On February 12, 2021, I found an article in The New York Times; “Why SoHo Struggles and Indie Shops in Brooklyn Are Doing Fine” which is about the economic comparison between Brooklyn and SOHO, NY during the pandemic. While reading it, I found a description about a Brooklyn-based jewelry brand “Page Sargisson” and its founder Page Sargisson who I worked together for some years. The article introduced her case as one of the “doing fine” episodes. I was so surprised to find her name and so happy to know she’s been doing great. I texted her soon and our reunion has started.
(Inerviewer: Junko Sasanuki)
I am recalling when I knew a jewelry brand “Page Sargisson”. It was in 2005 or 2006. I worked for a jewelry business for a decade, especially on marketing & branding to create a new market in Japan. So, I visited NY at least 3 times a year for 10 years, to a fashion business trade show called “COTERIE” for finding an UNKNOWN jewelry designer on the Japanese market. One day, while I and colleagues had a coffee at a show venue, we exchanged “who was an impressive exhibitor?”. “Page Sargisson" - she is the only common brand we named. She just started her brand with a small collection. Her jewelry was simple and versatile, but full of interesting detail in the material, colors of gemstones. Her personality was full of an organic atmosphere which was very different from other exhibitors. We felt a high potential to bring her to the Japanese market. Then, we made a contract. We worked in NY and sometimes in Japan together.
She is an independent designer, a company owner, a mom for 2 kids, a wife, and a good neighbor. I hope you enjoy this beautiful creator’s episode.
“I have never thought of myself as an artist, but she says that she has always been a creative person - knitting, sewing, collaging, woodworking. I wasn’t good at drawing or painting but more interested in building and sculpting from a childhood.”
After graduating from universities in the USA and in Italy, she used to work at a biotech company in San Francisco and she made jewelry on the side for herself.
“I had a whole bead collection and I’d just create my own designs. One day, a co-worker asked if she could buy one of her pieces because every time that she complemented necklaces I was wearing. She was the first purchaser”, she is recalling. Then, other people started asking too.
"People at my company started asking if they could buy the necklaces that I made. Sometimes I felt like a drug dealer when people would come into my office and I’d open my desk drawer full of necklaces.”
This is the beginning of her story before moving to NY and launching her jewelry brand “Page Sargisson” in NY in 2003.
Page Sargisson’s iconic person is Dian von Furstenberg who is a well-known fashion designer and her designed “wrap dress” has been attracting women all over the world for decades. I still remember she was wearing DVF’s wrap dress in Japan.
“She’s stylish, a businesswoman, a mother and does her own thing. She’s also aging with style so well.” Page is a juggler, too, having so many roles as a designer, running a company, a mother, a wife and a woman. As an independent creator, she goes back-forth between the creative world and the real one; picking up kids from school and return to studio, how is she juggling?
“Not very well! My kids are older now but it’s still hard. In a lot of ways, I feel lucky that I am the owner since I can be really flexible with my schedule.”, this is Page. And, she appreciates people who support her, the studio team, store team, family and friends. She keeps good relationships with them so that she can rely on them when she needs help. Being flexibility and having good relationship are tips to maximize yourself being independent not to be alone.
She has been living in Brooklyn long before Brooklyn became popular that it is today. Brooklyn, adjacent to Manhattan, is a residential area lined with local stores, high cost-effective great restaurants, and small business. Manhattan, on the other hand, is the center of the world, a consumer powerhouse where all the big names and retail chains in food, fashion, and entertainment gather. But this has been changing because of the pandemic. She says, “Manhattan is now like a ghost town but people actually live in Brooklyn so it feels quite normal during the lockdown.”
During the pandemic, her small studio’s lease was running out and she just didn’t want to stay there anymore - she needed something new. She reached out to the store’s landlord and told him what I could pay and stay in business, they came to an agreement and she figured out a way to put her studio in the back and the retail in the front. Then, Page opened the store in late 2020. It seemed not the right timing to take a risk to open a jewelry store in the midst of the pandemic.
She said, “I needed to figure out how to keep my business alive.”
“My business used to be about 70% wholesale, and it went down to only 29% due to lockdown. I soon focused on doing a lot of custom pieces and also tried to sell online more. Eventually, it all came together and we opened the store in late November.
The store opening was a challenge for her, but she says it’s fabulous because the people in the neighborhood welcomed them with open arms and really came out to do holiday shopping in local boutiques.”
She is also saying, “I think the pandemic actually worked to my advantage over the holidays since people were not going into Manhattan to do their shopping but staying in their neighborhood. People are really craving handmade pieces that are made here.”
The store is located in an old Steven Alan space on the corner of Hoyt Street and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, so people are used to coming here for high end pieces. The entire space is 1,000 square feet. It’s her ideal retail store accommodating studio work space.
【The happiest thing you experienced?】
Some of my happiest moments were actually in Japan when I used to travel to do trunk-shows there while I worked with you. I felt like an international rockstar! I think people in Japan care more about how things are made and not just the price or what celebrities wore it as they sadly do in America. People were wearing my pieces from across the world, a different culture but something about the jewelry had spoken to them and that felt like such an honor to me.
【What’s your enthusiasm other than jewelry making?】
I still love to knit. My mother taught me when I was 8 years old and I have never stopped! I’ve tried weaving and some needlepoint but I always go back to knitting.
【What’s your guilty pleasure?】
Chocolate and ice cream. I really can’t go that many days without eating either and usually, I want to eat together. and as far as jewelry, I am also a sucker for antique jewelry. I want to collect all the charms and buy all the old gold chains. The workmanship was so amazing.
I talked to Page for the first time in many years, and there were many things that resonated with me in a different way than before because of today. “Everything has its time," yes, well-said.
After this interview, I was reminded that working independently is not being a "lone samurai". In order to have the support of the people around you, it is important to have a relationship with them on a daily basis. I suppose it's an attitude to value the things around us and the community, from daily life to business activities. Even if we take into account that the characteristics of Brooklyn are working in her good way, I sometimes felt that the era of making a flag mark in the big city might be over. Remote work and telework have made it possible to be "here and everywhere" instead of "somewhere not here". Maybe that's why community is becoming more important. With this in mind, I want to go to Page Sargisson in Brooklyn to see Page when the pandemic is over. Thank you Page for this time! I am so happy to chat with you. Keep in touch!
(Interviewer: Junko Sasanuki)
An avid knitter, craftsperson, and mother of two boys- Page brings her personal style to her fine jewelry collections. She also uses texture from found materials, vintage letterpress calendars, and artifacts from her grandparents’ travels in her jewelry. Page’s Jewelry is meant to be lived in. From dropping off the kids at school, to work, to dinner out at night- our pieces are meant to come along for the moments of your life. Recently she opened her own store associated with a studio in November 2020 in Brooklyn, NY.