A Conversation With Luv AJ's Amanda Thomas
There are few LA-based jewelry brands that embody trendy LA style as well as Luv AJ. The brand is Los Angeles born and bred and that’s apparent in their designs, the photography on their website and Instagram, and the celebrity fans who sport their chokers and earrings. That probably has something to do with the fact that designer Amanda Thomas was raised in LA and started Luv AJ when she was just 16 (!!) after learning to make jewelry during an after-school job at Abbot-Kinney boutique, Madley. She fell in love with the process and, as many young entrepreneurs do, started making jewelry for herself and friends at school.
After a chance encounter with a buyer from Fred Segal landed her a buyers meeting, Thomas (remember, she’s 16 at this point) quickly pulled together a small collection. Fred Segal ended up buying every piece and Luv AJ (‘love, Amanda Jane’) was born. Fast forward 11 years and the brand is sold at over 100 retailers including Revolve, Shopbop, and Urban Outfitters, and is a favorite of celebs including Bella Hadid, Emma Roberts, and Emily Ratajkowski. It’s safe to say that Fred Segal buyer was on to something.
On starting a business in high school:
People were really charmed by my age and taken aback by my confidence. Now that i look back, I cannot believe I was so brazen. I would just walk into a store and say 'can I talk to your buyer?' I had nothing to lose, I just wanted to try to get into as many awesome stores as i could. You’re more self aware when you’re older, which can hinder your confidence sometimes. It was also really exciting, I couldn’t believe these people would even want to meet with me.
On her design process:
I hand made every piece up until I was 24-years old. When I was hand making everything, I would go source materials, put all the materials together and sit at my work bench and just create. Now my process is a lot more stripped down. It’s almost much less creative because I’m not sitting there physically working with the materials. But, it’s a lot easier for me because I have a stronger sense of what I want to make.
I look around for inspiration every single day, whether it’s on instagram, or pinterest, or tumblr. I have a folder on my computer of things that I like; it can be a picture of a building or a color scheme. I kind of synthesize a theme or motif and then I break it down by style. I know I need to make x amount of earrings, x amount of rings, necklaces, bracelets, etc and I work from there.
I make a rough sketch with all of the specs and measurements and pull reference photos to send to a professional sketcher and she draws them for me pretty lifelike. That all goes to my factory and they make CADs, digital renderings. Once the cads are approved they make physical samples. So the process from conception of the idea to when the sample is in my hand is usually about 4 to 5 months, which is really crazy. I’m working on spring 2018 right now.
On LA’s Influence:
The type of jewelry I wear is the kind that you put on and never take off or it’s stuff that can be layered or mixed and matched with pieces that already exist in your wardrobe. I think I definitely have that laid-back California sensibility show through in my designs.
On the evolution of her designs:
The line has gotten a lot more wearable. What I was known for in the beginning was really big, bold statement pieces. I still do a ton of statement pieces, I’m most known for my earrings, but I try to make them a little more wearable and more transitional from day to night.
On her favorite pieces in her line:
The pieces that I love always end up being the ones that sell the most and I think I love them because I know other people are going to like them too—that makes me excited. One of my favorite pieces of all time are our Cross Hoops. We can’t keep them in stock and they’ve been our bestseller for 2 years. They’re so easy to wear, they look amazing on everyone, and they’re the perfect in between of a statement earring but not too big, and an everyday earring.
Its’ a good one to look up because if a girl sees it and they like it, it really captures what the Luv AJ brand is all about.
On the impact of social media for brands:
I started my brand before I had all these tools but luckily I was still young enough to jump on the bandwagon pretty quickly. Now when I talk to friends who want to start a line or are nervous about it, I’m like ‘we have all of these tools for free at our fingertips and it’s so easy to start a brand, curate the look and vibe, and sell product just by posting. It’s so silly not to give it a try.' It’s also the place where I have my voice. You can only do so much on a website but on Instagram it's so much easier to connect with your customer and have them understand who you are.
On what’s next for her:
I’m launching a fine jewelry line this year. It’s not going to be called Luv AJ but it’s going to be the sister brand to it.