Simple, refined, and delicate Brvtvs' necklaces, bracelets, and earrings are wear-them-everyday pieces — but with serious edge. And that's all thanks to designer Caroline Ventura, who let us in on her amazing studio space for an exclusive tour. Indeed, her design aesthetic is emblematic of the way she runs her cool workshop — it's got personality without being too overbearing, it's comfortable but still somehow, well, designed. So, while we thought we were just crushing on her eye-catching wares, once we met the brilliant master behind the baubles, we fell in love with her masculine-meets-feminine style, her rustic space, and her make-it-by-hand design ethos, too. Click through for the exclusive tour, and get well-acquainted with one of our favorite NYC jewelry designers. Then, duh, click over to shops to snag your favorite Brvtvs pieces — before we do.
Photographed by Winnie Au
How does designing in NYC effect your aesthetic?
"Being in NYC is amazing. There is inspiration everywhere. I'm constantly walking around the city, seeing interesting architecture or shapes, and trying to figure out how to translate that into a piece of jewelry."
Describe your design aesthetic in three words.
"Restrained, delicate, classic."
Vintage tank from eBay, Levi's jeans, R.M. Williams boots.
How close is your design aesthetic to your personal style?
"I think it's pretty close. Originally, I designed pieces for myself, and I guess I still sort of do. I'm a minimalist and pretty restrained at heart. Sometimes I'll try to go crazy and wear something that's a super bright color, or a really short skirt, and I put it on for five seconds and then end up changing into a pair of jeans and a men's shirt, because that's what I feel comfortable in."
Tell us the meaning behind the name of your line.
"It's a play on the story of Julius Caesar. When I first started making jewelry, I did a few really fancy friendship bracelets, and I thought it would be fun to name the line after Marcus Brutus — someone who was notorious for offing his best friend. I'm really obsessed with ancient Rome and Roman history. The name is spelled the Latin way, where the u's are v's."
All of your pieces are handmade. Is this something you want to continue as your production grows? How long does it take to make a piece?
"The line will always be made by hand...it just may not always be made by my hands, as it is currently. Craftsmanship is really important to me. I want all my pieces to be really special, and you can't get that from something that was made en masse from a machine or an assembly line. To me, jewelry is something really personal, and I love each piece that I make and want it to be special for the person I am making it for."
Your pieces are so delicate, yet have an edge. How do you accomplish such impact and what is your opinion of the overt 'statement jewelry' that's so popular right now?
"I really love mixing extremes — masculine and feminine, hard and soft. I try to do that with my designs as well, but not super overtly. They seem simple and really dainty, but there's a masculine element to them as well, especially the pieces that are hammered, or have sharper edges. I've never been an 'in your face' type of person, especially with accessories. I love pieces that at first glance seem really simple, but when you take a second look you notice that there is something interesting and special about them. Big statement-y pieces are definitely having their moment right now, and that's great...but I think there will always be women who want simpler pieces that they can put on and wear consistently, regardless of trends."
If you weren't a jeweler what would you be doing?
"I'd love to be somewhere in Egypt or Greece or Rome, digging up ancient treasure. I think I was an archaeologist in a former life."
What are your favorite shops in NYC? Any favorite lunch spots you go to at work?
"I go into the Acne store and Opening Ceremony quite a lot, although lately I've adopted a "look but don't touch" policy when I'm there. I get a lot of my clothes on eBay or from flea markets. The Rose Bowl flea in Los Angeles is amazing. I try to hit it up every time I go back home to visit my family. I have breakfast or lunch at Peel's at least once a week (all my friends make fun of me for being there so often). I don't know what it is about that place...they have really good coffee that they must put crack or something in, because it keeps me coming back."
Shabd pants, J.Crew chambray shirt, vintage Bass flats.
What is the best advice you've ever gotten? What would you tell young designers starting out in NYC?
"One of my friends told me the other day that to be successful you have to make yourself uncomfortable. At that moment, it was exactly what I needed to hear. Sometimes I am my own biggest roadblock when it comes to trying something new or putting myself out there. I was really fortunate to have a lot of really talented and generous people teaching and helping me when I first started out. You're not going to learn anything unless you ask questions...never be afraid to ask for help or advice. You'll find people are more willing to pay it forward than you think!"
Who do you admire in the business?
"I'm really lucky to be surrounded by quite a few really talented people, all of whom are really inspiring. One of my closest friends, Lynne, has a knitwear line called Cardigan NY, and she's been so helpful in teaching me how to run a business since day one. I refer to her as my Yoda — she's incredibly business-savvy, and just really, really talented. I also love Hattie Carnegie's story. I don't have a traditional jewelry background, which is something that I was a little self-conscious of when I first started out. The fact that a woman like Hattie who, in a time when women weren't running their own businesses, opened a little hat shop without ever learning how to sew, and eventually went on to rule the millinery world...that's something pretty incredible."
What music do you listen to while you design?
"The music that's playing here really depends on what I'm working on. If I'm sketching, it's something a little more mellow...I've been blasting a lot of Bob Marley lately. When I'm making a lot of noise, sawing or hammering, it's usually something a little louder. I listen to at least one Clash song a day, though. I can't live without them."
Vintage eBay dress, Acne boots.
Working with your hands in such a focused way takes so much concentration. What do you do on a break, to let it all out before re-focusing?
"Sometimes I'll be working and not realize that a few hours have passed, and all of a sudden the sun is going down. In the summertime, I like to get out of the studio and sit in a park or take a walk. Just breathing fresh air is enough for me to reset and focus. It's a bit more difficult in the winter though, so when it gets cold out I really like to spend a few hours in a museum somewhere. Some of my friends have studio spaces nearby too, so we can always call on each other when one of us needs a break and wants to get together for lunch or a walk around the block."
We love the open feel of your studio, with the old-school chairs. Where do you shop for furniture in NYC?
"Most of the furniture here is antique or from flea markets. I'm dying to get an old jewelry bench to replace the desk I have currently. I'd love to create my pieces on something that has a little bit of life and history to it...a bench that someone before me loved and worked their ass off at."
What's next for the line? Is there any new design we can look forward to?
"I've been making quite a few wedding bands lately, which is something I really love to do. And, we're moving into a new studio space and opening a little store this fall/early winter! The store is going to be a mix of home decor type things — furniture, little curiosities, a few beauty products, and hard-to-find magazines — and jewelry of course. I have a few collaborations with friends in the works too — some that have nothing to do with jewelry, which is a welcomed change. I like to have my hands in many different pots, so to speak. Also, I'm getting a dog in a few weeks...I'm probably the most excited about this, above anything else!"
Is there anything you'd never wear, or something we'd never see in your pieces?
"I think I'll forever be a girl who just really loves things that are simple. As long as I've been into fashion, I've been a fan of menswear. So, you'll probably never see me in anything overtly girly. I don't like frills."
Borne dress, Converse shoes.