If you are looking for jewelry that is, intimate, original and eternal look no further than Laurel & Bleau.
Laurel & Bleau is a line of exclusive jewelry founded by Lori Gilman that is designed with you in mind to make a lasting impression. You never have to worry about cookie-cutter designs at Laurel & Bleau. Laurel & Bleau clients become the designer by collaborating on the design process unlike other jewelry companies. Choosing everything from chain length, to color and engravings gives buyers an intimate, one-of-a-kind experience.
Already making a name for itself in Hollywood, Laurel & Bleau has exclusively designed pieces for Oprah Winfrey, Gayle King and LeBron James and his wife Savannah, just to name a few! Designs are for women, men, and children and are sold exclusively online.
Lori Gilman, Founder and CEO, Laurel and Bleau share how she started her company and the significance of jewelry in your wardrobe or as a gift.
Tell me about your background. I understand your family owned the famous Fontainebleau Hotel.
Originally the company was named “love2design jewelry.” We had been in business about six years and I was being interviewed by CBS Miami. After the interview my friend suggested that I change the name of the company. I loved the name “love2 design” because it really explained what I do and everything is pretty much custom made because we don’t stock items, unless it’s something basic.
After doing some research I felt that “love2design” might sound a little too young and not as sophisticated for someone purchasing a $3,000 diamond necklace from us. I went back to the drawing board and decided to come up with a name that had meaning to me. My parents met each other in Upstate New York in the Catskills at “The Laurel Country Club.” My mother’s aunt family owned the hotel. I loved the name Laurel, but I needed to add something else to it. My mother’s family also owned the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami. So we came up with Laurel & Bleau, which has a lot of meaning to me and my family.
I also think for people who are familiar with The Fontainebleau Hotel and The Laurel Hotel in Upstate New York, during the 50’s and 60’s it was very glamorous. If you look at the black and white pictures from that time everyone was dressed up and wearing fabulous jewelry. It was a mindset for jewelry and that is how we came up with the name Laurel & Bleau.
Did you go to jewelry design school?
No, I did not attend jewelry design school. I worked in the garment industry for many years and I represented a lot of different clothing companies. I was an independent representative, owned my own business and I represented a lot of clothing companies. I was starting my family and my son had just been born. I thought of leaving the garment industry because the industry had gone downhill a little bit. My childhood friend who happened to own two hair salons in New York was pregnant. I wanted to get her a gift that was different, unique and not what you typically see in the marketplace for mommies. I decided to get her a ring that had her sons name on it which I had designed for her. After I gave her the ring many of her clients saw the ring and wanted to know where they could purchase it. My phone started ringing off the hook because people started asking me if I could make rings for them too. That is how I got into the custom jewelry idea that no one else was doing.
Is Laurel and Bleau jewelry available in retail stores?
Laurel & Bleau does not sell retail. I’m a focused consumer and there aren’t a lot of people that can just walk into a store and pay $1500 for a gold ring. Retail is a tough industry and you have to mark items up significantly in order for the retailers to make their money. I didn’t want to have to do that. What happens is that you don’t make the same amount of money that the retailers do. That is ludicrous. No one wants to have the retailer that they’re selling to make more money than they are. As a result of my background in the garment industry, I knew that inventory was the kiss of death. If you’re in business you don’t want inventory. Ninety percent of my business is custom made. Therefore, I don’t have inventory and it’s a personalized design service where items are generally engraved. If it’s one of our stock pieces such as a heart, you still get to select the length of your chain, engrave it or include a diamond or not.
The majority of my collection is at wholesale prices and not retail prices because I cut out the middle man. Those are the things that I came up with when I started my business to set me apart.
If I ever decided to do retail I would like to create a Laurel & Bleau collection specifically for that retailer. It would have to be a custom design collaboration with a store and created just for them.
What is the turnaround time for customers interested in personalized pieces?
4 to 6 weeks is the time frame. but we often get orders completed in a 2 week period. We don’t do stamping of our jewelry. We do hand engraving and it’s literally someone sitting there and doing the engraving. A lot of our other pieces are much quicker to turnaround.
What was it like when you saw the first celebrity wearing your design?
There are a couple of great ones. I was asked to make NBA player Chris Bosh and all of his groomsmen cufflinks. I didn’t get to see him in them, but the thought that I was asked to create jewelry for him and his groomsmen on his wedding day was very special to me.
Sara Blakely (Creator of Spanx) and her husband are friends of ours. Her husband contacted me about a gift for Sara for Mother’s Day. I suggested a necklace with her son’s name that was written by him. We copied his handwriting and I had my jewelers cut it out in gold and we set it in diamonds; it was a pretty big piece. When he wrote his name for her necklace he was 4 years old at the time. The following day Sara goes onto “The Gayle King Show” and Gayle asked her about the piece of jewelry that she was wearing because it was so unusual. Sara shared that it was her Mother’s Day gift from her husband and son where he wrote his name and had it made into a necklace for her. Gayle and Sara called me from the studio and Gayle said that she would like to have me featured in O Magazine. It was very exciting. Not only did I get to feature my jewelry in O Magazine, but I also made Gayle a piece of jewelry. Gayle called me to thank me for making her a piece of jewelry. I was flattered that she took time out of her day to call me and thank me; someone that she has never met was very touching.
Since that feature in O Magazine people have called me with their ideas of things to make pieces which have been truly touching and incredible. I made a special item for a mother of six children who had a set of twins. One of the twins died when he was 6 years old and she had a photo that he drew for her on her wall. The picture said “I love you Mom.” We took his handwriting of the word Mom and had it made into a necklace for her.
I have clients where they have taken checks of their deceased loved one’s signature and had their signature made into a piece of jewelry. Another customer had their three children write two letters each of their mother’s name and we had a necklace made from their handwriting. Its unique stories like that from being featured in O Magazine that we’ve been involved in that are so personal for me.
You are very involved in charitable giving with love2design. How important is it to you?
I try to coordinate with charitable organizations whenever I can. It is extremely important to me to be involved with charitable giving. As long as I cover my cost and because Laurel & Bleau does not sell retail, I am able to give 100 percent of the profits to the charitable organization. Most companies only give back 10 percent or 15 percent because they are sold to retail stores and they have to go through a middle man. I also like to help small schools and help them raise money for education.
What’s trending now?
The name necklace which Sarah Jessica Parker wore (Carrie) in Sex and The City are still very popular today. I made a lot of them for graduation this year, which I made from their signature.
The midi rings and pinkie rings are very popular and you just have to learn how to re-purpose them for your life and where you are.
What is your advice for women entrepreneurs and how to overcome roadblocks?
When I was originally starting my business it was 9/11 and my husband had lost his job and every penny that I earned from this business paid the bills for a very long time. Today I do this business not because I don’t have something to do, but because I love what I do and I need to do it. If you set your mind to it, you can work time easily. My friend’s mom gave me the best advice years ago. She said, “Not enough time in the day, get up and hour earlier.” That’s the truth. To be able to start and grow your business with your kids around is extremely important. I work from home many times unless I am traveling. My kids since they could walk have seen me work. I would tell my kids Mommy is going to be on a business call and to make sure the dog doesn’t bark. They would make sure the dog didn’t bark. I think you can do it all and be around your kids and let them see you working can be awesome. It is a great learning experience for your kids and motivating for them too.
My kids are 18 and 15 years old now. I was back to work a week after I had both of them. My son Noah helps me with my website because he’s tech savvy. My daughter Lucky is an athlete and I test the endurance of my jewelry on her. If it doesn’t break with her active lifestyle I know it is foolproof. She is the inspiration for the items on my website that say Lucky.
What should people know about Laurel & Bleau?
When you put on a piece of jewelry it’s more about how you’re feeling at that moment. If your children are young you might want to wear their names on a necklace. If you’re in your 20s you may want to wear your name at that age because you love yourself. As you get older you may want to wear jewelry that says “Breathe” because you may need to take a breath. I want people to know that you’re creating a story when you wear jewelry. Laurel & Bleau is able to capture where you are at any point in your life. I make necklaces very short or very long so that you can layer it with other pieces. People have to learn how to forget the rules and mix and match their jewelry. Yellow, pink, silver and leather can all be worn together. There are no rules that you should only wear gold jewelry with other gold jewelry. Mix them all together, whether it’s gold, silver or rose tones.
Designing a piece of jewelry that you are able to layer with what you own and love already is what Laurel & Bleau is all about!
For more information about Laurel & Bleau visit their website.