Local artist Lily Dawson turned her love of fashion into wearable art
After five years at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, Missouri native Lily Dawson moved back to the Midwest to finish school and start her handmade jewelry business in 2008. Since then, Dawson has continued to expand her line of one-of-a-kind pieces, which she creates in her Crossroads studio.
How did Lily Dawson Designs become a business?
LD: I never had a jewelry background at all. It was really just what was trendy at the time. I started making bracelets because it was something that was cool; it was the time of the “arm party.” In LA, I could find the stuff really easily, but when I moved back to the Midwest, it hadn’t hit here yet. So I started making bracelets on my own out of necessity. I thought I could make these for my friends and me. It started out of a fashionable endeavor to stay trendy, and it kind of grew into this little bracelet business. When that trend ended, I was forced to decide if I wanted to move into other types of jewelry, so I kept going and taught myself how to make different things.
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When you first started, were you designing with a specific girl in mind or just creating pieces you liked?
LD: At the time, I was 21, and everyone else around me was 21. We were college kids and didn’t have a ton of money, so I wanted to make affordable jewelry that college girls could wear. I wanted it to just be a piece of trendy jewelry for kids like me. I continue to this day to have that girl in mind. The designs I come up with cater to other ages, but everything I make is under $100, usually more around the $30-$50 range. I really want people like me who are fashion-forward and trendy to be able to afford this stuff.
Do you remember the first time you saw someone wearing one of your pieces? What was that like?
LD: Yes—it was so cool. And even still it’s really cool to see. It really gave me the confidence that this wasn’t just something my friends and family were doing out of pity. That was so reaffirming. You have no idea when you step into this unknown territory if it’s going to be successful or if anyone’s going to like it, so to see someone else wearing my jewelry speaks so much more than receiving an email from someone saying, “I just got this necklace and I love it.”
Your pieces are so unique but also very versatile. Where do you draw inspiration from?
LD: I’m really material-driven, so when I’m not creating new things, I will come across materials or color combinations that I really love, and I’ll jot those down. It could be a stone that I’ve seen that I think will be an awesome focus for a collection or a couple of different shapes. The latest collection I did was emerald greens and citrine yellows, because I just loved that combination of colors and couldn’t stop. I do look at the trending reports and see what colors are going to be big for different seasons. Seasonality also goes into consideration with the designs in the sense that what I’m around and what I’m seeing are in season.
How has your aesthetic grown since you first started your business?
LD: I used to have some crazy statement pieces, but there’s a much greater offering now of thinner-chained necklaces. It’s more wearable, but that’s changing just with the trends. My aesthetic is moving a lot more toward expression and expressing myself, and doing that through my art and my jewelry. I think before I was making a lot of things for other people, and now I’m making things for me. I just get tickled that other people are enjoying those things too. That has been so encouraging and what has kept me interested in this business.
“The crystal healing bracelets I’ve been making are really nice and dainty, with a lovely message,” Dawson says. “I’ve sold a ton of them at my shows.”
The jewelry designer has a minimalist approach when it comes to wearing accessories, but she makes it a habit to wear her crystal bracelets each day.
“They’re something I wear all the time to cultivate or awaken whatever I want in my life,” Dawson says.