Image courtesy Emily Hirsch
Interview

EMILY HIRSCH

04.21.14

Brooklyn-based jewelry designer Emily Hirsch is the creator of Talon. The Northern California native founded Talon in 2009 with the launch of aromatic amulet necklaces housed with essential oils inspired by the earthy scents of her childhood home. Now a full-fledged jewelry line, Talon features mystic, vintage-inspired pieces that showcase hand-selected garnet, onyx, carnelian and opal, the line’s signature stone.

Interview

Where are you from?

I was born right outside of Mendocino, California, in a tiny town called Philo. Philo is situated in Anderson Valley, which is a beautiful area filled with redwoods, vineyards and the Navarro River. My grandparents owned a vineyard that my parents and I lived on and cared for. It was a magical place to grow up and a lot of those early experiences in the vineyard and woods shaped my interests, personality and aesthetic

Are you trained in jewelry making?

I took classes in jewelry making and metalsmithing for many years in San Francisco and New York. It started out as a hobby because I could never find jewelry I liked or if I did it was always too expensive. Once I became more skilled, I started making pieces for friends and then decided to start selling my pieces.

All the pieces are handmade in New York City – what are the challenges associated with this from a production standpoint?

When I first started making jewelry, I did everything by hand in my Brooklyn studio, but once I started selling more, I wasn’t able to keep up with the demand, so I got help from companies in the jewelry district in Midtown. It is important to me to support local businesses. However, that does come at a cost. If I outsourced production to another country, I would pay a lot less, but I would then have less control over the quality, and the pieces would take on a more mass-produced appearance, which I don’t like. I am involved in every aspect of production and still work with each piece that goes out. This is important to the aesthetic of my line.

How large is your team? Do you release new pieces each season?

My team is very small. It’s just an assistant and me. We do release new pieces every season. My last two lines were a little smaller than normal because I had my first daughter, Issa in April of last year. She is about to turn one and I feel like I’m finally getting everything back on track again.

What is the hardest part of maintaining the quality and integrity of your pieces while sustaining yourself as a small business?

For me the most difficult part is managing customer perception of value and quality. They see jewelry at department stores that is mass produced abroad and inexpensive and don’t understand how it’s different. Because we produce everything locally in New York, and I take the time and care to personally touch each piece, I have to sell my jewelry for prices that are higher than mass produced products, especially since I use recycled metals, hand-picked stones, etc. Unfortunately, some customers don’t appreciate the difference and while this is a tough challenge, it is just the reality of my process.

Why is the Australian opal Talon’s signature stone?

I’ve been fascinated with the opal since I was very young. When I graduated college, my parents let me design my own opal ring as my graduation gift. Since then I’ve continued to be captivated by the color play of opals and how each is individual and unique. I also love designing pieces that highlight the stones in an edgy way as opposed to the old-fashioned settings they are often seen in.

How did you choose Zosia Mamet to feature in your recent lookbook?

Zosia has exquisite taste in jewelry, and fashion in general. She has the most amazing collection of rings, and has been a Talon devotee for a while now.  As I was creating this collection, I drew on her aesthetic as an inspiration for the look and feel of the line. I was thrilled when she agreed to model them for our lookbook.

In what ways does she embody your target customer?

Like Zosia, my target customer has an edgy fashion sense, isn’t afraid to take risks, and likes wearing statement pieces.

I read you do a lot of vintage shopping. How would you describe your personal style?

In general, I like simple, unfussy, classic design and I look for that in vintage fashion. I’m very inspired by music from the 1970s as well as fashion from that time, so I’m always in search of ’70s vintage pieces that have that sun-bleached, careless feeling I reminisce about from my childhood in California. One of the things I love about wearing vintage clothes is that they are usually one of a kind and you won’t see anyone else wearing the same piece. However I typically wear a mix of vintage and new pieces. Its good to put a modern spin on things, and that also keeps you from looking like you are wearing a costume.

Would you ever collaborate with a ready-to-wear designer for a season? Who would be your ideal collaborator?

I would love to do a collaboration. I can think of a few designers, but high on my list is Wendy Nichol. Even though she does her own line of jewelry, I think it would be fun to do a small line with a Talon spin on it. I do a lot of engraved pieces, which I think would go well with her dark, magical clothing.

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