Designer Profile: Dee de Lara
Dee de Lara Jewelry is about playful juxtapositions. With a bricolage approach inspired by Surrealism and Dada, pieces with different intended purposes and previous lives – vintage or deadstock findings and industrial materials – are combined and reframed unexpectedly to create a new context and story. The latest collection is called “Piraso” - Tagalog for “piece”. Like the brand overall, this represents creation by piecing together a diverse range of available and existing materials to boldly embrace contradictions - the essence of Dee's inspiration.
Tell us your journey on becoming a jewelry designer
I started making jewelry as a hobby because I love jewelry and how it can tell a story without saying a word. First, it was gifts for people, then silversmithing classes for fun, then it turned into requests for personalized, commissioned pieces for people to give as gifts (each piece has a name – either because it was made specifically for someone or inspired by them). I was also craving the ability to create something tangible out of nothing, or something out of something else. This evolved into me leaving my full-time job as a brand strategist and consumer researcher in New York and launching deedelara.com on December 1, 2014. I became a jewelry designer by happy accident. Before I started making jewelry, I focused on photography and capturing the stories of people and spaces.
What inspired you to use vintage and deadstock materials for your pieces?
I believe in finding the story, beauty and interest in objects that already exist by unexpectedly combining items that aren’t typically used in jewelry with vintage/deadstock pieces to reframe the context and create new meaning. I am inspired by the Surrealist and Dada art movements and the notion of “readymades”, which takes everyday found objects and elevates them to art by recontextualizing them. I'm also fascinated by material culture, the relationship between items and people and how materials define our experiences and stories.
What does slow fashion movement means to you and how you engage in this movement?
Slow fashion means the process, the person, the purpose and the product. Knowing where your clothing and accessories come from is important to me: whether it's knowing the designers themselves, where the materials came from or how it it was made. The majority of my wardrobe is comprised of local designers, who I often know or have met (like Devlyn van Loon, Mary Young, meg) because it's important to me to hear the story and intention of the item. Slow fashion also means longevity in both quality and style, and intent in creation and wearing, which ultimately leads to a sustainable relationship with fashion.
Walk us through your design process of creating a Dee De Lara piece
The essence that defines my brand is juxtaposition and contradiction: between old and new, hard and soft, bold and refined. The process often starts with the materials. I look everywhere for inspiration, and look for items that I can turn into a cohesive piece of jewelry. I see patterns before the actual details. I rarely sketch out ideas, I jump into the hands-on making because I work best with tangibility. It often evolves and transforms as the process continues until I land on the final piece. But at the same time, I am often driven by a bigger conceptual vision from the start.
"What I’m trying to make is jewelry with a story: about the materials’ own past lives, as well as a one that reflects the wearer and sparks conversation about the piece."
How have your personal values and experiences shaped your work?
I'm a naturally curious person, always looking beyond what's presented to understand what's really going on. I took this to my career as a brand strategist using a multitude of approaches to dig into what, how and why people, culture and brands do what they do to help Twitter, Google, L’Oreal, MTV and others figure out how to tell their stories, who to tell them to and come up with new ideas. Also, the most gratifying part of what I do is when the recipient of a commissioned piece says, “Holy crap, that’s totally me.” I feel like I am able to translate my experience in consumer insights and human behavior into understanding who people are and how to represent them. My designs convey the ability to look at things in a different way to give them a new purpose. What I’m trying to make is jewelry with a story: about the materials’ own past lives, as well as a one that reflects the wearer and sparks conversation about the piece.