How I Got My Job: Julie Danz Of Juvi Designs On Bringing Her Jewellery Ideas To Life
She's the "Ju" in "Juvi," doncha know.
When designer Julie Danz met her now-husband Vincent, a silversmith, magic happened in more ways than one. After backpacking through Mexico on a couples trip, the pair were inspired to join their creative forces and start a jewellery line: Juvi Designs. We meet one half (literally the “Ju” in “Juvi”) of the design duo, to find out what it’s been like keeping a business afloat through boom and bust.
Tell us a bit about your background in design and how you got started?
Like so many young Irish people before me, I made the jump across the pond to New York early on in my career. While there, I worked under Carleton Varney, one of America’s most adventurous and bold interior designers.
Carleton has a very bold approach to mixing bright colours which definitely influenced my love of colour in jewellery. In both interior design and jewellery design, there’s a process of sketching to making and seeing a creation come to life that is deeply rewarding. I love creating things that help people express themselves.
How did the idea for Juvi come about?
When I returned from New York, I met Vincent, my now husband and business partner, who is a very talented silversmith. We both have a love for travelling so we decided to backpack through Mexico for a while. While there, we stumbled across a gemstone shop, and for us it was like walking into a sweet shop. It was an explosion of colour. I chose a few to bring home and began experimenting and designing jewellery around them, which Vincent then brought to life.
Setting up your own business back home must have been nerve-wracking?
We set up Juvi Designs in 2006 from our living room in Rathgar. While it was the boom times in Ireland, jewellery design was still a very competitive industry to break into. We were delighted to win ‘Best Accessories Designer’ award at Dublin Fashion Week that year which led us to opening a pop-up concession in Brown Thomas. This later led us to opening Juvi concessions in both House of Fraser, Dundrum and Arnotts and I’m proud to say that we are now stocked in many beautiful stores around Ireland.
What has been the biggest challenge for you personally since starting the business?
There have been many challenges along the way, from finding the right stone suppliers, to getting good staff and generally figuring out that I cannot do everything myself! Our biggest challenge came after lots of to-ing and fro-ing in September 2008 we opened our first concession in House of Fraser in Dundrum. It was the week the banks went bust and the start of the recession but we had already signed a minimum yearly sales guarantee. This meant that we had to reconsider our designs and adapt to make lighter gemstone pieces that were more affordable and accessible to the market without losing Juvi’s unique identity.
We never gave up and worked so hard to hit the targets including working in House of Fraser ourselves to cut costs. Thankfully we now have an amazing team of staff who have been with us a long time and know the brand inside out.
How hands on are you both these days – do you have a large team or do the bulk of the work yourselves?
Vincent and I have quite different roles, but we are both very hands-on. Designing will always be my passion, and I create each Juvi piece based on my own experiences and creative style. Vinny, on the other hand, is very involved in the quality and craftmanship element of the business. That said, we’re not afraid to delegate when needed, and we have ten wonderful staff working with us.
What inspires your designs?
We find inspiration all around us on a daily basis whether from it’s from people, places, nature, fashion, colourful gemstones or our love for travel. In fact, many of our collections are named after the beautiful places we have been lucky enough to visit and experience. For example, this year’s Cocoa Pod collection was inspired by our many magical trips to Mexico, the home of the cacao bean and tree.
What’s a day in your life like at the moment?
No day is the same. On any given day I could be meeting current and potential stockists, overseeing photo-shoots, engaging on social media, or working on PR and marketing. I spend a lot of time designing new collections, but once one is complete it’s straight on to the next one.
Aside from the design element, what’s one perk of your role?
Our gemstones come from all over the world so we often travel to Hong Kong and India to meet our suppliers, choose new gemstones and design new cuts and shapes for each collection. Combining work and our love of travel is the dream!
Check out the Juvi Designs A/W16 range on site now.