Image courtesy Jeanette Lai Thomas
Interview

Jeanette Lai Thomas

12.29.14

Jeanette Lai Thomas is the founder and sole designer of jewelry collection Moratorium. Thomas has lived around the world and found her place in the industry after taking a silversmithing class in Amsterdam. With a background in fashion production, Thomas already understood the importance of precision and attention to detail. And with these qualities in mind, she founded Moratorium with the same ethos. Based on authenticity and a commitment only to use precious metals and labor intensive treatment processes – the brand immediately sets itself apart as distinctive and quality driven.

Interview

What’s your background? Where are you from?

I was born in Singapore and raised in Hong Kong. At 16 I left to study in the US. After I finished school I moved to New York, where I met my husband and stayed until 2008 when his work took us to Portland, Amsterdam, London and back to New York in 2011.

How did you learn silversmithing?

I signed up to do an intensive private class the week I arrived in Amsterdam, January 2009, and fell in love immediately. I worked in fashion production for 5 years, where precision and detail are prerequisites and I saw many similarities when it came to silversmithing. I loved the challenge and rewards that came with making something 100% with my own hands. I also learned very early on that when something looks simple to make, it’s not necessarily the case.

Where do you source your metals?

I source all my materials in New York. It’s an amazing place to make things—once you’ve figured out where you can buy the materials you need!

Why are using precious metals important to you?

I work exclusively with precious metals because I believe in integrity within design. Jewelry to me is precious. It’s a luxury; something special and coveted that retains value over time. It’s not seasonal or trend-based. I’ve never for one second considered making Moratorium from anything other then precious metals.

Why do you think other brands tend not to use precious metals?

I imagine their reasons for not using precious metals are primarily driven by profit. The margins you make from jewelry produced from plated brass will be significantly greater than those made exclusively from precious metals. If consumers are willing to pay silver prices for silver-plated brass, I understand why other brands do it. It’s just not something I choose to do with Moratorium for personal reasons.

In what other ways does Moratorium set itself apart in a crowded jewelry market?

Moratorium isn’t a seasonal collection; it’s a body of work that expands over time. I perpetually refine existing designs, adding to them and taking away when needed. I’m the archetypal perfectionist!

It’s also a collection that’s immediately recognizable. Some of my designs may look simple to produce, but it’s the complete opposite. The many different facets and planes are very labor intensive to produce, which is probably why I’m the only one making jewelry like this. I’ve been told many times that I could make my work easier by simplifying the designs but I refuse to. I’m also very proud to be able to say it’s made entirely in New York.

Moratorium is designed with both genders in mind – Do you find one gender over another gravitates toward certain pieces?

From the very beginning, I’ve designed what I wanted to. There has never been a formula based on what retailers want, or what makes the most money. Moratorium is my creative freedom, the one thing in my life where there are no rules.

Within the collection there are pieces that traditionally may be seen as more feminine, such as the Pyramid earrings or the 10 piece Kimers earrings, but I don’t consider them for women only. In fact, I’ve sold Pyramid earrings to men before. I feel people who are attracted to Moratorium share the same disdain for being told what they can and can’t do, as I do.

Where are you currently sold?

In the US, Moratorium is available exclusively from our website: www.moratoriumstudio.com

What are your bestsellers? What do you consider signature pieces?

My Cut Away Pyramid and Kimers collections are certainly the most popular. Because of the labor-intensive method used to produce them, there aren’t other jewelry brands making similar geometric styles, so it remains something exclusive to Moratorium. Another design detail unique to Moratorium is the high polish finish on all edges and facets, made possible through a rigorous process that I’m not willing to compromise on.

What other designers/brands are your customers wearing with your jewelry?

The diversity of people who wear Moratorium is kind of crazy. I honestly couldn’t describe the quintessential Moratorium consumer by what they wear, only by their attitude. I’d define them as people who notice the things that others do not. I’ve always believed that it is the detail that sets you apart.

Are you doing any special pieces for the holidays?

I’ve been working on a new finish to compliment my silver and gold collections for a while, and I’m finally happy with it! It’s a permanent industrial treatment that gives a mesmeric spectrum-colored finish to sterling silver. There are 9 styles I’m offering in this exclusive iridescent finish. I’m super excited about it!