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January 28, 2011

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Suzanne Donegan of MANNIN Fine Jewelry last week at her studio in Santa Monica to talk about her line and what inspired her to start it. The MANNIN collection is a modern reinvention of the jewelry wardrobe with its core based in combining luxury with sustainability.  This belief combined with a design of timeless elegance and classic form are all the reasons why MANNIN is on our radar.  I’ve been talking for awhile about Classicism and the importance of buying beautiful, well crafted things that can last a lifetime and that withstand trends.  This type of purchasing is a major contributor to sustainability in the fashion industry and is the foundation from which fashion came. When I found out about MANNIN, I was so inspired by the simplicity and beauty of her designs that also had such nostalgia for the past.  After talking with her, I found out her frame of mind was in the same place.


Part of "The Seven Basic pieces of the Jewelry wardrobe"

Jewelry display in her studio


Suzanne in her home studio

Suzanne was born in Dublin, Ireland and grew up on the East Coast until she arrived in Los Angeles after graduating from Bard College in New York.  There she studied the History of Decorative Arts and Design which has been the basis for her aesthetic through the course of her creative career. After arriving West, she began to study yoga and learned the art of teaching.  Soon after, her love of history and antiques led her to interior design and prop styling where she spent many years not only designing houses for clients, but also custom furniture.


Her Inspiration board

Custom chair made from vintage embroidered linens

Suzanne has always had a innate knack and passion for objects and artifacts which she picked up at a young age by scouring flea markets with her mom.  She says that she is interested in “the soul of things” and the “idea of what determines an item to be a Classic.” This is very evident when you see her home studio.  An obvious collector of history and things, her ability to place random objects together to create a story is inspiring to say the least.  As a lover of history and objects myself, with an extensive background in visual merchandising, my appreciation for her aesthetic was enthusiastic. I love the art of arranging things together from all different times and places in history.  And so does Suzanne.

Knowing this part of Suzanne is important for understanding her approach to jewelry design.  She loves to bring together fashion and art and her knowledge on the history of jewelry and how it is made is unbelievable.  She has learned a great amount through her travels and her many trips to the Brimfield antique fair where she chats up dealers and learns every last detail about the pieces that she buys. This passion soon led to her creating pieces by re-assembling antique jewelry.  It didn’t take long before people started to ask her about them and before she knew it she had a collection together of 10 pieces that she sold at Kaviar and Kind in Los Angeles.  Followed by an article in Vogue, she was on her way to becoming a full-fledged jewelry designer.  Suzanne still creates the re-assembled pieces under the “MANNIN” moniker and sells them in Lost and Found (one of my favorite la shops). View some pieces from her estate collection below:

A French Tortoiseshell Magnifier from the 1900's and Victorian charm from the 1890's are hung from a Prince Albert pocket watch chain


Late 1800's gutta percha link bracelet with a 1970's gold clasp


Amethyst glass pocket watch charm

By juxtapositioning chains and clasps and charms from all different decades, she is able to portray her love of pulling history and objects together to create modernity.  Her design sensibility plays with the relationship of masculine vs feminine and simple vs ornate.  In other words, its all in the details!

Part of "The Seven Basics of the Jewelry Wardrobe"

Suzanne has been making the estate pieces since 2006, but started MANNIN Fine Jewelry just last year using 18k custom blended clean recycled gold. She launched the collection with the idea of “Seven Basics of the Jewelry Wardrobe.”  Similar to Donna Karan’s 7 Easy Pieces, she believes there are classic elements that should belong in every woman’s jewelry box.  She wanted to make jewelry that a woman would wear everyday and never take off.  Part of her design criteria focuses on a lightweight and comfortable design which results in almost not even realizing you have it on. When you put them on, you feel as if they are a part of you.


One of my favorites, the Monogramed Signet ring

I have always loved monograms on jewelry, reminds me of when I was a young girl and dreamed of wearing my grandmother’s monogrammed jewelry.  The idea of having a piece of jewelry for so long and then passing it down to your children and future generations is a beautiful thing.  She offers monogramming on several of her pieces giving them each an heirloom feel and allowing for ultimate personalization.


The Circle Plates can be monogrammed as well with a choice of snake or cable chain in 16", 18" or 20"

Other pieces of the Seven Basics include the Channel Hinge bracelet….



The Dome ring..


The  32″ Chain Composition necklace……which can be taken apart at the clasps and worn as a bracelet, an 18″ necklace, and a 14″ wrap bracelet.  The versatility of this piece is amazing made with a very thoughtful design approach.


The perfect gold hoop earrings…..


The Post Earrings…..


And the last basic is The Channel band….


MANNIN Fine Jewelry is powerful in its simplicity with a collection of versatile pieces that appeal to both men and women who appreciate jewelry as a subtle accent of their identity.  All pieces are made by a “Bench jeweler” which is a true craftsman making everything by hand.  The gold she uses goes through The Miller Process which is the practice of cleaning gold before it is put back into the environment.  She has even customized the color of her gold basing the chemistry on English rose gold from the 1890’s and Italian yellow gold from the 1940’s.


The MANNIN link

She came up with her brand link (above) from a piece of 1870’s gutta percha.  She has a collection of pieces based off of this link and she uses it throughout her pieces as a clasp and an understated design element.

Suzanne adds to the collection twice a year building on the basics that you see above.  It’s hard to see it in the pictures, but each piece has such detail and beauty in its simplicity.  I want one of everything and I don’t want to ever take it off.

You can currently find her collection at Jenni Kayne and Des Kohan(another favorite) in Los Angeles and Carrots in San Francisco.  You can visit her website here. Her prices range from $650-$10,500.

The days of throw away fashion are coming to an end.  Luxury goods are re-surfacing in a new way by linking history to the present rather than forcing “it” items through branding.  We’ve seen this in the re-growth of the haute couture as well as in the inherent design of many brands such as Hermes, Celine, Delvaux, Levi’s and Ralph Lauren.  You will start to see brands pushing their classics in order to claim their customer back.

I feel Suzanne is onto something big that is inline with this movement that we are seeing.  It’s only a matter of time before it catches on.



3 Comments leave one →
  1. keepfeelingjoanna permalink
    January 31, 2011 11:47 am

    love love LOVE the monogrammed ring!


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