Designers creating one-of-a-kind handmade products
Paula Mendoza is a jewelry designer with a strong presence among social networks. Her Instagram pictures balance of her personal and professional life while she engages with clients and friends previewing her collections and creating contests for loyal customers. She’s also friends – and a favorite – of Latin-American fashion editors and it girls like Gloria Saldarriaga and Kelly Talamas of Vogue Mexico, where her jewelry, month after month, is featured in the Latin-American fashion bible.
Mendoza has achieved a lot in the two years that her company has been established in NYC, but hasn’t lost the human, humble touch when it comes to talking about the jewelry line that carries her name. Paula Mendoza Jewelry is a reflection of her heritage, her lifestyle, herself. She’s bold, lively and practical as much as she’s refined and sophisticated. Most of the items from PM’s New York Icons collection have become classics whilst reaching the shelves of top high-end retailers like Five Story, Moda Operandi and Muleh in New York City, Elements in Chicago and PerSe in Bogotá, the Colombian capital where her workshop is located.
Paula Mendoza was born and raised in Bogotá, actually. Over there she studied communications and went for a grad degree in marketing, yet, jewelry didn’t come into her life by chance. “I’ve been creating jewelry for about ten years. I started in a very artisanal way, testing and making things for my friends ad family,” said the designer during a phone interview the week before the launch of her new fall 2013 collection. “I started by learning jewelry techniques that would enable me to experiment.”
Which is why Mendoza traveled to Peru and Brazil to learn about filigree and stones from local artisans, to later on move to Washington DC to study sculpture. You could say her pieces seam more like sculptures than mere necklaces, earring, rings and bracelets. These are statement pieces, mostly gold pleated from bonze alloys in organic and ergonomic shapes, usually oversized, that resemble something a modern Cleopatra or an Indigenous goddess would wear. She calls the Clo Necklace – a piece of perforated triangles of different shapes linked together – a classic, along her uncut-emerald pieces, which embody the Colombian culture of pre-Columbian gold and local emeralds. “I’m sure that all those genes from past lives and all that Colombian ‘chibchombian’ [from the indigenous Colombian tribe Chibchas] culture that I have inside of me come through in every one of my pieces,” she comments. “One thing that makes my jewelry very Colombian is the 24-carat gold, which gives them that yellow-orange gold that resembles the pieces from the Gold Museum.” These are statement pieces, where deconstructed pre-Columbian references blend in a sea of contemporary trends and street culture.
“Two years ago, when I was still living in Washington, the jewelry I designed was much more suited for galas and parties,” commented Mendoza. Now her target audience has shifted a bit from classic ambassadresses looks into a younger, hipper customer. “First of all, in New York you stop wearing high-heels because you have to walk so much. You take the subway and do so many things that you just don’t wear them unless you’re going out at night. People that live downtown [where she resides] are very practical, they want to to be confortable, but they also want to be beautiful and ready for a party at any time.” That reflection explains how her aesthetic merged into the lifestyle and the visual nourishment she gets on a daily basis ever since she moved to Manhattan. “Without looking for it, we built a collection full of practical, very street-style, urban pieces. It’s very New york, very downtown, with a bit of punk.”
For the fall Turn of the Tides collection, Mendoza re-launches some of her classics as a recollection of the core pieces of her line, whilst also taking into consideration the response that she got after New York Icons. “We had many meetings with clients and buyers and that kind of feedback traced the direction for this collection.” A new range of texturized gold pieces was created along the sculptural emerald Silvia Ring and the red carpet worthy Miraduma Necklace. A favorite of yours truly might be the Daphne Earrings made of her statement perforated spheres and fellow ear cuffs that, in order to hug the ears perfectly, have to go through a lot of testing, back and forth with her jewelers in Bogotá.
After the official launch of TOT Collection Mendoza travels for trunk shows and meetings around the US, and every two months visits her Colombian workshop, currently in the good hands of her mother. Is that kind of balance that she loves – staying close to home in order to put her mark on America’s fashion jewelry market.
Para leer la versión en español de este artículo has click aquí.
Photos courtesy of Paula Mendoza