We spent some time and sat down with one of the hottest new upcoming designers in the male accessories and jewelery space. If you haven’t heard of Johnathan Cardillo, you are definitely missing out on some of the most trendy pendants in the industry. Today, we stopped for a chat with Johnathan and found out just how he does it.
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT YOUR BRAND, WHAT’S JOHNATHAN CARDILLO’S STORY AND MEANING? HOW DID JOHNATHAN CARDILLO START?
I grew up in Southern California, about 2 hours outside of LA. I moved to LA at 21 to begin working for an Acting Studio as the Director of Admissions. It wasn’t long before I became restless and began questioning what I truly wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was talking to a good friend one night when he said to me, “Johnathan, you’re a Designer, you always have been.” I guess it was something that I had always known deep down inside, but was too afraid to really invest all of my creative energy into something tangible, for the world to see and critique. I dabbled in interior design, but it just wasn’t ‘the thing’ that made me tick. I wasn’t feeling the passion for it. One day I sat down and simply started to draw. I drew jewelry, pendants… spikes.
This was it; this was ‘the thing’ that I was supposed to be doing for the rest of my life. I have always had a good eye for unique accessories and knew that I could design and produce a killer line of statement pieces.
WE REALLY ADMIRE YOUR COURAGE FOR PURSUING YOUR DREAMS; A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE STILL TRAPPED WITH CAREERS THEY ARE UNHAPPY WITH. WE WERE WONDERING WHY DID YOUR FRIEND SAY, “YOU’RE A DESIGNER, YOU ALWAYS HAVE BEEN”, IS THERE A BACKSTORY TO THIS? CAN YOU EXPLAIN THIS A BIT MORE?
I’ve always been very creative and he knew this. He’s an interior/special events decorator. I had always looked up to him for his ability to transform a space into something magical. He is kind of known as the King of Christmas Decor. He’s like the David Tutera for Christmas. At one point I was working under him, and being paid to decorate 11′ trees for clients at Christmas time. It was a ton of fun, but wasn’t something I wanted to do forever.
SO YOU MENTIONED EARLIER ABOUT YOUR CREATIVE ENERGY, CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?
To be honest, I don’t follow other brands, fashion trends, pop culture, etc. I sort of march to the beat of my own drum, and I might be shooting myself in the foot, but I would rather not run the chance of another’s work influencing my designs, even unintentionally. When I want to produce a new collection I try to think of how the next collection will compliment my current designs… Then I sit down and draw.
WE FIND YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS VERY INTERESTING. DOES THAT MEAN YOU DON’T HAVE A DESIGNER THAT YOU LOOK UP TO IN PARTICULAR? AND WOULD YOU SAY THAT IT TAKES A LONGER TIME TO COME UP WITH A DESIGN SINCE YOU TRY NOT TO BE INFLUENCED BY ANYTHING?
I wouldn’t say that. I definitely look up to David Yurman. I love that he has maintained a loyal following, quality expectation and his name holds much weight in the industry after all these years. If my career could mimic anyone’s it would be his. It’s more like, I just check-in once in awhile, see what designers are up to, say to myself, “Oh that’s cool,” and move on.
Sometimes it can take longer to come up with a design. I’ll have a concept in mind, but when I sit down and start drawing, I don’t always strike gold right away. It tends to take a few drawing sessions before I have the next design set in stone.
YOUR DESIGNS CAN DEFINITELY BE A STAPLE; WE LOVE YOUR NECKLACES AND OUR READERS AND FOLLOWERS DEFINITELY AGREE AS WELL. CAN YOU GIVE US AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT YOUR FAVORITE OUTFIT IS FOR PAIRING WITH YOUR ACCESSORIES?
Sure! Right now I’m pretty obsessed with the long line t-shirts. They are longer than your average shirt with a scoop neck. I just think they are so fashion forward and complimentary to most body types. Then I wear a fitted or skinny jean with a pair of slim Vans. I basically just wear a different version of this every day. I pair it with a vintage Gucci watch, gold spike bracelet, and a solid gold Small Classic Spike necklace.
THAT’S STYLISH! NOW THAT WE KNOW MORE ABOUT YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS, HOW IS YOUR BRAND DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHER DESIGNERS OUT THERE?
I try to design with the compliment in mind. I design pieces that elicit a compliment for the wearer as well as a compliment of their body type. We use only precious metals, solid gold and sterling silver, with no brass. Each design is offered in a few different finishes, sizes, and precious stone pairings to appeal to the different tastes. I’m very much a stickler for quality. I’m not in the business of cutting corners for the cheapest possible manufacturing options. I want to give my customers products that I am proud to put my name on, and in turn, they are proud to wear.
WE NOTICED THAT A LOT OF YOUR DESIGNS ARE MINIMALISTIC IN NATURE, BUT VERY “CATCHY” LIKE YOU DESCRIBED. HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT MAKING THE DESIGNS MORE COMPLEX OR MOVING AWAY FROM YOUR SIGNATURE SPIKES?
I tend to design an elaborate piece and then take a step back and figure out how I can simplify it to make it friendlier for everyday wear. When I first started, all of my designs were pretty elaborate with spikes incorporated, but they started to feel too excessive to me and I had to ask myself, “who is actually going to wear this?” Our jewelry should be understated for the most part, yet sexy. It’s meant to compliment us, not enter the room before we do. I am going to start experimenting with some new shapes and textures, but to be honest I think that all of my designs will always include angles and edges. I can’t help it, it’s just what I find attractive, and if that’s my signature then that’s what I need to work with.
WE DEFINITELY AGREE HERE; DESIGNERS NEED TO DESIGN FOR THE CUSTOMER. CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR AUDIENCE FOR US, AND WHY THEY LOVE YOUR DESIGNS?
For the most part, I would say my audience is the dapper man who loves a good staple piece or statement piece (depending on the spike) to wear recreationally, formally, or just everyday. While I love my current following, I hope to expand into women very soon. Personally, I want to dominate a market that I know, and understand, before I start branching out. I think that the marketplace is severely lacking attractive accessories for men that would compliment many different tastes and body types. I want to be a brand that has something for everyone.
NOW, AS AN UP-AND-COMING DESIGNER, WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT FOR YOU? IT CAN BE ANYTHING.
Manufacturing is always the most challenging part of the business. I’m a stickler for quality, so once someone isn’t meeting my expectations, I begin sourcing from more reliable manufacturers. It can be a time vacuum, but it is extremely important for my brand to have superior quality. Customers worked hard for their money, and it’s important that my products meets and exceeds their expectations in every aspect.
LASTLY, CAN YOU GIVE US 3 INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT YOU THAT THE READERS WOULD APPRECIATE OUTSIDE OF YOUR DESIGNER LIFE?
Hmmmm… I can be very much a recluse. Haha. I love to meet new people, but also love my alone time.
I absolutely love to dance and have no problems dancing around my home (by myself) to some Tracy Chapman accompanied by wine in my Olivia Pope (SCANDAL) wine glass.
Occasionally, celebrities will stop by to try on jewelry for upcoming photo-shoots. So, if and when you make a purchase, your spike just might have been around the neck of someone fabulous and famous for a few minutes.