A Conversation With: Janette Wilkinson of NEST Jewelry
August 25, 2016
More than ever, jewelry designers are offering innovative statement pieces that steal the show and act as the star of our ensemble. And for nearly a decade, Janette Wilkinson, a master in the industry, has been designing fashion-forward jewelry for Neiman Marcus. Her natural yet bold, contemporary creations have caught the eye of customers of all ages. We sat down with Janette to find out about the vision behind NEST Jewelry.
Neiman Marcus: Tell us about your journey toward becoming a renowned jewelry designer.
Janette Wilkinson: It happened mostly by accident. Since a very young age, I have always loved fashion. My earliest memories are of playing in my grandmother’s costume jewelry. I grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, so I didn’t have access to fashion outside of magazines and catalogs. I was pretty good at math and science, so I was encouraged to pursue engineering. I graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and then worked in the semiconductor industry for ten years. I really enjoyed working in semiconductor, even though I wore a protective suit that covered me from head to toe—not so fashionable.
The first pieces of jewelry I designed were just for myself. Red coral jewelry was a big trend, and I wanted a coral necklace that had a bold scale, but was still simple. I couldn’t really find what I was looking for, so I decided to make it myself. One day I was in Neiman Marcus NorthPark shopping for a gift and five people stopped me to ask where I had purchased my necklace. I immediately called my sister, Jana Erwin, and the next thing you know we were partners in a jewelry business we named NEST.
NM: And the name NEST, where did it come from?
JW: When Jana and I began brainstorming the name of our jewelry line, we wanted something that emphasized the natural, bold, and simple nature of our pieces. We were traveling around the world collecting things and bringing them back home to create our collections. We felt like birds gathering their natural materials and bringing them back home to create their nests. In that discovery, the name NEST was born.
NM: We love family-owned businesses. Tell us how you and your sister decided on partnering together to create NEST Jewelry.
JW: My sister is an accredited Interior Designer and was running her own high-end design firm in Houston. She understood the details of starting a company, which allowed me to focus on the fashion. Although she is our CEO, it is nice to have another creative eye to look over the pieces that I am working on. We have gradually turned NEST into a family business. I have a very close family that enjoys working, playing, and even traveling together! We have vacationed together in some beautiful places including Greece, Scotland, Mexico, Costa Rica, The Bahamas, and many beaches, mountains, and lakes across the U.S. Our vacations always end up being a great time for vision planning, and over the years my nieces gained interest in listening to our business meetings. After my oldest niece graduated from college, she started working for us, helping with production and also PR. And my younger niece often models our pieces.
NM: Where do you find inspiration designing new collections, season after season?
JW: Nature — every piece of jewelry we make has some sort of natural element. Over the years we have used stone, wood, horn, bone, metals, leather, stingray, and even shark’s teeth. We keep our materials authentic. When we select stones, we let their inherent beauty begin the design process. After we determine the perfect cut of stone, we begin enhancing it with hand-trimmed gold, hand-knotted silk, or we add other natural products like horn. Our customers often tell us that they love the way our pieces feel as much as they love the way they look. The natural energy that the stones carry and the attention to detail and handmade quality truly come through.
NM: Hard to narrow it down, we know, but what is your favorite NEST piece?
JW: Definitely our cluster necklace! We’ve created this style in many different colors of turquoise and jasper, mother-of-pearl, and even horn. The NEST cluster necklace is the definition of a statement piece!
NM: Can you give us a sneak peek into where you think the fashion industry is headed and how NEST fits into that world?
JW: I think there is such an appreciation and longing for things that are made by hand with natural materials and for pieces that have a story. Jewelry needs to feel special and unique, and that is exactly what we do!