What does it take to create a new realm in the fashion world? REALM Fine + Fashion Jewelry's founder and designer shares her journey, the brand's mission and why she believes every woman is an Empress.
We have a tradition here at REALM: the women we feature on our site looking as glam as models (though they are not!) also agree to get real about life in our blog interviews. So, it's only fair that our founder and designer, Ann King Lagos, do the same.
Ann often says her design style is about contrast–much like her own life. A tomboy who loved to make things with her hands yet also a girly-girl who loved making things pretty, Ann was born with the perfect mix of talents for a future jewelry designer. As a woman in a mostly male profession she made her mark sculpting strong yet sensual designs. Though she's a boss, she's also a BFF, always taking time to champion the women in her life, be they longtime besties or brand new customers (who quickly become friends).
Ann began her career "at the bench," hand-forging precious metals using traditional fine jewelry techniques. A chance meeting at a trade show led her to love, marriage and LAGOS®. For over two decades Ann and Steven Lagos collaborated to create one of the world's top jewelry companies. When QVC came calling, Ann responded with the Ann King for QVC collection and sold it on air. Along the way her work garnered numerous awards, including Moore College of Art's Visionary Women Award honoring outstanding women leaders who have made a powerful impact in the world of art and design.
Then life turned upside down. Ann and Steven divorced. She left the family business. Her daughter moved out on her own. Single, an empty nester and just about to turn 60, Ann could have called it quits for her career. Instead she not only founded a new company, but also an entire new category in the fashion world.
Read on to find out what makes REALM Fine + Fashion Jewelry so revolutionary, what (and who) are at the heart of everything Ann does and why she truly believes every woman is an "Empress."
"REALM is the culmination of all that I have learned in life, business and design. It embodies how I, as a woman, want to feel."
Q+A with Ann King Lagos
How would your best friend describe you?
Loyal, thoughtful, fun, determined, visionary.
What are three Essential things to know about you?
Flowers, food and family!
- Growing up I learned many lessons about life and design while gardening with my mom and brother. Flowers are magical. We never actually see how they move though they grow right before our eyes. Their graceful dance is embedded in my memory and has sharpened my creative eye. Flowers have always been a strong influence and design inspiration. Live flowers are always blooming in my home!
- Whether cooking dinner with my life partner, Neil, or dining out with friends, food is another creative outlet that I enjoy that brings us together. We gather, share stories and feed our hearts and soul as much as our bodies.
- Family is everything to me. All that I am is because of family and friends. Without them, I would have no passion or purpose.
Most influential person in your life?
My mother, Doris Shares King.
A second-grade teacher and an artist, she was both glamorous and practical. Though we were by no means rich, she and my father gave my brother and I creative wealth, exposing us to art, culture, ideas. Our family had spirited conversations around a beautifully set table most evenings. Mom made her own clothes yet looked liked a movie star. She was the most polished hostess yet didn't hesitate to get her hands dirty to scrub a floor or dig in her garden–we are very alike in that way.
My mother taught me so many things but most of all how to see and appreciate beauty in all people and things in the world.
How did you start designing jewelry?
As a young girl I was a mix of a tomboy who loved to make things with her hands and a girly-girl who loved to dress up and join my mom in making our home beautiful. Although that's the perfect recipe for a jewelry designer, I actually began college with the intent to major in photography. Turned out, I didn't like working in the dark room with chemicals all day (no digital back then). Upon taking a jewelry elective class, I fell in love with... metals! (Bet you thought I was going to say "a man"!) It was a pivotal moment in my life.
What are the hallmarks of your design style? How do we know an "Ann" piece?
My signature is a mix of strong sensuous forms with iconic details that offer a contrast of styles from classic to romantic to rock star.
You have said you consider yourself a sculptress as much as a jewelry designer. What does that mean?
It means I think in 3D! Most jewelry is designed like a box. If you cut a cross section, you'll see a rectangle or a square. Instead I sculpt my pieces to reflect and celebrate the female figure with a mix of lush curves, soft domes, thin to thick variations–just like you and me!
"Age is a number that I have
never let define me."
At the age of 60, when some are contemplating retirement you founded your fourth company. Why on earth...?!
Age is a number I have never let define me. Being able to express my passion gives me purpose. It keeps me current, on the pulse, alive! Creating with my team and connecting with my customers are two of my greatest joys in life.
What makes REALM Fine + Fashion Jewelry unique as a company?
REALM is the culmination of all that I have learned in life, business and design. It embodies how I, as a woman, want to feel–classic yet modern, romantic yet cool like a rock star. REALM gives women what they have told me for decades they want: high quality jewelry that's fun, fashionable, comfortable, versatile, affordable.
REALM also brings to life my dreams of a company that is meaningful – that is about more than jewelry. It is just as importantly about the women who wear our jewelry. The design and symbolism of our collections celebrate the many aspects of women's lives. At our events we often go beyond a simple sales transaction to true connection. We share our stories, our ups and downs, we learn from, support and celebrate each other. It's magical, and probably a key reason we have such a cult following that has helped build this brand largely through word of mouth.
For women new to REALM, what are the must-have styles you recommend?
If you're into studs, you'll love our Empire Square Earring in python or pavé. If you prefer more of a statement, our stunning Domain Portrait Hoop Earrings are sure to turn heads. Our best-selling Empress Insignia Ring, a feminine take on a man's signet, is our brand crest.
Of course, I love all of our styles! But I can almost always be found wearing one or more of our engraved Reign Thoughtfully Cuff Bracelets. It's a gentle reminder to be both strong and kind as we move through life.
You have created thousands of designs. Do you have a favorite?
Yes! My daughter, Kate Shares Lagos is, by far, my greatest creation. We've always been attached at the hip. It's been an incredible journey to see her grow into a thoughtful, kind talented women. And now the table has turned, as at times she is nurturing me in my journey.
Is there a Charitable Organization or Cause dear to your heart?
REALM is very much about supporting causes not only dear to my heart, but dear to our Empresses. Most of our events are centered around a worthy cause.
"I believe that we each have
a unique purpose and passion."
You call our customers "Empresses." What does that mean?
Webster's defines and Empress as: "A women who is a ruler of great power and rank."
To me it means: Be Your Best Self – uncover your talent, embrace your personality, follow your destiny, never give up. At the same time, Reign Thoughtfully–go beyond yourself to be thoughtful in how you treat others, to support them in living their best lives. Make our world better for all.
I believe that we each have a unique purpose and passion in this mysterious web of life. I hope REALM jewelry can be what gives you that little lift, that encouragement to follow your heart, follow your dreams and let yourself shine.
What makes YOU and Empress?
My intention to Reign Thoughtfully in all that I do and create.
Contact Ann at firstname.lastname@example.org
Doreen Creede works with REALM on creative content and strategy.
LAGOS® is a registered trademark of Lagos, Inc.