The hashtag #ilikerocks echoes the sentiment of Kimberly McDonald enthusiasts everywhere. With an ethos characterized as “the melding of the raw and the fine” the New York based designer struck gold (somewhat figuratively speaking) with her ingenious, one-of-a-kind jewelry collections.
Stunningly beautiful and surprisingly sustainable, pieces are masterfully crafted by recycled diamonds, reclaimed gold, and other fine materials. It’s no wonder her clients reflect an A-list of style starlets that themselves reflect the equally fascinating hybrid of sensational yet socially conscious.
Kimberly took a break from her immensely tight schedule to share with us insights into her captivating brand as well as what she has in mind for its future.
The Lady Loves Couture: Describe the Kimberly McDonald point of view. What is it about your jewelry that makes it so unique?
Kimberly McDonald: The Kimberly McDonald point of view is a deep love and reverence for nature, natural materials, energy, and expertly crafted hand made fine jewelry. Other than being the pioneer in this genre of fine jewelry, what distinguishes my collection from others includes the mine-to-market commitment of using the most responsibly sourced natural materials which are all designed by me and made in the United States in the traditions of the finest jewelry houses and complete originality. In an industry filled with appropriation the Kimberly McDonald fine jewelry collection is truly authentic.
TLLC: When did you know you had an incredibly unique product/concept? When did you sense you’d made it as a designer?
KM: I think that I’m a unique girl and always have marched to my own beat so I make the product that I want to wear. The product that I respond to or fall in love with. The product that gives me life energy.
I’m not sure how anyone knows they’ve “made it”. I have had some incredible moments like my first year when my pieces were heavily featured in Sex and the City 2 on SJP or when I outfitted Mrs Obama with jewels for the 2nd Inaugural Ball.
My goal is to provide amazing and beautiful pieces. Consistently. For as long as I am enjoying what I do.
TLLC: Who is the Kimberly McDonald woman?
KM: The Kimberly McDonald woman is all about being unique. She expects the best. She is not into what everyone else is wearing; what she owns is specific to her. She has taste. Style. Intelligence. She likes rocks and thinks nature is the most inspiring resource available to us. She has soul. She is spiritual in her own manner. She is a bad-ass. She appreciates what she has. She connects with the stones or with the organic shapes. The Kimberly McDonald woman is the one who everyone else is watching and trying to be like, not knowing that what makes her special isn’t her clothing or her jewelry it’s her vibe and her one-of-a-kindness.
TLLC: Some of the most recognizable women have worn your jewelry including Michelle Obama, Halle Berry, and Carrie Underwood. Is there anyone that you would love to see in one of your pieces?
KM: I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the most beautiful and recognizable women in the world and I really appreciate those opportunities. I don’t necessarily have any celebrities I’m dreaming of working with. In general I love seeing my work represented on strong, intelligent, talented, unique, and soulful women around the world. I enjoy witnessing their love for their particular stones when they wear their KMD.
TLLC: Walk us through the process of “accessorizing” a client for the red carpet.
KM: Well…since I started in the business (I was very lucky that my first year in business I was also on major red carpets on the likes of Halle Berry) the whole platform has changed. When I began, no one was wearing my type of organic shaped natural stones on red carpets. It was fun and exciting then. Now so many people are paid or gifted in advance to wear certain lines. This year I have taken a very laid back approach. We are not even working with a publicist.
For the Golden Globes two very organic placements transpired and I honestly couldn’t be more pleased.
We dressed Taraji P Henson. Her stylist, Jason Bolden, is a friend of mine. He had a vision, he called me up, told me what he wanted. Within about five minutes I sent him a sketch from this app I love called YouDoodle. He replied “perfect”. I then contacted Gemfields (they’re the largest resource for responsibly sourced colored gemstones and I have a great relationship with them) and they shipped the stones. I think we had about ten days to make the stunning 107ct natural Zambian emerald drops that Taraji wore when she took home the award for her role as Cookie on the show Empire.
For Melissa McCarthy, similar thing. Her stylist, Judy Swartz came into my LA boutique and we spent some time talking about Melissa’s style. They wanted something really fresh. The dress was absolutely stunning and the neckline lent itself to something long and beautiful. We had just received a new orchide pendant that no one had seen before…and it ended up being the perfect finishing touch for her custom made gown.
For me the process has to be organic. I don’t enjoy the frenzy that I have experienced in past years and I’m not looking to dress everyone on the carpet. I prefer one or two really amazing people who I know will command attention.
TLLC: What is a good guide post for self editing when accessorizing in everyday life? How much is too much?
KM: I’m not familiar with the term “too much” lol.
Seriously, I think everyone has their vibe. I have clients who are tiny and they will rock an arm piled with bracelets and you would think “that’s too much” but it isn’t on them. It’s about the woman. How she carries herself. Her style. Her confidence. I think I see more faux pas of women wearing too little than too much. Unless you get one of those who is trying to stack up ever labeled brand and trendy designer they can fit on themselves at once. That usually doesn’t look very chic.
I think the best rule of thumb is have a few staples. Like good friends you keep with you all the time. And then add some pieces, layer, change up colors sometimes. And don’t be afraid to wear the good stuff. I think too often women are intimidated to wear the good stuff daily!
TLLC: What are the biggest trends in 2016? Are there any taboos?
KM: I don’t believe in trends in fine jewelry. Fine jewelry is the only thing I know of that combines: an heirloom, a commodity, a fashion statement, expression of personal style, talisman, momento that marks births and anniversaries and major life monents, and an investment. So I don’t design for trend (although many would say I started the trend of organic shapes and materials in fine jewelry) or seasons (other than maybe using lighter colors in summer).
The only taboo is being trendy or trying to be like everyone else. Be your own beautiful self with your own style!
TLLC: You’ve expanded your vision into the realm of home decor. What inspired that evolution?
KM: I strongly believe that the things we surround ourselves with influence our energy our moods and our productivity as human beings (I don’t mean work necessarily here). This is true from what we wear to what we see around us. The mind is an amazing machine that takes in everything that passes before our eyes without us even really thinking about it. So I decided to take my love of nature and natural elements and materials past the realm of fine jewelry into luxury eco-referenced, responsibly-sourced home decor. It has been a very exciting, sometimes challenging endeavor. I am extremely pleased with the results so far. KMD is really about a lifestyle of luxury and mine-to-market responsibly made products that reflect a love and appreciation for this planet.
TLLC: Your jewelry and home decor pieces have been a favorite on Empire. Can you give us a sneak peek of some “Cookie” approved pieces for the upcoming season?
KM: Mum’s the word on that one! Sorry…but you’ve seen Cookie in action. She will snatch me up if I spill any secrets!
TLLC: Was developing this brand always a part of your plans? Or was it a dream discovered along your career path?
KM: Oh. Yeah, no…this was not in my plans. I didn’t really have a plan. I lived in Paris for a bit. Had a store in Atlanta. Knew I loved rocks and jewelry. Had an eye for color. Spent years curating high jewelry collections for some really amazing clients. And then one day my now business partner mentioned to me that I had been designing pieces for my clients and maybe I should consider developing my own line. To be honest I didn’t think that much about whether it would be a brand or not. I just wanted to make something that I loved. That I would want to own.
I would add that the “dream” does evolve and if you’re thinking of going into fashion or design or want to have a brand of your own you should allow it to evolve. Your internal compass will never steer you wrong.
TLLC: Knowing what you now know, what advice would you have given yourself as you embarked upon your designer/entrepreneur journey?
KM: Knowing what I know now I wouldn’t change anything other than a few hires I made along the way.
Not that I haven’t made mistakes; because I have. But I have also had a few things going for me. A partner/trusted person who truly wants only to see me happy. This is key. Because unfortunately you can find yourself in a situation where people close to you want success for you only if they have some control, or they become jealous and that isn’t good. You need someone who will tell you the unbiased truth and then still support you – whatever decisions you make – even if you make mistakes. This is crucial.
And talent. I have had to learn to say this without being embarrassed. You have to accept your gifts and be proud of them. Don’t delude yourself or have an attitude or ego. But accept and explore what is uniquely yours.
TLLC: What can we expect in the future from the Kimberly McDonald brand?
KM: The unexpected.