I recently received the latest lookbook for Winifred Grace's Pre-Fall and Fall 2011 Jewelry Collection. Blown away and gasping at each piece, I was left desperately wanting to interview this incredible designer! I wanted to ask her about her method and process to further understand how she creates the unbelievably fresh pieces of art that we then get to wear as jewelry! I contacted her lovely rep, Courtney, who then got in touch with Winnie who agreed to do a Q&A!
Below is my interview with the fabulous Winnie Gundeck, creator of Winifred Grace. I have also included my favorite pieces that are available now from the current spring season. I want to scoop up every single piece, as I'm sure you all will too once you lay your eyes on them! Also, be sure to check out Winnie's fresh off the press Pre-Fall lookbook at the bottom of my post. Her fall collection as she describes in her interview, is the most personal extension of herself thus far. Well, she has most certainly made a fan out of me! Let me know what your favorite piece is so we can all swoon together! Hope you all enjoy!
Exclusive Interview with Winnie Gundeck from Winifred Grace:
What is your hometown?
Winnie: Half my childhood was spent in Miami, Florida, and the second half in Atlanta, Georgia. I currently live in Chicago.
I am from Chicago so I have my fair share of favorite spots. What are some of your favorite restaurants and boutiques in Chicago?
Winnie: One stop only for clothing & accessories : P45 in Bucktown, Calo's for old school Italian in Andersonville, Opart Thai in lincoln Square for the best Thai food in the city, Big Star for tacos & margaritas in Bucktown.
Did you go to school for jewelry design or are you self taught? How did this incredible talent manifest itself and when?
Winnie: I am definitely self taught. As a child I was always manipulating & repurposing things in to accessories. Barrettes of silk flowers and acrylic paint. I even took old oxford shirts of my Dad's and swapped out the buttons for ones made of rhinestones, replaced the collar for one made of lace, and added embroidered ribbons to the sides. I went to graduate school for graphic design and that's when many of my instincts for design blossomed and were really honed. SO many of the same principles in graphic design can be translated in to jewelry : size, scale, color, contrast, texture. . . A few years ago I did take some metal smithing classes in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (where my grandmother studied jewelry design in the 60s - I took classes in the very same classroom!), but these days I am creating jewelry that involve more hand stitching, weaving, and knotting fabrics & leathers than soldering metals. After graduating from graduate school I worked for 3 years as a graphic designer at a small boutique firm in Chicago. I started Winifred Grace in 2003, as I was really craving more hands on creativity.
For your Spring 2011 Collection, I see you have used a lot of exquisite african trading beads mixed with waxed linen. It is basically art. Where did you get the idea to incorporate these beads?
Winnie: I have always been inspired by old African textiles, jewelry, and adornments. It is such a beautiful concept that at one point hand made beads were used as currency! I love their rustic, one of a k ind quality and love the idea of mixing them with contemporary sensibilities.
Your Fall collection is less glitzy than your previous collections. With your innovative mix of leathers, raw brass, and waxed linens, these pieces give off a much more natural/bohemian feel. What inspired you to switch it up?
Winnie: While I loved the "sparkle" & "glitz" of my previous collections, the current collections are much more a personal reflection of my own taste and style. My home and my wardrobe choices have always reflected a mix of bohemian sophistication - and now my jewelry designs really are an authentic extension of me.
You use a lot of raw brass and oxidized sterling silver in your jewelry pieces. Raw brass is hands down my favorite material because it looks as if it has had a life before it found me. Do you have any other materials on your back burner with which you want to experiment? If so, what are they?
Winnie: I've recently been using fabrics & leathers in my designs. I see going far & deep with these materials as they really start to bridge the gap between accessories & clothing. I love the idea of designing an accessory that truly incorporates itself in to your outfit and doesn't compete with it.
Do you have any tips on how to wear jewelry? Is there ever too much? Are you a fan of layering? As a jewelry designer, how do you like to see your pieces worn?
Winnie: One of the greatest satisfactions is seeing the jewelry on my customers. It comes to life in a way that is so different than me just trying them on in the studio to make sure they lay or hang correctly. When I meet a customer I can instinctually pick out a piece right off the bat for her - there are certain pieces that just speak to a certain personal style. I love layering my pieces and it is especially thrilling to see a customer who has layered a piece from 5 seasons ago with one from my current collection. That's how I design the collections - each one, evolving from the next so there are always some "genetic" similarities which make them timeless.
What inspires you when beginning the design process for a new collection? Do you have a specific method of research or does the theme just come to you?
Winnie: There are some general rules I follow which are carried over from my years as a graphic designer – ideas about scale, contrast, and color theory, for example, but overall my creative process is very organic. I rely very much on intuition; and my basic instinct for what looks good and what doesn’t. For each collection I gather imagery which inspires me at that moment: a specific color combination, an outfit, a movie, a piece of artwork, or a room’s décor. This helps me establish the mood of the collection, and then from there I source materials which support that mood. Once the materials have been chosen (size & color options included), I use those materials to set up parameters for the collection and I design within those realms. Limiting myself in that way allows for an entire collection to develop organically and look cohesive. Each individual piece is unique but it is obvious that all the pieces are a part of the same family. There is some sketching, but mostly the best designs develop from what I like to call “happy accidents”, or something that I just stumble upon.
What can you not travel without?
Winnie: My computer (BORING!).
What are three staple wardrobe pieces you will be wearing this spring (if it ever warms up in Chicago)?
Winnie: Flip flops, tunics, and A-line 70s skirts.
What is your all time favorite item of clothing?
Winnie: A gauzy, white embroidered top that my mom bought for me on our visit to San Miguel. It reminds of my Mom, my grandmother, and San Miguel - 3 of my favorite things in the world!
Who are your top three favorite designers?
Winnie: Isabel Marant, Tia and now Fiona Cibani of Ports 1961, Marni. Also like Henry Cuir accessories and Humanoid which is clothing and accessories.
Is there a particular actress, singer or style icon that you would like to see wear one of your pieces?
Winnie: Cate Blanchett or Kate Hudson. LOVE THE K(C)ATES!
Is there a type of woman you have in mind while designing your jewelry? If so, what kind of woman is she?
Winnie: She's smart and sophisticated and doesn't take herself too seriously. She's funny, genuine and caring. She's open minded and is constantly eager to learn new things. She's a traveler and lover of art & fashion. She has her own adventurous personal style and exudes an approachable confidence you can't help but be drawn to. She is my Mother, my Grandmother, and my Friend.
Lastly, I have read that you designed barrettes when you were younger. I have a huge collection of hair accessories. Can I expect to see barrettes designed by you in the future?
Winnie: No barrettes, but some of the woven fabric necklaces from my Summer collection can actually be worn as headbands.
Thank you for the lovely interview, Winnie! It's was so nice to have a peak into the mind of the designer! The pieces feel that much more personal now!
Just a peek at how to stack loads of Winnie's amazing cuffs all together with a simple white tank. This is exactly how I would wear these bracelets. They work well with a basic background. The little hints of turquoise waxed linen are to die for, right? Who doesn't crave turquoise in their wardrobe in the spring and summer months? I do. I always load up on turquoise and coral! Winnie has us covered in that department!
Diamond Drop Earrings, $155. I love that these are made of brass (my favorite material) and how beautiful and innovative is the navy waxed linen and brass drop accents? I know my sister would literally die over these earrings. I may have to snatch them for her and do an early birthday present. Then I'll have the ability to steal them from her whenever I want. Mwahaha. I am so giving, right? But honestly, these would dress up any outfit and it would not take much. I would love to just be wearing these earrings with cut off jean shorts, my spiked black gladiator sandals, one of my man's white wife beater tanks, a messy braid, a huge ribbon tied around my head, and let my summer tan do the rest! These earrings would go with that casual outfit perfectly. Again, Winnie's pieces can be dressed up or down. I live for it.
Brass Cuff with Leather and Teal Stitch Detail, $150. Alright, I can't take it anymore. I am ordering this cuff right now. I mean, this piece screams my name! For those of you who know me well... I mean, come on, right?! It wants to be on my arm. This cuff is truly a special piece because of it's versatility to me. I could wear this with a gauzy maxi dress, gladiator sandals, and a huge sunhat during the day or I could pair it with a sexy fitted cocktail dress, haired pulled into a high ponytail braid, and sky high pumps for a dressier ensemble at night. This cuff can accompany you anywhere with any look! Not all cuffs can do that as most are uber casual... well, not this one my friends! Keep it with you at all times to add some pazazz to any outfit!
Graduated Strands and Leather, $515. Ahhhh, this is also a favorite. It is so hard to pick just one that I want. I swear, I could wear two of these. Can we please discuss how much this necklace makes my heart skip a beat? The chains are a little edgy but still completely feminine. Then Winnie has brilliantly come in with the leather at the top to tie it all up for a more industrial harder look. The outcome is impeccable. I must, I repeat, MUST... get my hands on this piece for spring.
Triple Wrap Leather Braid, $150. This piece is actually from Winnie's Holiday 2010 collection, but I am still pining after it.
Leather Ruffle Earring, $115. These earrings are made of oxidized sterling silver that Winnie has carefully rolled leather into the bottom of them. How killer would these look with a brown handbag, boots, and a leather jacket? Oh my soul, the options are endless. It's bohemian and also a bit country to me. I have never seen an earring quite like this. As an experimental jewelry designer myself, I feel sometimes, "Ah, someone has always already done it." Well, not here... Winnie has paved a whole new fresh road incorporating these materials together in a whole new category of her very own. These are brilliant.
African Trading Bead Bracelet, $92. I really would like to wear about five of these together on my left wrist. I would not take them off. This would be my spring/summer left wrist stack. Paired with a massive turquoise agate ring. Done!
Brass Sunburst with Brown Leather, $415. My favorite necklace out of everything from Winnie's spring 2011 collection! Isn't it just a piece of art? I love how she has called it "Sunburst"... That is the perfect name for it.
I love seeing this necklace worn because you can see what a unique length it is. It's also lays in such an incredible way at the base of the neck. Her pieces are so intricate yet not overbearing at the same time.
Set of 3 Bangles, $115. Ok, on to her UNREAL waxed linen bangle sets. I want 100 of these. You get three for $115. That is NOT bad. I would wear the daylights out these. This one comes in a lighter teal as well, but I like the darker navy as I feel I could wear it more year round!
Set of 3 Bangles in Multi-Colors, $115. Obsessed. The end.
Our lovely Gossip Girls, Blake and Taylor, donning some Winifred pieces. Once you've made it onto that set... you are set!
Awesome Winifred Grace Press. Who doesn't love her?
Below are my favorite pieces from the Winifred Grace Pre-Fall and Fall Lookbook. Get ready ladies! This collection is going to make your jaws drop! It is hands down my favorite collection yet. I have never seen such a cohesive grouping of jewelry, yet I feel every piece tells a different story. I will slowly but surely collect all below.
The one in the middle with the fabric... How she has woven it in? I can't breathe. I may need to pre-order this one now because it would go with so many of my blouses and dresses for summer! I would wear it next to the african trading beads stacked together. Agh, can you imagine how darling that would be with a cropped little lace blouse, a high waisted pleated skirt, knee socks, and saddle shoes?
This hardware??? To DIE FOR! The piece on the far right is so something I would wear everyday.
I love how she has incorporated the red beads into the african trading bead bracelet on the left for the fall season. The other two are just gorgeous. These will look great with our gorgeous cropped cable knits and fur vests next fall!
Ok, I would wear all six of these necklaces together. These are such great everyday layering pieces. I am in love.
The middle piece just slays me. So beautiful and different.
Every. Single. Pair. Is. Stunning.
Here is her use of fabric she was describing in our interview. Just beautiful, right?
Shop and see so many more of Winnie's one of a kind pieces at her website below. I could not include every piece I love in this post because... well, that would have been everything she has ever made, but visit her site and click through all of her work. It is truly an experience!