Describe a day in the life of Samantha Smikle:
My day is super specific to my current agenda. But being that I’m a one man army, most times, it’s jam packed. Now I’m being trained in CAD design for jewelry so I’m doing that everyday at GIA. Then I usually run over to my usual wholesale vendors on 6th ave for chain and other findings. Then I run over to the jewelry district over on 46th/47th to drop off pieces that need to be finished (polished, plated, soldered etc). After that I could be running to the post office to mail out orders. Other days I’m meeting with stylists for pulls. And I try to attend the fashion events that I’m invited to as much as possible. I def need to develop a team to spread the wealth of To-Dos!
What’s the history behind TNEMNRODA – what propelled you to start it (how did you come up with the name) – and how does TNEMNRODA reflect your personal aesthetic?
I originally brainstormed TNEMNRODA as the name of an art exhibit that I wanted to plan for the line when it was called Odd & Even NYC. I was planning the exhibit to be on adornment, my collection and images that inspired it. TNEMNRODA is adornment spelled backwards and when I came across it a year later in the journal, I knew instantly that it was perfect. Until then, the line never felt really complete and settled.
TNEMNRODA really represents the woman I strive to be. It’s a manifestation of a being who is strong, fun, bold, sexy and powerful… Characteristics that always fluctuate but the pursuit is what makes us alluringly amazing and all of the above.
What were fundamental steps you followed before starting your business?
I don’t think I followed all the steps. I may have just completely skipped some and come back to them later, haha. That’s why I’ve decided to study CAD design now. But I established things like a website, press and trunk shows very early on. The basis is really having a space whether it’s online or physical to sell your pieces and having it featured in the press. Someone said, if it isn’t in the press, it’s like it never happened.
What challenges did you face when building TNEMNRODA from scratch? How did you overcome such challenges?
Starting out, I hadn’t studied jewelry or had the slightest drop of professional exposure to it, so my biggest challenge was really learning the industry, the jewelry district, and how to run a business: calculating prices, making line sheets and writing up purchase orders. I needed to do this all by myself, but I didn’t even know half of the things I needed to do until I worked with actual jewelry design companies, which is how I learned a lot of what I know.
It’s empowering to see women making moves in the scene like you — how have the women in your life been instrumental in developing your hustle?
I always surround myself with strong people and have a great group of solid women. They all, in their own way just encourage me to be greater. And in being greater I have to always do more and do better than the last time–whether it’s a design or marketing strategy or whatever. The encouragement and belief from others that I can achieve more and am expected to achieve more is so empowering.
What do you think it takes to make it in this business, especially for women?
The ability to be clear on your intentions and dreams and to accept help. The latter I’ve just realized. But no matter how much we take pride in handling things solo, we need a team who supports us to bring the dream to fruition as it is meant to be and it takes extreme discipline. When you work for yourself, you work for yourself. So all the work you didn’t want to do for an employer, you’ll have to do for your brand… at least until you build a team.
Cultural trends constantly change. What do you do to stay relevant, connected, and ahead of the curve?
I absorb style and trends from mags and so many blogs and Tumblrs. Coming from an editorial background, doing trend pieces for FADER magazine and trend reporting for WWD, it was always something that came naturally and that was fun for me. So innately feeling what’s next is key in remaining consistently on or ahead of trend. If I had to describe how I do it, it would just be to observe. I notice what has been and I re-imagine where it’s going.
How has social media shaped TNEMNRODA? What’s your favorite platform? Why?
By far Insta’! Seriously, one of the biggest smallest blessings in my career has been getting an iPhone and joining the Instagram flock. No one puts their enterprises out on any other platform like they do on Instagram. And the connection level and immediacy is just unrivaled and beautiful.
How do you keep track of personal & business goals, prioritize projects, and stay creative at the same time – even when you’re exhausted?
It’s difficult and I do get burnt out. That’s when I automatically step back from emails and social media for a day or two. Everything really happens at once in terms of projects. It’s completely normal to be preparing for a shoot, an interview and producing a new line and replenishment inventory for Blake (my jewelry is carried at Blake Scotland in the LES). So I have notes and lists everywhere. On the walls in my studio. In the notepad of my phone. In whichever journal I’m writing in at the moment. I sketch designs and jot down new goals as soon as they come to me. The best things creep into your heart unexpectedly and I’m so afraid of forgetting them.
What are your must-have tools or apps to run your day-to-day grind? What kind of gadgets would we find on your desk or in your bag?
My iPhone and my MacBook Air are the most techy things you’d find. Depending on the week I might be walking around with my ring sizer, BCBG measuring tape and chain cutters and pliers.
As for apps I can’t do without Instagram, Pic Stitch and Picfx for photos, BillTracker, Mint.com and Chase for finances and always hopstop or just the iPhone map for running around.
In a fast-paced industry where last-minute-anything can happen, what’s your fail-proof, go-to outfit that will last from morning meetings to evening events?
All black. I used to be all about color and prints and just believe black was a cop out to being creative. But it’s so chic! Maybe because my style icons have shifted from Blossom and Brenda of 90210 in my early 20s to Carine Roitfeld, Tracee Ellis Ross and the whole A$AP look as of late. So my foolproof look would be black skinnys or leggings, black silk tank, black cropped moto leather with an oversized mohair vest for texture. In the day, leopard flats. At night, laced up black heeled boots! Maybe a leather cap or a bordeaux pout…
How important are mentors? Who is your mentor?
Mentors are so important. I don’t have a particular one but there have been many women in my life who have advised me and connected me to opportunities in my career. That’s what’s so important in a mentor. Someone who can guide you objectively and with complete love and intention for you to succeed… to give you advice and selflessly connect you to the perfect opportunity.
Define your idea of success.
I think success is discovering what your life’s work ought to be. Arriving at that place where you are happy and self-sufficiently comfortable from creating something that fulfills a deep need in the world. But I’m not sure if success is ever really reached. Maybe it’s just reached a few times over. I think I always I have one foot on overjoyed success and the other on a plan for greater success.
What were TNEMNRODA’s top achievements in 2012? What should we expect from TNEMNRODA this year?
2012 was a good year. Beyonce wore my Mia Sunnies and posted the pic on her stan-ssessed Instagram. I was also named one of four jewelry designers to watch by Time Out New York magazine at the top of the year and rolled out our first lookbook by the end. For 2013, I’m putting a plan for greater emphasis on a bigger jewelry collection and I am planning on having more private sales and trunk shows, ideally with my fave luxury department stores.
What’s your advice for other women entering creative fields or starting their own business?
For women in creative fields, my advice would be to follow your gut. It took me a while to really appreciate my creativity as a gift. It’s like singing, not everyone can. And creativity is something that can only be learned to an extent, the rest is unique to you so trust yourself!
For women who are starting their own business, I would say the same: trust yourself. Believe in yourself. But believe that you can be as major as your inspiration no matter how impossible that seems. Beyonce was just Beyonce before she was Queen Bey.
TNEMNRODA jewelry embodies the nuances and intricacies that make you a special version of beauty in this world. Literally ADORNMENT spelled backwards, TNEMNRODA is focused on bold designs and gold plated metals finely embellished with semiprecious stones and other inspiring materials.
Created in 2011 by GIA-trained jewelry designer and Boston University graduate Samantha Smikle, TNEMNRODA was the realization of inspirations, influences and experiences that Samantha wanted to capture stylistically. It was Samantha’s Caribbean upbringing, outfitted in jewelry that made the ease into design from a career in editorial writing and trend forecasting so seamless.
Egypt and India. The ’70s and even the raw carnal sexuality of vintage erotica are all inspiration and reference points for TNEMNRODA. Every piece is handled with care and made with love and good intention in New York City. Some pieces are made in limited quantity.
O.M.O Writes, the creative online outlet of fashion writer Samantha Smikle, was created in the Summer of 2007 as a written time stamp for her trend-spotting quips.
Now expanded to an exploration of style news, influential editorials, and What I Wore posts, O.M.O Writes is delivered via a savvy point of view and scratches below the surface of fashion. Mentions from Essence Magazine and WWD sets O.M.O. Writes as a hub for vibrant imagery and style reporting.