Darden student jewelry brand LA FOI takes action to inspire women – The Cavalier Daily
While many popular jewelry brands focus primarily on aesthetics, Darden sophomore Liana Lei had a bigger vision in mind when she co-founded a feminist jewelry brand. FAITH Jewelry alongside fellow co-founders Eko Liu and Annie Shen. In the short time since its inception in August 2021, the brand has already grown to successfully offer and sell six different jewelry collections, all with the aim of promoting affordable fashion, sustainability and the empowerment of women.
In an interview with The Cavalier Daily, Lei explained that the idea for the jewelry brand was born out of a casual conversation between Lei and her friend Liu, who would later also become a co-founder of LA FOI.
Lei was showing Liu a new necklace she had bought when Liu brought up how Vivian Zhang – one of their mutual friends who was growing up and who they now knew was a jewelry designer – would probably be able to make similar parts for a much lower price.
After reconnecting with Zhang, who confirmed that she would be able to provide more affordable jewelry designs, the friends’ collaboration for the business venture began. They built the website, took photos, and tested products through surveys and focus groups over the span of five months, all while trying to keep costs to a minimum.
Zhang said in an email to Cavalier Daily that sustainability was always on her mind when creating designs.
“I mainly focus on two aspects of my jewelry making process: avoiding material waste and limiting order sizes,” Zhang said. “After locking in the concept, I draw a few sketches and adjust them according to the variation in material properties… Then I choose a few materials available on the market to experiment with and once I find the suitable material the best suited for the design, I make the jewelry from the sketches.
Zhang also said that she works closely with the business side of FAITH to predict which collection or pieces will be the most popular, and then makes more of those products after the testing phase that determines if they are true.
Any discarded items or leftover metals from parts are recycled or used to experiment with new designs, and less popular products are donated to charities and foundations, or sold at a discount.
In addition to sustainability, the empowerment of women is also very important to LA FAITH. For Lei, being a female founder is important because of the difficulty, discouragement, and unequal opportunity for success that women face in the business world.
“I have heard and witnessed stories around me where women who were just young girls were deprived of their access to higher education, let alone start their own business,” said said Lei.
After establishing their brand, Lei and her team also expanded their jewelry offering to six different collections – all sourced from Zhang and other jewelry designers in Southeast Asia and in support of designated brands. foundations such as the Global Fund for Women, the Fund for Homeless Women and the African Women’s Development Fund which support women in various ways to which the brand donates 10% of its profits.
Each collection is inspired by different occasions or themes – the Rainbow collection, for example, represents vitality and youth with its use of colorful jewellery, while the Grande collection features statement pieces that convey a sense of security. Rather than focusing on seasonal trends, the brand makes self-expression the main theme of its jewelry.
“From the survey points we received, I believe our consumers want to feel confident when wearing our jewelry,” Lei said. “They want to bring out their authenticity, their personality and their view of the world.”
The brand has increased its sales since its inception through social media advertising and the sale of its products in local markets. For Lei, a memorable moment happened when she was selling FAITH’s jewelry at the 2021 University Women’s Center Holiday Market.
“People carried the parcels [for the jewelry] that we designed – everyone was walking around with a pink box and being asked, ‘Where did you get that pink box?'” Lei said. “Then people were coming to our booth to buy more… That moment really hit me like, ‘oh my God, we made this thing and created it from scratch.'”
In August, FAITH started out as a minimally viable product being tested to see if it was even a reasonable business. Today, he is already seeing continued growth in sales within the local community through support and events such as the Holiday Market. Lei explained that before the jewelry brand, she had launched two other business ventures — an algorithm for cosmetics and a more ethical lab-based sourcing for diamonds — both of which had encountered hurdles in scaling. due to their large reach.
Although her ideas failed on their first attempt, Lei said she grew up learning from these experiences rather than being discouraged by them. Above all, she wants her career path and LA FOI to inspire other women entrepreneurs to continue their efforts in their businesses, whatever they may be.
“I didn’t let my failed ventures wear me down in any way – it only helped me to be more humble and to be able to pivot and launch FAITH in such a short time,” Lei said. “I really want to send a message to all female entrepreneurs to have the courage and empowerment to try.”