In our current Zoom-centric work culture, it's nearly impossible to avoid nitpicking our collective appearance. Unkempt eyebrows (no judgment), stress-induced under-eye circles, and pale skin from lack of outdoor activity are all par for the course within our humble screen-abodes. And sprucing up our wardrobes for fall — which, in case you've lost track of time again, is upon us — seems like a fruitless endeavor with seemingly no events to attend for the foreseeable future.
But Nicky Shemian, the L.A.-based founder and designer of Naiia, defines personal appearance a little differently. "Like a pearl, women don't need polishing to reveal their natural beauty," Shemian says.
In the same vein as a head-turning, daring red lip, Naiia Jewelry adds a refined flair to any stay-at-home ensemble. Speaking on behalf of L.A.'s intrepid community of hard-working women, we could all use some extra flare right about now.
Shemian launched her fine jewelry brand in late 2019, just a few months before the pandemic hit. While she's had to twist, turn, and reverse course as a small business owner, the cornerstones of her designs remain unchanged: All of the jewelry is made out of 14-karat gold, and incorporates elements of Mother Nature paired with a fierce, feminine confidence.
Naiia's first collection, Deep Sea Lover (starting at $295), includes a menagerie of freshwater pearl and pave diamond rings, earrings, and necklaces, all inspired by the ocean's natural essence. Shemian's newest collection, Honey ($120 and up), embodies a more pedestrian glamour with sweat-proof, gold-filled chains, bracelets, and anklets — perfect for a socially distant brunch or an elevated streetwear look.
Perhaps more indicative of the kind of heart Shemian has is her commitment to stoking the flames for future female entrepreneurs. For every purchase made, Naiia donates a portion of proceeds to Ladies Who Launch — a non-profit organization devoted to providing women in the entrepreneurial community access to resources that will help launch and grow their businesses. As a graduate of USC's Marshall School of Business, Shemian is confident that her direct investment in up-and-coming businesswomen is a powerful step in the right direction.
Here, we caught up with Shemian to find out what hurdles she's been facing as an entrepreneur, why natural beauty is so central to her brand, how her multicultural upbringing inspired her design sensibility, and more. Read her answers below, and shop Naiia's latest collections here while you're at it.
Your brand, Naiia, launched just a few months before the pandemic hit. How have you had to adapt and change your business since March?
Oh boy, it's been interesting! When the pandemic first hit, our immediate reaction was panic, as I'm sure many businesses have also been feeling. We quickly changed our mindset, though, and decided to find opportunities in the chaos to continue moving forward and making progress. We learned the hard way that adaptability is key in business!
While we had scheduled launch dates, contracts with influencers, pop-ups, and more for 2020, everything has continued as planned, but even better — just different!
Your work and designs often reference natural beauty. Can you tell us a little about your background growing up in a multicultural home, and how this informed your "natural" style as a jewelry designer?
My siblings and I are first-generation Americans, with parents who were born in Iran and fled during the revolution in 1978. Having had to leave their home and living in many countries prior to settling in Los Angeles, a lesson my parents often teach is to appreciate the little things: A family gathering, a roof over our heads, and a nice warm Persian meal! From this, I learned to value and love the natural beauty that surrounds me every day.
My creative inspiration is also drawn from nature. I am always observing my environment and appreciating the beauty that surrounds me. With every design, my goal is to embody some form of the beauty I witness and feel. Our first collection, Deep Sea Lover, is inspired by the ocean and incorporates in every piece the Mother of Pearl, the protection stone of the sea.
What inspired the most recent Honey collection?
It has always been a plan of ours to launch a chain collection. With the pandemic, we were so inspired, that we decided to launch sooner than we had anticipated. The social isolation, loneliness, and loss that have come to define this period have also inspired a level of self-love, self-care, and self-awareness that is palpable.
And even while many have felt like prisoners to the virus, forced to stay in one place and chained to their home, we decided to help usher in a perspective of love and care for ourselves that defines this collection. We are chained to ourselves, so we might as well be our own best friends!
Every piece in this collection is simple and timeless — one that can be dressed up or down. Our bestseller, the ABC Necklace ($425), can be personalized with the option to add your own custom gold initials. It's a reminder that you aren't alone!
For every purchase made, you donate a portion of sales to Ladies Who Launch. Why was it imperative for you to support female entrepreneurs?
Having graduated from USC's Marshall School of Business, characterizing it as male dominant is in no way a stretch of the imagination. Gender equality in the workforce has always been an interest of mine, and in exploring countless careers in both real estate and fashion post-college, I noticed and repeatedly felt gender inequality in the workplace. So when deciding to commit myself to my dream of building a fine jewelry line, I was also devoted to not only make a creative difference, but to invest back into women entrepreneurs.
It takes courage to pursue an entrepreneurial path; that much I do know — but believing in and valuing the power of an impassioned woman, and supporting one another too, is definitely a great first step.
As an L.A. local, what are your favorite restaurants or cafes that are keeping you afloat right now?
I've wanted to up my cooking game, so I haven't eaten out much. But I will say that my cooking has gotten a lot better! Cafe-wise though, I will always choose Alfred Coffee — delicious coffee, and I love their sleeve art!
Update 4/2/2021: This story has been updated to reflect the company's rebranded name and collection name.