Although Melanie Edwards of RIFLE + RADFORD learned much of her craft in New York City, her roots are firmly planted in Austin, Texas.
RIFLE + RADFORD recently celebrated their five year anniversary after launching in Manhattan in 2011, but now, Melanie Edwards creates and designs every piece of jewelry from her home studio in South Austin. We sat down with R + R's creative director to talk about her style, her brand's growth, her eye for trends, and her prestigious training.
How do you pull inspiration for your designs?
ME: I’m inspired by organic surfaces, nature, textiles, and the world around us. I try to infuse a bit of the "southwest feel" of Texas into every one of my designs. The raw nature of the stones I work with really reflect the breathtaking landscapes and unique rock formations of the area.
How would you describe your design style?
ME: The three words I would use are organic, sophisticated, and a little eclectic. I don’t stick to a creative regimen; I let the process take me on a journey.
Talk about your background and experience in jewelry designing.
ME: After I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC, I launched RIFLE + RADFORD five summers ago from my tiny NYC apartment. Energized by my previous apprenticeships with Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karan, and Tibi, I pulled from my experience to create a collection that is timeless yet timely. Within a year, I had pop up shops in Chelsea Market, Meatpacking, and, most notably, Grand Central Terminal. This was a cornerstone in growing my business. It's a great honor to show your work in the 100-plus-year-old revered space and literally help write the history within the walls. And, also, the amount of people you meet and the loyalty of the clients you cultivate to your brand is mind blowing. It’s mecca.
Tell us a little about your apprenticeship with Oscar De La Renta.
ME: Early into my career, I had the amazing opportunity to apprentice under the legendary Oscar De La Renta – and it has made all the difference. It was a dream growing up that I never thought would materialize. Being in the studio day in and day out with the emperor of sophistication and elegance has truly made me the designer I am today. He was the most charming man and a brilliant fashion designer.
What do you see as upcoming jewelry trends?
ME: Lariats are all the rage right now! They’re so fun because they feel like a layered necklace, but are, in fact, just layers. Layers are always fresh, timeless, and fun.
How has your brand's style evolved since its beginning in 2011?
ME: My style is constantly evolving as new experiences and design processes present themselves. My first collections were designed around faceted statement necklaces and earrings, as most of my customers in NYC wanted bold pieces to wear to the office. In my hometown of Austin, it’s much more laid back, so I’ve embraced a whimsical approach by incorporating lots of fun, dainty pieces that can be worn everyday for every occasion.
What advice would you give a budding designer?
ME: Never stop learning. This is incredibly important in being a successful designer and entrepreneur. Continuing to acquire knowledge creates not only a fluidity of constant information that can be applied multiple facets of your designs and business, but also makes you a leader in your field. As the saying goes: "Knowledge is power!"