Haim Medine is the founder and creative director of Khai Khai Jewerly. A fine jewelry collection he created after studying finance in college and learning the ins and outs of the trade alongside his father at his successful jewelry company, Mark Henry. Grateful for his experience in the family business, Medine officially launched Khai Khai in February 2013 at Upper East Side boutique, Fivestory. His quirky and youthful approach to his designs tap into pop culture for inspiration as well as sentimental, childhood memories he then parlays into one-of-a-kind, exquisite, and delicate pieces of jewelry. A few weeks ago we visited Haim at his Midtown studio and got an exclusive look at his new collection.
What was the inspiration behind Khai Khai?
It was a childhood name from my mom and my aunt. My mom also designs jewelry.
So you grew up around jewelry?
My father has been in the business for 25 years – I was always surrounded by jewelry, it’s in my blood.
Did you think you would do this professionally?
I didn’t think so, but I always thought I would do something creative. My parents always challenged us to be creative and never restricted us. We’re all artistic in our own ways. We have a strong sense of fashion. I started working with my dad 4 years ago, doing production, design, buying and traveling overseas and gained a lot of experience and knowledge that’s invaluable, most people starting out don’t have that foundation. I was fortunate to come into the family business and learn all these things to eventually set out and do something on my own with a business base. A lot of designers only have the creative side and look outside for the business consulting. I had my father as my mentor.
What sort of materials are you using for Khai Khai?
18K gold, diamonds, black diamonds and I’m starting to dabble with different colored sapphires.
Where are the stones sourced?
We work with a factory in India with unlimited access to the diamonds we need.
Can you design custom pieces?
Yes of course. If someone comes to me and wants something custom it’s really not hard. I can do as elaborate as they want.
What is your highest price point?
I’m very comfortable around $2500. As I build my brand and get a stronger name I will start getting into more one-off pieces that are more expensive. My ideal customer is a young girl, between the ages of 20-30, maybe someone who just got a promotion and wants to buy something nice in appearance and has value.
How many pieces is the collection total?
Around 100-120; I came out with a bang. I’ve been working on these concepts for awhile, compiling over the years all these different things. Now that I’ve been operating for six months I’m getting a better sense of what’s selling and what’s not, so I can retire some pieces over time.
Is there a signature piece you will do every season?
The monkeys I will do each season and more of the classic pieces like the moons and stars. I’m attached to a lot of these pieces and it’s hard to retire them. But sometimes you got to put that aside and do what’s best to evolve the brand.
Are there ideal stores you’re shooting for?
I like high-end concepts shops – I currently sell at Fivestory, Louise in Boston, and in six Bloomingdale’s. Overseas I’m in Ron Herman in Japan. I’m aiming for specialty stores like the Webster in Miami.
Fivestory launched the collection with you?
Yes, I started working with Claire from the beginning; she loved the collection when she saw it and they did really well with it.
Do you ever encounter buyers who don’t understand the meaning of your pieces?
Not really, most of the buyers I deal with are younger and are coming from very trendy stores and are very much aware of these things.
Can you describe the inspiration behind your new collection?
There are a lot actually. Some stuff I worked on with my sister (Leandra) she wanted me to do a couple of words that she could wear, like Rad or Hip, and I wasn’t sure I was going to do that because I’ve seen that before. But nobody was doing this in fine jewelry, in diamonds. I thought it would be interesting to stack words together – the Love/Hate has been very popular. I don’t want to be selling them separately – there’s nothing special about the word Love by itself.
I hit a lot of different sort of looks and themes in this collection. They really come from all over the place; it’s as simple as a childhood inspiration. I loved dinosaurs when I was a kid so I did some dinos for this season. And also the hashtag is so relevant in today’s society, so I thought it would be a great seller based on the fact that it’s become a fixture in our society. I’ve sold more hashtag rings than anything.
The monkeys for example, I had three sculptures in my room when I was a kid and I was really drawn to the deep blue they were made out of and I would always look at them and ask my mom about their significance and she told me about the three wise monkey proverb. And one day I decided to transform them into some sort of fine jewelry – and it’s unique I’ve never seen anything else like it.
Are you promoting any pieces as a collaboration with your sister?
Not at the moment. She did help me with the launch of my brand, and am forever grateful for her support. Being able to have someone like that behind you when you launch your brand is something that anyone in this business could wish for.
Does she embody the type of girl you’re targeting?
How has social media influenced building your brand?
It’s amazing what social media has done to the environment. For example, I’ve had communication with different stores and successfully closed a new account through meeting on Instagram. Even someone like my sister, who has huge clout, huge reach, will Instagram one of my pieces and the next day I’ll have 10 emails from buyers asking for linesheets. Five years ago you never would have imagined being able to conduct business over social media. I think it’s extremely important to be active in social media in today’s business.
What’s been the most exciting thing that’s happened since you launched?
Honestly, the most exciting thing on a daily basis is my email inbox. I start tearing from joy from the people who email me. And also seeing a piece of jewelry you’ve been working on as the finished product – it’s amazing.
-As told to EZ