There is a movement happening. It is slow and subtle and important. We, as a culture, are starting to pay more attention to where our goods come from and how they are made. We want to know that we are making educated choices; purchasing food, clothing, and goods which are sustainable sourced, locally made, organic, and (if at all possible) have a minimal impact on our environment. We go to farmers markets and shop locally, we avoid chain restaurants, and support our communities (not always, but we do our best). This isn't how everyone sees the world, but it is a consciousness that is beginning to stir.
Vrai and Oro, an LA based direct to consumer jeweler, is taking those ideas to heart. They want to highlight the wayward (destructive) ways of fast fashion and create beautiful things that are sustainable and long lasting, after all, 'Diamonds are forever' (shout out to James Bond).
Now you may be asking yourself, "why do I care about fast fashion? What even is fast fashion?" great question. I am not the best person to speak on this, though I am doing my best to educate myself, there is still a lot I don't know. The True Cost, is an amazing documentary that can answer so many of these questions (also it is a documentary, which is the best thing!). I highly suggest you take a peek and let me know your thoughts.
Back to my point... Vrai and Oro took a look at the up coming holiday season and all the consumerism that happens, all the waste, and they thought they would combat everything that is designed to fall apart by creating something beautiful that would last. They came up with a recycled (up-cycled) inverted black diamond earring which is absolutely stunning. Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year so V&O thought they would give you something actually worth wanting that goes against the (traditional) grain.
I was so intrigued by their methods and their mindset that I needed to know more. Vanessa Stofenmacher co-owner of V&O was kind enough to do a little interview and tell you more about her amazing company, how they do what they do, and why you should care. And so, I present, Vanessa-
First off, could you please introduce yourself, tell us what it is that you do and where you are based out of-
We’re a direct-to-consumer fine jewelry brand based in downtown LA. Our goal is to make owning fine jewelry essentials more attainable by cutting out the middlemen and traditional retail markups (usually around 8-10x). We also hope to educate consumers about the materials they buy and where they come from.
Why did you choose to be a direct to consumer brand?
Being a direct-to-consumer brand made sense for us because some of the largest markups come from the wholesale to retail margins, so by cutting this out, we’re able to offer much more attainable price points. There are pros and cons to this though. The drawbacks of being a direct-to-consumer brand are that we don’t have the marketing networks of other brands and retailers to help us spread the word and advertise our products. The pros definitely outweigh the cons though as we’ve realized that having such a hands on approach and sending out each and every single order directly to the end consumer ourselves, we’re able to connect with our community on an authentic level and receive direct feedback from them which helps give us a competitive edge.
Is Vrai and Oro short for something?
Vrai means Truth in French and Oro means Gold in Spanish. We’ve always been inspired by french style and culture and even spent a few months living there, enjoying the laid-back lifestyle. My co-founder and I have lived in Los Angeles for about 10 years now and can’t imagine living anywhere else. While living here, we’ve become hugely influenced by Spanish culture and wanted to incorporate that influence into our name as well. Truth & Gold has become our brand motto and is a constant theme throughout everything we do and create.
What is your take on ‘Fast Fashion’? Do you think there is a movement towards awareness?
At V&O, we’re very against fast fashion and disposable trends. I’m excited about the shifts in our culture though, as I do think there is a strong movement happening towards awareness and buying consciously. We’re starting to realize all the waste, clutter and environmental harm that we created in the world in such a short amount of time and as a result we feel anxious and guilty rather than happy and fulfilled. Knowing that buying ‘things’ doesn’t create happiness is a lesson we had to learn the hard way.
Favorite piece in the collection at the moment?
I’m a sucker for simplicity so our ‘basics’ collection is my favorite. I wear our simple skinny gold stacking rings and our gold line stud earrings all day everyday.
Where did the inspiration for the Black Friday Black Diamonds come from?
We knew we wanted to do something to help educate consumers on Black Friday, the most wasteful consumer day of the year. Using recycled diamonds was the perfect solution to help educate while up-cycling and not creating more waste and clutter in the world. We used black diamonds as a symbol for Black Friday and we inverted them as a symbol for thinking differently about what we buy and wear (turning traditions upside down).
How would you describe the Vrai and Oro woman?
The V&O woman is a conscious consumer that cares about the things she buys, the materials they’re made of and where they come from. She appreciates quality over quantity and values style over trends.
What can we look forward to from your collection in the coming months?
We have a lot of new and exciting designs in the works that we’re excited to share over the next few months. Because we don’t believe in trends, we don’t release collections seasonally but instead, we create and release new designs organically based on feedback from our community.
-And to close, a couple of personal bits-
Being that you created a piece for Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) Do you have any holiday traditions you are looking forward to this year?
Being together with my family is always the most important tradition to me. I’m originally from the East Coast so I don’t get to see my family as often as I would like but the holidays have a special way of bringing everyone together. This year, my family decided to do “secret santa” where we secretly buy one gift for one person instead of spending so much time and money buying presents for everyone. I’m really excited about this because there’s something magical about giving and receiving gifts but our consumer culture has gone a little overboard with the concept and I love that this idea promotes buying fewer and better instead.
Little life luxury you can’t live without?
My fancy water bottle. My friends and family know I can’t go anywhere without it! It’s a modular bottle with a straining mechanism built in so you can add fresh fruit in the bottom compartment to naturally flavor your water. I drink so much more water now and feel healthier because of it.
What books/magazines/movies/or music are you into at the moment?
I love watching documentaries of all genres. They are such an easy and entertaining way to learn about concepts outside your own work and passions. I’m currently reading books about growing a successful business (The Hard Thing About Hard Things and Good to Great) because I feel a lot of new startups are trying to grow too quickly and end up sacrificing important values in the end. We definitely want to be aware of the steps we’re taking while we grow and make sure they authentically align with our values.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m somewhat of a homebody so as much as I love traveling and experiencing the world, I also love being here in Los Angeles and getting involved in the growing community. So I can safely say that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but here.
If you weren’t in the Jewelry business, what would you be doing?
That’s a tough questions. I previously owned a graphic design studio where I helped create brand identities for startup companies but it’s been much more fulfilling to create the brand identity for my own company and follow it through all of it’s different life stages. So I would probably still have a graphic design studio if I hadn’t stumbled into the world of jewelry but I’m very thankful that things played out the way they did.
I promise you, once you go to the Vrai and Oro website you will want ALL of the things, and at their direct to consumer prices you will have a hard time not adding them all to your cart (and they are made with a sustainable, long lasting, well sourced materials so you can feel good about your purchase). Also, their instagram is beautiful, you should probably go follow them... just a thought.
Vanessa, thank you for taking the time to chat! Your line is beautiful, and your heart equally so. I look forward to (ordering from) speaking with you more soon.