Venessa Arizaga

Venessa Arizaga

Everything about Venessa Arizaga reads like a kind of impeccably written modern fairytale - from her childhood (which sounds like a more glamorous, Puerto Rican version of the Brady Bunch) to landing a job making corsets at Caroline Herrera and launching her own jewellery label from a converted Hasidic jelly factory.

The maker of the tongue-in-cheek food and beach-inspired charm bracelets, Venessa Arizaga, has a coveted presence at New York’s Opening Ceremony, Bergdorf Goodman and press in Vogue magazines the world over.  She lives in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, and has been since she was a Parsons student and the area was more terrifying than trendy. 

“It was the hardest and most influential time of my life,” says Venessa. “Living in Williamsburg at that time was nothing like living here now. It was pretty wild, a little dangerous and only a few pioneering artists were here.”

Venessa’s first job out of fashion school was with the now defunct Tuleh – a small label famous for its party frocks. But it was Venessa’s second job working as a designer in bridal and couture for Caroline Herrera that was so influential that she says she “can’t describe it in words.”

“I worked under Herve Pierre, the lead designer under Mrs Herrera and with Ludwid Heissmeyer, three of the most amazing people in this world and such a pleasure to work with and learn from,” says Venessa. “Carolina Herrera functions like a well oiled machine and is such a different experience to work in as it is so well established and respected.”

Not only did she learn the mechanics of structural stitching and custom corsets at Caroline Herrera, but she also began to develop her own signature style.

“My design aesthetic is very bold, colorful and I always try to pack as much fun and personality as I can. This is something that Herve Pierre at Carolina Herrera always does with his creations and it is something that I guess is now ingrained in me,” she says.

Her next stint as design director at Zac Posen who, as Vogue puts it, became “Designer of the Year five minutes out of fashion college,” was the toughest job Venessa says she has ever had – apart from the one she has now.

Managing budgets, a team of 30 sewers and pattern makers with different personalities, and constant deadlines was no walk in the park. 

Venessa had long been making her own jewellery from the seashells and vintage charms she had collected on beach holidays.  Her Puerto Rican father, who always wore a gold chain with a big cross and his high school varsity ring, would load the entire family into a van – “cousins, aunts, uncles - anyone who wanted to go,” and off they would set.

There were constant spur of the moment road trips throughout the US, to their second home in Puerto Rico and anywhere else in the world that tickled her father’s fancy.  

“The destination was not ever important but an excuse to drive together,” Venessa says.

 In the same way, the move from design director at Zac Posen to the director of her own company was slow and steady.

“It kind of started with me just messing around and making birthday gifts for my girlfriends and collecting things over time or whenever I travelled and putting things together from my jewellery box,” Venessa has said

A chance encounter with the fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman who admired Venessa’s handiwork lead to Venessa’s jewellery being shown on the floor, then a separate independent pop-up shop in Rockaway Beach and eventually to life as she knows it now.

These days her production team is headed up by her mother and a “freelance team of single mothers” – a far cry from her days at Zac Posen.Working from the studio that she shares with her husband, photographer Shawn Roche, Venessa and her small team handle every aspect of the label: from design and production to shipping.

“It's a lot of work but it keeps the quality high and it keeps many people in the New York area with a job. There is not a single piece that we produce that does not pass through my hands.” 

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With help from Far and Wild 

Check out Venessa Arizaga's new collection here.