Jewelry designer Susan Alexandra’s style was born from mistakes. When the young designer took a metalworking class, she loved the process but couldn’t master the required precision. Instead of giving up, she starting covering flaws in a rainbow of painted patterns and designs. “That became my niche, my signature style—these painted pieces,” says Alexandra. “And that was to cover up imperfections!”
Today, Manhattan-based Alexandra sells her handmade jewelry worldwide, using online stores, indie boutiques and everything in between. Her quirky rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings take inspiration from Frida Kahlo, fruit salad and New York City, and have been featured everywhere from Teen Vogue to Elle Magazine. Even with all this success, Alexandra’s jewelry-making goal remains the same: “I want it to bring joy.”
Alexandra grew up in Columbus, Ohio, dreaming of big-city life. She came to Columbia College Chicago to study fashion management and immerse herself in the city’s hustle. She threw herself into the music scene, inspired by the colors and culture of Chicago hip-hop. Columbia—and the city at large—taught her the importance of fostering artistic friendships and building creative support systems.
“These people you meet, you’re all kindred spirits, you’re all artists in one way or another,” Alexandra says. “Columbia fosters that environment—it’s all about who you know.”
Alexandra got a piece of life-changing advice in a fashion anthropology class. One day, assistant
professor Virginia Heaven pulled her aside with a few wise words: “Don’t rest on your laurels.”
“I still think about that,” Alexandra says. And she certainly hasn’t stopped to rest yet.
She calls her jewelry-making process cathartic and intuitive—a time to sit down and process emotions, images, songs and gut instincts into wearable art. “My work is me. Everything is me,” she says. “I feel like people, once and for all, are seeing me for who I am.”
Next up, Alexandra hopes to expand her line with more accessories, fragrances and lingerie, and even home décor like candles. In fact, she would love to grow into a total lifestyle brand. Through it all, she hopes to continue her mission of spreading color, fantasy and joy. “My jewelry is an escape for me,” she says, “and I want it to be an escape for people.” —Megan Kirby
Photos by Leslie Kirchoff.