A Family Affair
Nina Runsdorf is a much-loved New York jewelry designer, but she is first and foremost a mother. To celebrate Mother’s Day and the launch of our new Calla Flip Ring Collection, we talked to Nina and Alexa about their relationship and what it’s like to work together now that Alexa has joined the business as a designer.
Q: It’s lovely to see a mother/ daughter duo working together, but I imagine it can be tricky to run a successful business and maintain a loving bond. Describe your relationship: would you say you’re pretty close?
Nina: I would say that we are incredibly close. I've been the only parent to both of my daughters since 2005, when I was widowed. And so, I played both mom and dad for many years. You can imagine the bond that I have with both of my daughters.
Alexa: Before working here, I talked to my mother most days. Now, it’s funny, I speak with her before work, during work, and after work, I can’t escape! As a girl growing up, our relationship had ups and downs. We definitely had our moments. I was more angsty when I was a teenager, but now our relationship is much better.
Nina: We're getting along better than ever before.
Q: How do you define your work/ life boundaries?
Nina: In the beginning, we had to establish some boundaries. It was not easy. Alexa joined the team during COVID. She was working in raw materials at the Row, with a clear, defined role and in a bigger company, so coming to work for her mom was challenging. Alexa found somebody who could give us an idea of structuring it so that there were boundaries. And because we're very close and an incredibly open family, we have a great line of communication.
Alexa: Yes, when I started working at Nina Runsdorf, it was pretty tricky because we were all living under the same roof (in the country), for the first time in eight years, due to the lockdown. We went to the country, and we were spending every second together and working together. Because we are so close, it has been a priority to create boundaries because we're great friends, but also, she's my mother and my boss and the lines sometimes are blurred. We have to have proper communication and conversations, which takes a lot of energy and work.
Q: What about your other daughter, Kate; will she join the business one day?
Nina: Kate has been an unofficial photographer and model for the All that Is collection [add images], and she has helped with trunk shows in the past. I’m sure she will join eventually; I would love it if she did.
Alexa: Kate has a huge presence and personality. She can become best friends with somebody in five seconds. She wants to work in foreign policy and politics, and she's working for somebody who's running for mayor.
Nina: She wants to save the world and become president of the United States one day.
Q: Alexa, was the move to a small business challenging for you? What have you learnt?
Alexa: It was a little difficult because I had come from a bigger company where there were very clearly defined roles. At Nina Runsdorf, we are a small team, and many of us were working remotely: we're all wearing 500 different hats and doing many different jobs. It's been an incredible learning experience. I feel like I've learned so much in the past eight months.
Q: What are the different skills you both bring to the business? Would you say one is more creative and one is more entrepreneurial?
Nina: I would say that we're both creative, but I also think Alexa is better at creating structure. As a boss, I don't tell people what to do: I expect them to do it. But Alexa is good at timelines, following up, making sure that we did what we said we would do. She even reminds me if I don’t do something I was supposed to do! Also, I think her creativity is different to mine: Alexa is bringing things to the table that I would never have thought of. I love to wear a lot of jewelry. I like to pile it on and wear it all at the same time. Alexa has more specific tastes; she’s a little more understated than I am.
Alexa: My mother is a true creative. From when she was born, she has fostered her creativity, and it's only grown and grown. I feel like I have inherited this creativity, thanks to my upbringing, so it comes naturally to me, but I also have this other side that's much more detail-oriented. I think that’s partly due to my old position at The Row, my boss was very detail-oriented and she instilled in me this need for detail in order to have the space to create. My favorite class in high school was math because I love working with numbers. It's not my strong suit at all, but I love it when things just make sense. So, I feel like I have both parts.
Q: Tell us about the Calla Flip Ring collection, Alexa’s first collection that she has designed for the business. How did it come about?
Alexa: Well, the Flip Ring is an iconic Nina Runsdorf design created by my mother in 2005. I’ve always loved them but because I am younger, I don’t feel as comfortable wearing so many diamonds. I remember borrowing my mom’s large light blue topaz Flip Ring once, years ago, and I scratched it.
Nina: Yes, I remember that.
Alexa: Are you still mad at me? I still have that ring!
Nina: Yes, I know, that’s ok!
Alexa: So, as I was saying, I like my jewelry to be a bit more understated, also because I am younger, so I decided to design a Flip Ring for myself, one that is a little easier to wear. I love citrine, so I used that, and I decided to create it without the pave diamonds. We realized that this would be an excellent entry-level piece of jewelry for younger generations, so we decided to create a whole collection in time for Mother’s Day.
Nina: We called it the Calla collection after the Calla lily because they’re so serene and colorful, but still quite structured and peaceful. The Calla Flip Rings are very architectural but still super feminine. They’re wearable, stackable and beautiful. We wanted to create something fun as we emerge from the pandemic; we wanted to bring joy, color and light.
Alexa: We’ve used a few stones that we have not used before, like blue zircon, a deep blue that almost looks like a deep denim, and morganite, a delicate pink stone that is almost transparent.
Q: How important is it to you, Nina, that Alexa’s voice is reflected in your designs.
Nina: Alexa’s voice is a hundred per cent vital to me. Even though I'm the founder, we have to move to the next generation at some point. She brings a different eye to the collections. We work well together because we do love a lot of the same types of things. You know, I've been collecting my whole life: art, sculpture and furniture. Alexa has the same loves that I have, which I inherited from my mother. We talk about it as hunting for treasures.
Alexa: Yes, I love hunting for treasures. When I was little, I had a dream, and still hope to do this one day, and that’s to have a small clothing line. The closet at my mom's apartment is just full of vintage stuff that has inspired me.
Q: It sounds like the family bond is a fundamental part of the Nina Runsdorf brand.
Nina: Absolutely - I do believe it will be the key to our success because first of all, I love the idea of passing things from generation to generation. We even design our jewelry that way. I think that's from my roots; that’s how it was. Alexa’s grandparents, on Alexa’s father’s side, were also in the diamond business. And now Alexa will take it to the next stage. I think that is exciting.
Alexa: It’s how the company functions already. I’m a 6th generation jeweler from my father’s side, the whole business is deeply rooted in family traditions, and I am still really close to my grandparents. When I was little, my grandpa gave me jewelry that I still wear to this day. So, yes, family is most important to us.
Q: That’s wonderful. Last question - what will you both be doing on Mother’s Day?
Nina: We will be spending Mother’s Day in the country all together while Katie cooks brunch and we play with Nico, Alexa’s puppy.
Our Calla Flip Rings are available in silky yellow gold, delicate rose gold and subtle white gold. They come in an array of delectable color combinations, and there are three sizes to choose from: large, medium or mini. All are effortlessly easy to wear, just like their older sisters.
Launched exclusively with the Webster Soho, you can also contact our Atelier for more details. https://www.ninarunsdorf.com/pages/stores