Photographs by Caitlin Abrams
Jewelry designer Larissa Loden at work in her studio
Art teacher by day, jewelry designer by night—Larissa Loden nurtured her side hustle throughout seven years of teaching in Minneapolis public schools before deciding to go for it, and make jewelry a full-time job. Less than two years after becoming a full-time jewelry designer, her line is easy to spot, whether you shop small, one-off gift stores, the Patinas of the world, or major museum shops. She’s currently sold in more than 300 stores, including the House of Blues hotel gift shops, The Getty in Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
I meet a lot of independent jewelry designers, and a common theme among them—whether they specialize in metals or gemstones or vintage hardware—is a ceiling that’s hard to rise above. For every Tess + Tricia success story—the mother/daughter team now has a manufacturing center in Eden Prairie and national distribution—there are dozens of jewelry designers selling just enough to get by, and not enough to fund growth.
So I’ve been curious about Loden’s rising star—her ability to turn her name into a profitable business, without sacrificing the personal touch. She does the designing. She does much of the making. She touches virtually everything coming out of her studio at the Northrup King building, where she has two full-time employees and six contractors. She still handles most of the selling, too, from national trade shows to local pop-up events.
“The person who sells your brand best is you,” Loden says. “It’s difficult, figuring out what truly can’t be duplicated, and learning what you can take off your plate and give to other people.”
One of Loden’s smartest decisions: keeping her prices reasonable. I frequently give Larissa Loden jewelry as gifts because she hits that sweet spot of $40 to $50 on pieces that look more expensive. It’s what attracted new Wayzata home and gift store Highcroft to the line: the impulse buy price point, coupled with organic, geometric designs and the local/indie factor.
“I’ve toyed with the idea of a luxury line,” Loden says. “I just don’t want to price myself out of what my customers have learned to love.”
Loden’s secrets: unusual materials—kyanite, jasper, howlite—and smart sourcing. She’s also reasonable about her markups.
“Jewelry has this perceived value—I see very expensive pieces where I know the parts don’t cost that much. But they mark it up 10 times. I just try to be fair.”
Shoppers have noticed, and Loden is conscious of nurturing that community. She’ll thank her fans this month with a “Galentine’s” Day Sale, online and in her Northrup studio on February 13, with rare discounts on her entire collection.