodega Queen. She can accessorize just about anything, and, like any upstanding citizen, likes her Cheetos flaming hot.
What drew you to jewelry—and in particular, this style of jewelry?
Growing up, my family had a jewelry business called Francesca’s Jewelers. So it’s kind of weird that, in a sense, life has come full circle. I guess simplicity in jewelry is something that I’ve always been intrigued by. Jewelry should stand out by itself, but not take away from the person. So it almost becomes a part of the girl’s personality.
What attracted me most to jewelry is how easy it was to tell a story with something so small. And just making something that people like. Sometimes you end up in a career path that you don’t seek it out. [And that’s] the most pleasing aspect of what I’m doing—that it kind of picked me.
“The whole concept behind the brand is giving people a farm-to-table sense of the product, where people know where it’s coming from.”
Where do you get most of your materials from?
For me, the whole concept behind the brand is giving people a farm-to-table sense of the product, where people know where it’s coming from. So as much as I can, I try to make sure it’s made in New York. That’s something that sets [Sorelle] apart. Most of the places I get my materials [are] in the Diamond District. Everything is very local.
What’s the hardest part and the easiest part of being a designer?
The hardest part is consistency. Fashion is moving so rapidly that it can be hard to give people what they want, when they want it.
The easiest part is just trusting yourself and believing that what you’re doing is what you love to do and just following that path. It is challenging, and you have to have tough skin. You’re going to get a lot of feedback from people who want to put in their two cents. But it’s mainly trusting yourself as a designer and trusting yourself to put it out there. [Because] being vulnerable is very hard too. [This is] your baby—you make it with your hands, and you hope they like it.
Do you make everything by hand?
Not everything. A lot of the pieces from my past collections are hand assembled by me, like the Anja Earring—that was one of the more challenging pieces that I made myself. Moving forward, I’ve gotten more into 3D modeling. It is different in that it’s not as fluid as bench jewelers, but at the same time, with the types of quantities that I’m producing, it’s more cost-efficient.
And by 3D modeling, do you mean 3D printing?
Both. There are multiple programs, but there’s one where you can build anything. It’s like sculpting clay, but in computer form. It’s easier, [and] it looks a little more substantial.
I grew up around bench jewelers doing everything by hand—and it’s a beautiful craft. [But] unfortunately it’s a dying craft. Computer programming is the next step.
“People wanted simplicity but couldn’t find it. It was almost like it should be everywhere, but it’s not.”
How do you think working at Opening Ceremony helped your line?
Working at OC was one of the best experiences I’ve had. [They] really pushed me as a woman to go after what [I] want, but most of all to be able to maintain a good reputation. They helped me a lot by picking up the brand for the first collection—that’s not something I ever thought could happen. I didn’t even know how to put a lookbook together.
I think there was a void in the market at that time. People wanted simplicity but couldn’t find it. It was almost like it should be everywhere, but it’s not. [I noticed that while] helping and assisting people on the sales floor, and seeing what they gravitated toward.
How do you like to wear your favorite pieces?
My favorite pieces are pieces I wear every day and don’t take out. The Alexandra Hoops, for instances—you just layer a bunch in, and I honestly haven’t taken them out in years. It’s like a part of your daily armor, part of your personality. I’m not a very muss-and-fuss kind of girl.
What trait of yours do you get complimented on the most?
My sense of humor—I get that a lot. I’ve always kind of played on that class clown way of life where, if you just laugh things off and take light of things and stop taking things so seriously, it’s contagious. And a lot of people do tell me, “Thank you for making me laugh today.” And I’m like, “Oh, no problem.”
So tell me a bit about the blog you started.
[It’s about] getting girls involved, you know? I think everybody has a story to tell. [It’s about providing] a platform for these girls to have a voice. Moving forward, we’re kind of fine-tuning the blog a bit. We have this new series coming out called Girl Date. It’s finding that Sorelle girl, and figuring out what her and her bestie like to do on a Friday or Saturday night. My best friend and I are on the couch, eating god knows what, drinking wine, and watching House Hunters. That’s our ideal Friday night.
We have one in the works right now. I’m collaborating with a magazine to do a couple custom pieces. I’m gonna keep my mouth shut on that one, just so you guys can see what’s in store in the next month. But it is really exciting! I think the next step will be to maybe team up with a furniture designer.
“Sorelle sex swings—can you imagine? Like a 14 karat freakin’ sex swing? That would be nuts.”
So cool! What kind of stuff would you want to make?
I’d stick to jewelry, but maybe [venture] more into the home aspect of Sorelle and team up with a furniture designer to do custom chairs or custom coffee tables. Things that you think you can get in a vintage shop but you can [never] find.
So hopefully being able to create and build some custom pieces that are affordable. The whole concept behind the brand is a luxury item without the luxury price tag and I really want to stay true to what the brand signifies. Like, Sorelle sex swings—can you imagine? A 14-karat freakin’ sex swing? That would be nuts.
Uhh, yes. And I feel like a sex swing is versatile too. Like you could read a book in it if you wanted to.
You can make it your side table.
Precisely. On a different note, if you weren’t designing jewelry, what do you think you’d be doing?
I would probably go back to the idea of trying out for HGTV’s show Design Star. I tried out for it once—as you can tell, I clearly did not get on the show. But that’s something I would love to do. I just always envisioned being that super loud, blunt, obnoxious, tattooed girl on an HGTV show that everyone’s like, “Ugh I can’t stand her, but damn that room looks good!” You know? I would probably try and do that again. Maybe.
Finally, is it hard to produce a collection for each season? I can’t imagine that keeping up with the current pace of the industry is easy.
It is tricky in the sense that accessories should be accessible. Consumerism is so different now than even what it was a year ago. People see something on social media and the first thing they do is look to buy it, and if they don’t have that option, in three weeks from that point they’ll get sick of it and not want it. So for the current collection, Fall/Winter ’16, I chose to make it consumer facing, which means see-now buy-now.
“I truly feel like a lot of companies, large in scale, look to young designers for inspiration.”
[It’s hard] to try and separate yourself and tell a different story than what everyone else is telling. I truly feel like a lot of companies, large in scale, look to young designers for inspiration. And that’s challenging because I’ve seen it happen to me and I’ve talked to many designers who have experienced it too. But you just kind of have to say, you know what? That just means we’re on the right path.
[Then,] next season I try to do something off the grid and off the charts and then it’s like—oh, awesome, 17 other jewelry designers in Brooklyn have the same concept. Because we all have the same inspiration, and it’s Instagram. We all have, subconsciously in the back of our brain, the same images [that] repeat themselves over and over.
[I think the key is] going back to your roots and going back to where you grew up. Things that remind you of your childhood. There are a lot of us ‘90s babies and a lot of things that people can relate to—[that’s what I’m trying to] tap into.
All jewelry provided by Sorelle
All photos shot exclusively for Milk by Megan Madden
Creative Direction: Kathryn Chadason and Rachel Hodin
Art Direction: Kathryn Chadason
Stylist: Rachel Hodin
Model: May Hong
Shot at Milk Studios, New York
Stay tuned to Milk for more jewelry designers you need to know about.