New York City–based designer Shahla Karimi has been into jewelry since she was born. Her parents had her ears pierced when she was just two weeks old and began putting bangles on her at a very young age. When she was 16-years old, Karimi took a trip to Iran, where she started collecting jewelry that she found in the local bazaars.
A few years later, back in New York City, Karimi was working in the merchandising department at Warner Music Group and later at Code & Theory, a digital media company. It was then that she decided to pursue her true passion — jewelry design. In 2008, Karimi began taking jewelry classes at Third Ward in Brooklyn, New York. She was so committed to making the time for her classes that she moved into an apartment near the school. While at Third Ward, Karimi learned how to design on the computer and she also trained as a bench jeweler.
Many of her pieces are inspired by architecture and famous buildings, such as the Chrysler Building and Lincoln Center in New York City. Karimi describes her jewelry as romantic, modern and sleek as well as simple and minimal. Each piece has to be something that she would wear herself. Her interpretation of good design is a piece that is simple and has good proportions and, she says, it has to be clever. “If I think, ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ then I know it has to be good design. The design has to make me feel something.”
Amber Michelle: What is your favorite vacation?
Shahla Karimi: It’s Vieques, an island off of Puerto Rico where there is a bio bay. The food is amazing. There are wild horses that run around on the island and you can feed them. The beaches are beautiful and there are not a lot of people there.
AM: Who is your favorite fictional character?
SK: Alice from Alice in Wonderland. I sometimes feel like Alice going down the rabbit hole. I have fun in my life and surround myself with interesting characters and people.
AM: Who is the designer — in any field — that you most admire?
SK: It has to be jewelry designer Selin Kent. I started following her before I started designing jewelry. She surprises me each season. She’s very talented. Everything that she does is high quality and her designs are beautiful.
AM: What would you do if you were not a designer?
SK: I would have been an architect. The majority of my jewelry designs are inspired by the architecture around me. I reserve my mornings for “Zillow Porn,” saving hundreds of houses as a point of reference for my designs. I have a dream to one day live in Frank Lloyd Wright’s neighborhood, Usonia — 45 minutes north of New York City. My favorite design eras are Art Deco and Mid-Century. I have dubbed my design aesthetic as Modern Deco. Living in a beautiful piece of architecture would serve as a daily inspiration.
AM: What one piece of your personal jewelry can you not live without?
SK: I cannot live without my subway rings. The subway rings were also inspired by New York. They are formed by curving transit lines between some of the city’s most iconic locations. They were the very first pieces of jewelry I ever designed and to this date are still my favorites. Not only do I love the design, they remind me of the risk I took starting a jewelry line five years ago and the city that made it possible.
AM: What is your favorite city?
SK: New York City. The energy is contagious, the food is experimental and the style is whatever you want it to be that day.