“You have to believe in yourself and on the mornings that you don’t, just get up and do it,” jewelry designer and QVC favorite Judith Ripka encouragingly told a crowd of accessories enthusiasts inside New York’s 92Y Tuesday night, where the mega successful talent delivered one token of advice after the next during an hour-long panel. “There were good times, there were bad times, there were times that I wanted to give up, but I couldn’t.”
Ripka, of course, wasn’t the only master jeweler dishing on her storied career. Monica Rich Kosann, popularly known for her personalized lockets and charms, and Robin Renzi, Me&Ro’s founder, also joined InStyle and StyleWatch Editorial Director Ariel Foxman, the evening’s moderator, for a candid version of the youth center’s “Women Who Rock” series.
Renzi first dipped her feet in the jewelry pond as a 10th grader, and later began piecing together her own designs with a friend and partner as she waited on tables at Manhattan’s now iconic fashion-friendly restaurant, Indochine. For Kosann, who unearthed her creative potential through photography, the combination of “a story telling background” plus shopping for vintage accessories from the early 1900s fueled her drive to create.
As Foxman successfully got each speaker to reveal deeply personal stories about their successes and failures (“One year nobody copied me and I was depressed!” Ripka said in reference to those who flatteringly replicated her work), the women dished on what it’s like to persevere as a business owner, but also raise a family.
“You have to work very hard, stay focused, and you must always have the doctor’s cell number,” Ripka told the crowd, moving on to explain how her long hours spent in her studio ultimately benefitted her children. “It’s very fulfilling and I think it helped them go out into the world and fulfill themselves in other ways as well.”
While each panelist shared diverse views on just how important it is to get celebrities to wear their pieces, it’s not the ultimate goal for Kosann, who credits Hillary and Chelsea Clinton among her most loyal A-list clients. “To me, my stars are really my customers ... I still think they are really, really important.”
Interestingly, InStyle’s May 2016 cover beauty Kate Hudson blew Ripka away after borrowing a piece. “She borrowed it and she sent flowers, and then she purchased it. I never got over that,” she quipped.
Burgeoning jewel stars sat in the front row, and waited for choice words of wisdom, which Renzi didn’t fail to dispel. “You have to always come up with new ideas. Be true to yourself … be true to your aesthetic,” she noted.
So what is it about jewels, in particular, that keeps their engines burning? “It’s a very happy business and it’s all about creating and being creative,” Kosann shared.
For Ripka, the positive spirit of shopping she first noticed decades ago inspired her: “Everyone buying jewelry was in a good mood. The husband may have been grouchy, but the woman was certainly in a good mood.”