Designer Rosanne Karmes launched her Sydney Evan jewelry collection in 2001, but her experience in the fine jewelry industry began at 16 years old when she got a job working for a family friend. I had the chance to sit down and talk with Rosanne recently, and the conversation went from Karma, to superstition, to French toast, to our favorite words to how kids get assigned too much homework these days! I was thrilled to hear all about the inspiration behind her line and her circuitous journey back to her one true home—fine jewelry.
Couture: Where does the name Sydney Evan come from?
Rosanne Karmes: The company is named after my kids, Sydney, who will turn 16 in November, and Evan who will be 14 in March.
Couture: Have your kids caught the design “bug” from you?
RK: My son Evan has been creating and inventing things since he was a small child. He’d use scotch tape and go through rolls and rolls of it putting things together, inventing weird things like three headed pens! Sydney is also very creative and has actually directly inspired pieces in my collection. Six years ago I launched a birdcage with a diamond bird swinging in it; that was Sydney’s idea. The cupcake charm was inspired by one of her first grade homework assignments—she said I should make it and I did.
Couture: Tell me about how you started the line in the first place.
RK: I started in the fine jewelry industry when I was 16, I got a job with a family friend. I worked in every area of that business, from the mold room, to ring sizing to helping create the waxes, I did every job you can imagine. After 8 years I left to open a showroom representing fashion jewelry and accessories, and that was very successful for 17 years. I left to get married and have a family, and then 9/11 happened….that’s when I broke out this tiny, filigree Hamsa that I had because it made me feel good. I realized, people just wanted to feel good during that time, so I started creating pieces with a wishbone, then a horseshoe, then evil eyes and hamsas. I believe that even if you just feel protected, even if it’s superstition, it makes you feel good. And then I feel good making somebody else feel good!
Couture: Does making others feel good still inspire your designs?
RK: Yes! I know I don’t do brain surgery, but I certainly make women, from 9 to 95 years old, happy. And I love making people happy! I love practical jokes, I pull jokes on my friends or employees, I’ve always just loved making people laugh!
Couture: You mentioned superstition before, do you consider yourself superstitious?
RK: Yes. I’m spiritual and superstitious, and I believe what goes around comes around. Take the little red coral bracelet with the hamsa, that is one of the most meaningful pieces in my collection. My mom used to sew a little bit of red into everything my brother and I wore, she said it would protect us. A month before she passed away she yelled at my daughter for not wearing her red bracelet, she wanted us protected always.
Couture: It seems like family has played an integral roll in your business, what about your husband, does he get involved?
RK: My husband is from South Africa, he’s very smart and humble and has so much integrity. He’s been unequivocally behind me the entire time, and recently he’s become more directly involved with my business, he comes in once a week just to help and it’s been invaluable. He’s got an outside perspective and it’s such a relief to have somebody else nail what I’m trying to say in two seconds. He knows me, and he knows business like crazy because he’s a business attorney. We’ve grown the company so quickly, I wonder sometimes, ‘what happened?’ It’s great to have my husband there to bring in that fresh perspective.
Couture: It sounds like your business keeps you pretty tied up! How do you find time to be with your loved ones?
RK: We have dinner at my house every Friday, no matter what. There’s always about 12-15 people, everyone comes to our house, and it’s always a lot of fun. We have family and then friends who don’t have family here or are single moms. There’s nothing better than having people to your home and breaking bread, and I think it’s important to have at least one dedicated family night. It’s a concept I’m happy to have instilled in my children—I know they will always come home for Friday dinner, and maybe one day they’ll invite me to their houses so that I don’t have to cook! Except for French Toast, I will always be happy to make my famous French Toast!
Couture: What other values do you and your husband try to instill in your children?
RK: We’re not the run-of-the-mill parents by today’s standards. We believe in living life! We want our kids to do the best they can do, get the best grades they can get, but we don’t want them to kill themselves with homework….kids get way too much homework these days! Our kids go to public school, which is great because they actually see the kids in their neighborhood.
The number one word I got from both my parents is humility. Being humble is the number one trait I like in another person; that’s where I am, that’s where my husband is and where my kids are. It doesn’t matter who you encounter in life, you have to be the same person with everyone, and you have to treat everyone with respect, no matter where they came from. I love taking my family to the south of France because they get to meet people from different cultures and from all walks of life, this is the best experience I can give my children.
Couture: The South of France sounds amazing! Where else do you like to travel with your family?
RK: My favorite vacation ever, hands down, was going to the Grand Cayman Islands. I’m nuts about any animal, and when we were there we got to swim with the stingrays. They took us by boat to a place in the middle of the ocean called “Stingray City.” The water is up to your waste, it’s turquoise and warm, and you have to slide your feet instead of stepping because there are so many stingrays. It was the most amazing vacation we’ve had with the kids.
Couture: Back to your famous French Toast….care to share the recipe?
RK: …………..(long pause)………….You’ll just have to come over and try it some time!