Written by Abigail Hirsch
Although born in Brooklyn and manufactured in the city, Latasha Lamar jewelry will have you dreaming of the beach. Founder Latasha Sellers gave me a call last week from her Greenpoint studio slash apartment to talk about all things Latasha Lamar jewelry.
Escapism can be a dangerous game. With the current worldwide pandemic amplifying so many systemic problems, dream-like escape without reframing the narrative can be a harmfully unproductive process. Latasha Sellers doesn’t fall into this trap. Instead, she allows her customers to drift off to a distant place, while simultaneously pushing the sustainable design conversation forward.
Jewelry has been a part of Sellers’ life from a young age. “I guess I have always been making jewelry. I think I took my first class when I was 12 years old,” says Sellers. As for her design and production process, that’s an ever evolving experience. “It’s really transformed over the years. I've had very little formal education around it.”
After a couple of classes at FIT, Sellers considered going back to school full time for a Bachelor’s in jewelry design. Like many founders, though, she decided that wasn’t necessary; industry experience proved much more valuable. Learning on her own rather than under the tutelage of others influenced her design style. “I experimented with whatever interested me at the time. My style has changed and grown throughout the whole process.”
In the early stages, Sellers started with beading as her medium. As she developed more detailed jewelry-crafting skills, she gravitated towards metalsmithing. Her design method fully clicked when she was introduced to wax carving. Working with wax allowed her to craft the organic, natural shapes adorning Latasha Lamar pieces today.
When I first saw her work, I thought Sellers must be from a seaside town. The ocean imagery in her pieces is at the forefront of her aesthetic. Pearls embedded in fluid waves lay next to intricately carved seashells in her Athena ring. The ripples of shells stamped in gold adorn her pendants. She laughed in response to my assumption. “I’m from Pennsylvania. I grew up down the street from a farm and absolutely nowhere near the water.”
So how and why did the sea become so prominent for her creative process? Sellers attributes her inspiration to the sensory power of the water. “It’s a spiritual experience. From the sound and the smell to the feeling of being in the ocean, it’s such a personal connection for me.” A love of the water is what drew Sellers to her Greenpoint neighborhood, despite not being able to jump into the East River.
But Latasha Lamar designs are not just visually stunning. They’re also the result of Sellers’ controlled, mindful production practices. “Everything is local, fully created in New York.” Sellers also uses recycled metal in the designs and ethically sourced stones. “Sustainability is so important to me.” As Sellers learned more about the jewelry industry’s harmful environmental impacts, she decided that she would not be part of the problem. “It's so easy to melt down metal and form something completely different. It seems like a no brainer for me.”
While Sellers purchases most of Latasha Lamar chains from a manufacturer in NYC’s jewelry district (most jewelry brands do this- fabricating chain is a highly specialized practice), one specific standout piece builds in some incredibly complex extra steps. Each gold link in the Hawthorne Necklace is cast from a single wax carved link. The link is then duplicated to form the chain. Putting that level of detail and care into a chain is highly unusual, and this is exactly what makes s Latasha Lamar’s pieces unique.
Coincidentally, the day Sellers and I chatted, the brand hit a new milestone. Latasha Lamar just launched on Wolf & Badger. If you’re not familiar with it, Wolf & Badger is an online and brick and mortar retailer with two storefronts in London that only feature independent brands with sustainable and ethical practices. Read more about their philosophy here. A few weeks ago, a buyer reached out with interest in the brand; “It happened very organically,” says Sellers.
As for the future of Latasha Lamar, Sellers would love to grow the brand. “This time has affected everyone differently and for me having all this time off has given me time to tap into my spiritual side and through that the passion for this business just grew.”
We ended our chat talking about the future of inclusivity in the fashion and jewelry industries as a whole. (In the interest of full disclosure, I told Latasha that I initially found her brand via an online list of Black designers. Her outlook is remarkably optimistic: “I think it's amazing to tell you the truth. I don't want to judge anyone on the past. I really want to focus on the future and the way that we're moving towards inclusivity. And I know that sometimes people have a slightly negative spin that people should have been doing this all along, and why now. Honestly I don't want to focus on any of that, I just want to focus on the positive and keep pushing forward for the future.”
Get to know Abigail better, @hirschabby for all her latest fashion endeavours.
*Thumbnail image curtesy of Latasha Lamar