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Vrai & Oro's goal is rather simple: to deck out our digits in dainty-luxe gems without breaking our budgets. To do so, the LA-based fine jewelry line cut out the middleman, ditched the fast fashion model, and opted to produce its merch responsibly in Downtown.
Consider the mission accomplished. Launched in April 2014 by Chelsea Nicholson and Vanessa Stofenmacher, the ethical local brand offers jewel box mainstays like square stud earrings ($55), stacking ring trios ($150), minimalist bar bracelets ($240), petite diamond bands ($375 and up), and more options in 14k white, yellow, and rose gold.
"We've always been very inspired by companies like Warby Parker and Everlane, who are changing the way we think and buy online," the duo tells us. "Both of us love fine jewelry and wanted to own high quality pieces, but the traditional options felt so unattainable."
Like their straight-to-consumer business model, Nicholson and Stofenmacher's friendship was born online via Craiglist "before it was creepy." Below, discover how the brand was born, how they were able to offer high-end wares at affordable prices, their favorite pieces, and more.
How did you the two of you meet, and what were you doing before Vrai & Oro?
Chelsea and Vanessa: We met as roommates through Craigslist back in the day before it was creepy about eight years ago and have been close friends ever since. We've always shared similar interests in culture, business and style and even lived in Paris together for several months.
Chelsea: Before Vrai & Oro, I had previously launched a charity-based clothing line and was finishing my degree in business and marketing while Vanessa studied branding and graphic design and had launched her own design studio specializing in branding for startups. With strong interests in e-commerce, we both decided to study user experience together through General Assembly LA. Studying UX fused together our passions for design and business and became the starting point for Vrai & Oro.
What inspired you to pursue your particular business model?
Chelsea: Vanessa had previous worked with several jewelry designers and began to learn the behind-the-scenes of the fine jewelry industry. She realized the pieces were being marked up an astonishing 8 to 10 times by the time they reached the consumer and most of the big players were mass producing their designs overseas where quality control and ethical labor practices were not enforced.
We realized there was a huge issue here that could be solved by manufacturing smaller batches here in LA to ensure quality and fair labor and selling direct-to-consumer to avoid the high markups associated with traditional retail.
What do you love about manufacturing in LA?
Chelsea and Vanessa: We're fortunate to have such an amazing jewelry district here in downtown LA with all the resources we need at our fingertips. Not only is it accessible for us to source our materials, we are also able to keep a close eye on our products from start to finish.
Another huge advantage we have by manufacturing here in LA is speed to market. We're able go from concept to market in less than two weeks and can produce in small batches to avoid holding excessive inventory. Downtown LA is growing so quickly and we're excited to be a small part of this big change.
Which V&O pieces do you wear the most?
Chelsea: I also wear the line studs daily along with the circle bracelet, skinny stackers, and a pavé diamond necklace that holds sentimental value because it was one of our first designs but was actually never released.