I was very fortunate recently to have finally met and visited with Chan Luu, the master craftsperson and designer/creator of such a major jewelry trend as her signature wrap bracelets. As I said to her when we met, I always feel very lucky to speak to someone whose single idea has had such a major impact on an entire industry. Although she has been in the jewelry business for 16 years, her world changed when she invented the trademark wrap bracelets 8 years ago. We discussed many comparisons where a designer signature has impacted a fashion industry….Louboutin’s red soles, Leiber’s molded clutch bags or her favorite comparison was the Chanel jacket which has lived on far beyond her lifetime, a legacy she hopes to leave behind.
The following are some highlights from our chat at J. Silver Jewelry in the Rice Village….a long time supporter of her collections that draws hundreds of her followers for her personal appearances as was evident the day we met.
RP: How did all of this begin for you? You were a designer, in business for 8 years already, how did the wrap bracelet happen?
CL: All of my inspirations come from my travels. I am very interested in cultural history and the future’s relationship to the past and believe that the craft of each country is their culture. I was in a cab in India and saw a very Bohemian looking man…long hair and beard, all dressed in white, wearing an armload of bright colored string bracelets. I got out of the cab, asked him where I could buy those bracelets. He told me that they couldn’t be bought, that you must go to the temple, pray and receive these bracelets there. Also, they were very spiritual and could never be taken off…which I obeyed and felt very spiritual about them. I decided that I would investigate the idea as I had done much looming as a designer. I spun the thread which I colored and dyed, added stones, which were dyed to match and made each unique bracelet which took hours to make.” The rest is history.
RP: How would you describe your growth from these bracelets? Where are they produced and sold?
CL: I produce (5) collections per year. I am primarily based in Los Angeles, where prototypes are made and some production. I loom in Hanoi where I employ 250 people in a small village and all handwork/beadwork is done in Deli where 800 people are working. I am now sold globally in about 3,000 stores, with U.S. market #1, Japan #2 and then followed by Europe.
RP: Do you find your customers different around the world?
CL: Yes, very much so…..Paris wants glamour; New York wants sophistication; L.A. loves sexy and in Texas (Dallas/Houston), the women love it to be noticeable. They like their jewels larger….to be seen from across the room!
RP: How about Publicity and Press for your designs? They are everywhere and you have been on every cover and worn by every celeb? How does that happen?
CL: We handle our own PR in-house, people come to us and I am always pleasantly surprised to see my jewelry on movies (just saw on airplane trip now to Texas!) across many years from all of the old Friends TV Show reruns to the current Twilight series…..I see my bracelets and am amazed!
RP: Lastly, what is in the future for Chan Luu?
CL: I have some projects that are important to me…
One is Breast Cancer Awareness which is a small group that I do each year and raise a lot of money for that cause. I am not personally a survivor but have many friends and customers that have been and do that for them!
Secondly, I am working with the U.N. on a movement called ‘Ethical Fashion International’, which is designed to teach and empower women on how to build a sustainable life. It is in countries such as Haiti and Africa and she is working exclusively on this with the U. N. to ensure that these women who are making this collection are being paid fairly for their work. The money for these women are being used by them to feed their families. This is not merely charity, they are being taught to work for fair wages.
Another great example of how this marvelously talented woman and so many fashion/celebrity folks are giving back to the needy of the world