Feb 17, 2014
03:59 PMStyle & Shopping
'Real Housewives', Stylish Women Will Give Connecticut Jewelry Artist National Profile
Imagine encountering the work of an artist who, in painting a seascape, doesn’t only masterfully capture the maritime imagery but seems to have painted the feeling of the sea itself—or the feeling of an African safari, say, or the warm, colorful embrace of Palm Beach ebullience.
Winslow Homer or the British artist JMW Turner come to mind as artists who reflected the subject of the sea as if seen, or felt, from the inside out—and the thought of possessing the sensory impact of something within an artistic medium arises in looking at the work of jewelry artist Laleh Damiani, the principal of Ladami Designs who simply goes by “La.”
The quality above may not be the most immediately apparent reason this former dental hygienist from Farmington is on the verge of a breakthrough; with high-profile folks like Sage Steele of ESPN and transgender model Lauren Foster of “The Real Housewives of Miami” wearing her work (left), and a new national sales rep for the line, Mickey Walters, larger-scale success and a national profile are on the horizon.
Her trademarked AZIN necklaces are big, bold, fun, beautiful and statement-making, while also being light to wear and crafted with only the best elements—gemstones, handmade lampwork glass beads, artisan borosilicate glass, freshwater and cultured pearls, abalone Swarovski crystal, sterling silver, 14 karat gold, premium Bali and Hill Tribe silver beads, vintage and collector beads, and more.
But what makes these pieces of “wearable art” so riveting is the overall effect of Damiani’s artistry, and, she acknowledges, “The art is in putting it together.”
Inspiration comes from everywhere—art, food, nature, clothing—and once it strikes, Damiani becomes a sculptor who combines pure talent and impeccable curatorial skills to construct the playfully daring embodiment of the theme.
An AZIN reflecting a nautical theme (right) might incorporate starfish in precious metals, pearls, glass beads that channel the feeling of sea glass and others that are the dark blue of a brooding ocean, and sparkling crystals that evoke the swirling beacons of lighthouses.
In the end, the necklace feels like the sea itself, just as the Palm Beach AZIN (below) is a festival of Lilly Pulitzer colors and energy, and like the Safari AZIN feels tawny and brown, golden and exotic, like the African savannah. Damiani’s pieces seize viewers in the same way that great paintings do, whether realistic or abstract.
She says it takes 30 hours to make a necklace, and given that time commitment and the bounty of precious metals involved, the AZIN pieces retail for approximately $2,000, though the size of the piece and what it’s composed of are factors that make that average vary. (AZIN is a Persian word referencing jewelry, decoration and beauty, and Damiani is half-Persian; more on that later.)
Damiani has no trouble selling the AZIN necklaces—or any other of her designs, which include more simple but still beautiful necklaces, stylish and funky belt buckles and, soon, a bridal line.
In fact, the designer has made a conscious effort to rein in sales locally in the Farmington Valley, in an effort to ensure the region doesn’t get saturated with women sporting AZINs, and she has also focused more on creating necklaces than marketing them, in order to build up her collection in advance of the push to expand the profile of Ladami Designs.
Call it carefully managing success in order to step up to the next level, rather than spawning a growing ring of ripples that would keep Damiani anchored in the same place.
An anecdote that Damiani shares indicates the potential of AZINs: Anna, a passionate client from Avon and New York City was told by her husband that she shouldn't wear her AZIN jewelry when they were traveling, especially by plane—it attracts too much attention and they were always being delayed by admirers.
There are two milestones that got Damiani to this point.
The first propelled her into designing and making fine jewelry. Damiani was a dental hygienist working part-time in Farmington, and, she says, “I always made simple pieces for myself.” Whenever she would wear them to work, patients would want to buy them.
So Damiani began doing small trunk shows, and in 2006 Ladami Designs was born. “It really took off wildly,” the designer says. (Right, jewelry artist Laleh Damiani; below, Anna Culver, wearing an AZIN, with comedian and actor Joe Piscopo.)
Then came the next milestone.
Two and a half to three years ago, Damiani says, “I sat down in the studio and decided to make myself something unique and funky with all my leftover beads.” The first AZIN was born, though it didn’t have a name or brand yet.
What it did have was artistry that made an impression, and magnetism. “I didn’t have it on for more than two hours and somebody wanted to buy it off my neck,” Damiani recalls.
That effect and Damiani’s design artistry shouldn’t, perhaps, come as a surprise. According to her website, Damiani was surrounded by art, textiles and creativity all of her life, as the daughter of an accomplished painter and doll maker.
“Her exposure to fine art, fashion & culture at very early age has inspired her designs,” the site says. “Each piece is like that of a painting, with many layers, hues and dimension. The AZIN can be worn with everything from conservative and classic to modern and edgy. Each maintains consistency in its own look, while offering a full range of options for themes, colors and proportions. As a designer and artisan, Laleh never adheres to one style or one flavor; her taste and approach to jewelry design is constantly evolving. The AZIN truly makes statement—Laleh’s clients describe wearing their AZIN as wearing their own piece of art rather than an accessory.”
Finding a name that would brand these unique necklaces wasn’t easy, but in the end it was a case of serendipity. Damiani’s daughter’s middle name is Azin, “just a little something so she knows the culture,” and when the designer was brainstorming a name, that fact combined with the Persian translation of Azin as signifying beauty and decoration made it the instant, obvious choice.
Laleh in Persian happens to mean tulip—so it’s a family and a venture that trace beauty to the core of the defining nomenclature.
“I’m having a lot of fun with it,” says Damiani of her AZIN creations. “I really love them and know how well they’re made and how much good stuff is in them. I think that I’m going to be very busy this year.”
With figures like Sage Steele having worn La Damiani's jewelry on the ESPYs, with women who have AZIN necklaces feeling “like they’re in a little club,” with a national rep providing strategic input, and with a bridal line in the works, busy may be an understatement.
And, oh, if you think the AZIN look isn’t your style, a couple of thoughts: Seeing them up close is likely to sway you, and, as Damiani notes, “The majority of people who buy these are very conservative.”