EcoSalon sits down for a fun conversation with jewelry designer Natalie Frigo on her made in New York ethically sourced stones, the three kinds of fashion consumers and what it takes for people to change.
Juliette Donatelli: All your jewelry is made in New York. How important is that to your customer?
Natalie Frigo: I launched my first line in 2010 and I would say that it was made in NYC, and it didn’t matter at all. Nobody cared. There were, like, three people who cared. How could you not care about this? This is awesome! You don’t want something domestic? There would be a couple of stores that would say, ‘Oh, we love that. We will totally promote that.’
So, now people are more excited about it. And I have people who will contact me –buyers and retail customers who will contact me and say, ‘I love your designs, but then I saw it was made in New York, and I knew I wanted to get it.’ And it’s this thing that justifies it to them.
If you are interested in that it matters, but this is not going to convince you to be interested in that.
I definitely still get from buyers, they seem to understand it more, but I do get a resistance on price because my stuff is made domestically. And my stones are ethically sourced. If you don’t know where your stones are coming from, it is like apparel, a little child cut that stone. There is no question in my mind. I would put money on it. Awful. My stones are not like that. They cost more money–two to ten times as much. And so some people are like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s all great but our customer won’t pay more.’ They like the designs but there is a price resistance and they would just rather have a cheaper good. As much as they think that it’s great that it’s made domestically, it’s not worth it to them, or they don’t want to educate their customer or try to get a new customer base.
JD: What do you think it would take?
NF: Really. What could it take? How much more information do you need to make things domestically? The economy fell from underneath us.
There was a woman who came in [to Market 605], she was dressed pretty cute, and she started going through the clothes. I was wearing something from Feral Childe, and I said ‘I love this jacket, I just bought it.’
And she looks at the tag and it’s a four hundred dollar jacket and she’s like, ‘Oh yeah. That’s too expensive.’
And I said, ‘Well, you know, it is an investment piece. I am going to have it for a really long time, it’s very classic, this isn’t going to go out of style.’
And she said, ‘Yeah, I don’t shop like that. I buy multiple things every season and I never invest in anything. I have friends that do that, I am so impressed. But I can’t do that.’
You can do that right this second! You could get that one thing right now and just start. So people who shop like that are also the buyers.
What does it take to change a person?! I feel like some people are just never going to think it matters. And then there are people on the fence, and the more they learn about it they get super excited. And then there are people who have always known about it and they’ve always been into it and they are all about it.
I would say most of my accounts are galleries or local stores that have been in their communities for a long time and are interested in developing relationships.
JD: It’s all about the relationships we build.
NF: Yeah. You don’t have to have everything made domestically but you could have some things. People want to buy domestically, but they are so used to not having to pay for things on that level.
JD: Getting the conversation started is so important. If Michelle Obama, someone who is always being asked who she is wearing, made a simple statement about where it was made, because it was probably made in the USA because of the designers she wears and the quality of the pieces–a little awareness like that could go really far.
NF: Yes, we need good fashionable ambassadors.
I got into a conversation with this guy, he was one of the workers at a show that I was setting up for. He came over to my booth, and said, ‘Oh your stuff is really cool,’ and I said thanks, it’s made in NYC. He said, ‘That’s awesome. I had to stop buying Carhartt because they don’t make it in America anymore, they make it in Mexico.’
He was amazing! Just this regular guy wearing t-shirt and jeans, and he’s all mad because Carhartt stopped producing domestically. You need people like that in all walks of life. He’s probably lecturing his friend non stop about wearing something made in China!
Related on EcoSalon
images from the brand