Tiffany Chou is a New York based jewelry designer and Maui girl. Her line is filled with modern detailed pieces; inspired by her love of the ocean, art and Hawaii. Tiffany Chou launched her line in August 2010 and has been featured in Lucky, Self , Elle Japan and the current Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
Here’s a peek into Tiffany’s journey from Maui to New York designer…
First things first, let’s get the big question out of the way, the one all of us in Hawaii like to ask when we meet for the first time. I know you’re a Maui girl; what high school did you go to?
Ah yes the classic question, I went to Seabury Hall!
After high school, you attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Was your field of study design?
I loved going to SAIC because I was able to take all sorts of classes, from architecture and sculpture to fashion and textiles.
Chicago is a long way from Hawaii, how did you decide on the School of the Art Institute?
Most of my friends were going to schools on the West Coast and I wanted to go somewhere that no one else was going. It would force me out of my comfort zone and at the same time put me in an intensely creative atmosphere to learn from. SAIC was neck and neck with RISD for being the top art school in the country, I had done a summer program in high school at RISD so I decided I should try something different and went for Chicago.
How did your university experience influence your later decision to start a jewelry line?
I had known long before going to college that I wanted to one day have my own collection. Going to an art school just gave me a better foundation of skills and knowledge that would help me later on when I decided to act on my dream.
I also read you were an intern for photographer David LaChapelle. Are you a photographer also?
I do love photography but it wasn’t my preferred creative medium. When the opportunity to intern for David came about, it was one of those things where you just couldn’t say no!
When did you make the big move to New York City and why? I’d love to hear about some of your work experience and what you learned from those experiences before you started your own line.
I moved to NYC after graduating from college in 2008. I knew the best place to be for fashion was New York, so there really was no other choice for me.
I’ve had several odd jobs in the city, and those experiences really helped bring to light what I find most in running a business. Like treating the people I work with well and with respect, and the importance of manufacturing in the US and locally if possible.
Tiffany Chou launched in 2010, what made you focus your line on jewelry versus rtw or other accessories? Are you considering launching other product categories in the future?
Turning my little hobby of jewelry making into an actual career kind of just happened unexpectedly. I was experimenting with metal castings and those castings ended up being my first jewelry samples.
I’ve been making clothing for over 12 years and I would love to one day incorporate that into my collection. I am, however, launching a little line of accessories and stationary this summer!
What inspires your designs and creative process?
I am inspired by many types of things like nature, old movies, documentaries and my friends. I love being around other creative people. One of the perks about going to art school was always being surrounded by such talented people, each one bringing something completely different to the table.
Do you have any advice for aspiring designers or entrepreneurs? What was the biggest challenge in starting your own line?
For me the biggest challenge was the business side of things. I had pretty much no experience and had to learn everything from the beginning and quickly.
I would tell anyone designer or not, (super cheesy line coming up) to follow your dreams, work hard and stay motivated.
Do you manufacture all your pieces in the US?
All of my pieces are proudly made in New York City!
What are the current trends in jewelry? What can we expect to see in the upcoming year in the industry and at Tiffany Chou?
I actually don’t really follow trends. I’ve always been one of those weirdos that hates doing the same thing that everyone else is doing. I basically create things that I think are beautiful and hope that people will like what I have created.
I am excited to be expanding outside of jewelry (but will also be adding some color to new jewelry pieces this fall!) and hope to bring in some of my clothing designs as well.
Who is your favorite designer in fashion or jewelry? Who serves as a source of inspiration for you?
I absolutely love Alexis Bittar. His work is so amazingly beautiful, and the fact that he started selling his jewelry on the streets in New York is so inspiring to me. Everything is made in Brooklyn, and each piece is literally a work of art.
Another jewelry designer that I love is a friend of mine, Lizzie Fortunato. She partnered up with her twin sister Kathryn and they make an unstoppable team. Her designs are so creative, every time a new collection comes out I am always stunned at how she combines different materials to make something so beautiful.
Marchesa and Ellie Saab are my current favorite womenswear brands. I love the attention to detail that both of them bring out in their whimsical pieces.
Any news or upcoming events for the line?
I am really looking forward to sharing my accessories and small line of note cards with everyone. I had a really great time designing and making the new products.
Where we can buy Tiffany Chou in Hawaii?
I am so grateful to the Hawaii community for being so supportive of my work. My jewelry is available at many different retail locations all over the islands, on Maui, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island. Also available online at Tiffany Chou.
I can feel your love of Hawaii in each and every piece. Does your family still live in Hawaii and do you come back to visit?
My family does still live in Hawaii on Maui. I try to come back as often as possible but New York is just so far away it’s been hard to find enough time to get back. I could definitely use some sun!
Mahalo Tiffany for taking time out of your busy life to chat with MauiShopGirl!
All images courtesy of Tiffany Chou.