Last Monday night while I was driving through the canyons towards Sunset, listening to the classical KUSC on the radio, the calm air seemed so still, tranquil. It was hard to imagine that on the East Coast, Sandy was still doing its unthinkable catastrophe. Grateful that my family there is unharmed, I shuddered at the thought of all the damage and misfortune it has caused. I relish in calmness at any chance; life is so fragile.
Susan Foster is a fine jewelry designer who has been featured in Vogue (UK edition) several times in the past year, among other domestic and international magazines, and her jewels have been on such covers as InStyle, Elle, Glamour and Modern Bride. She works with precious gems, recognizably her own style, her pieces are very delicate yet bold. That evening, she looked elegant, wearing a black dress and heels, minimal makeup on her perfect, flawless pale skin and soft platinum waves, sitting at the bar drinking fresh leaf mint tea. The ambiance was beautiful -- Chateau Marmont with its charm and comfort. I ordered a juicy burger (even though I usually would not order such a dish to observe "meat-free Mondays"). I recorded our conversation by using my iPhone app.
GM: You're an artist by nature, what was the pivotal point when you decided that jewelry is what you wanted to design?
SF: Well, I grew up in East Hampton, Long Island -- and growing up there, I was among artisans. I literally lived down the block from Jackson Pollack's house, so it's kind of just a part of me, who I am. I come from a family of creative people in all fields. My stepfather built John Steinbeck's work studio. My cousin is the set decorator for Gossip Girl, Meet the Parents, Summer of Sam and many other movies. I have cousins who are in special effects for movies, so I just have different types of artistic people in my family. I fell into the jewelry business 15 years ago while I was visiting a friend who was a designer. She made a necklace for me and it snapped, so I brought it back to her and I said, "I am so sorry, I broke it, can you fix it for me?" On the spot, she whipped out her blow torch, needle-nose pliers, metal snipers and all these different types of interesting jewelry tools. It was the most simplistic type of handcrafted jewelry that she made, but it was very pretty. I was so young and so fascinated by what she was doing -- creating and using her hands -- and these pieces that she made right on the spot. I was just so captivated by that, I asked her if she would be so kind as to teach me what she knew, and that's how I fell into jewelry design.
GM: Do you feel she taught you?
SF: I feel it kickstarted me. It certainly didn't teach me the type of fine jewelry that I am designing today... which is more fine, grand and extravagant.
GM: Because you had proper schooling for that?
SF: Right. Years later, after I studied with European goldsmiths, I attended gemology school at the Gemology Institute of America to learn -- which is where I studied diamonds, synthetic diamonds, rare gemstones and pearl grading, all of that. But when I first started, I was so young and so fulfilled with working with my hands, I literally did it on the most handmade and raw level. Of course, I grew over time from there over many, many years of designing.
GM: You prefer to work with diamonds, more than any other stone?
SF: Absolutely! Diamonds are a girl's best friend, as they say!
GM: What kind of diamonds?
SF: Well, the D internally flawless kind, and the larger the better, of course! Currently, I'm working with blue diamonds and loving it. They are my favorite. In the next seasons ahead I will be working with red diamonds -- very, very rare.
GM: Your blue diamond pinky ring was just in the November issue of Vogue UK, wasn't it?
SF: Yes. Love Vogue UK.
GM: Didn't you date a rockstar at one point? Actually I know you dated a talented, attractive, famous rockstar! What was that like?
SF: I did not date a rockstar!
GM: Yes you did! I know you did, are you still friends?
SF: OK, I did. Yeah, it was fun. He wasn't like your quintessential hotel-room-trashing rockstar, he was a normal, down-to-earth guy, no cocky pretensions, and, yes, we are still friends.
GM: Who would you love to date, if it could be anybody notable?
SF: Hilarious... Oh my goodness. OK, well, if I had to pick someone in Hollywood... hmm, I don't know, it would have to be Tom Cruise, I guess. I've never been asked this question before!
GM: So happy you said that! I am a huge Tom Cruise fan!
SF: He seems like a really nice, kind guy, so that's the reason I am saying that. Plus, he is super handsome.
GM: What kind of woman are you designing for, because your pieces are in some amazing stores in England...
SF: I never think about different countries when I am designing. My designs just come to me, and, fortunately, it's just as well-received domestically and internationally. My collection can be found in many different countries -- Russia, France and Germany. My store is in Los Angeles, and that's where I am the most lately -- where I take a lot of private appointments. Then London is second, so I guess those two places are where my jewelry is most popular.
GM: Your Brentwood store is impeccable. Susan, you are a beautiful, successful businesswoman -- and have been for many years now. Do you feel that it is intimidating for men that you meet?
SF: Maybe some, others -- maybe not. It just depends. I guess they can be a bit intimidated at first, because it is their primitive nature to be the provider, to be the successful one. So...
GM: Does that matter to you?
SF: No, not at all...
GM: You are a very traditional, classy girl, but also very modern.
SF: I love chivalry, I appreciate a guy that is down-to-earth and kind. I am not the type that would date a guy for superficial reasons... character is the most important thing to me. I have enough jewels!
GM: Good point! Where is your favorite place to stay and go out in NY?
SF: I usually stay uptown at the Carlyle or The Surrey. And I probably meet my friends or cousin for drinks there, we'll go to a gallery, then downtown for dinner and fun. What I love most is meeting up with friends in a city that we all happen to be visiting!
GM: What about in L.A.?
SF: Chateau Marmont is my favorite place in L.A. It's the perfect cross between cool and cozy.
GM: What about London?
SF: In Mayfair I love Lou Lou's at 5 Hertford St.
GM: Most flattering design moment for you?
SF: It would have to be when Maria Shriver asked me to restore her grandmother, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy's heirloom jewels. It was quite flattering, being trusted with those pieces. I mean, not many designers get to restore President John F. Kennedy's mother's jewelry!
GM: Gives me goosebumps!
SF: Yes, I had designed a few custom pieces for Maria already, so she entrusted me her grandmother's heirloom pieces. It was a coral cross and a locket, and inside the locket was a note to Maria from Mrs. Kennedy. The locket had beautiful, long, gold vinery and flowers all over it. It was wonderful to work on those pieces.
GM: What is your favorite era?
SF: I love the sixties. Such fab style in the sixties: Diana Vreeland, Edie Sedgwick, CZ Guest, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly... a huge metamorphosis in fashion then, and so many style icons.
GM: Yes, the sixties was sort of strange era where the modern was an instant classic. I love that we are mentioning these lovely icons such as CZ Guest here! Who are your favorite designers?
SF: Depends on what I am doing, but I love Jason Wu, Alexander McQueen, Lanvin and Nina Ricci. When I am skiing in Aspen, I bundle myself up with Loro Piana and Moncler. If I am going away to somewhere warm, I wear Diane Von Furstenberg dresses. When heading to London, I always shop the British designers: Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Erdem.
GM: Who is your favorite handbag designer?
SF: I love collecting bags, my Kelly bag is my everyday bag, so it would have to be Hermès.
SF: I love Louboutin for a night on the town. Lanvin, for walking around London. Fendi boots for Aspen.
GM: Your own favorite dress?
SF: My black silk, drapey Peachoo+Krejberg dress.
GM: So, let's say if you lived in L.A. just part-time, where else would you live?
SF: I already live in London part-time! For my holidays, Mexico. A relaxing getaway I crave is Cabo San Lucas, only two hours from Los Angeles, at the One&Only Palmilla.
Susan Foster has exquisite taste, her jewelry is grand enough that Wallis Simpson would approve, yet she also has fun pieces like her "Just Because It's Tuesday" bracelet. Some of her beautiful jewelry is currently available on Matches Fashion.
All photos used in this post are with permission by Susan Foster