In part two of the Favorite Craft series, we met with Janice Waitkus, community relations and Store Director of LAGOS in Philadelphia.
Have you always fascinated by jewelry?
A graduate of University of Maryland, I began my career in retail as a buyer for Woodward & Lothrop department stores, where I learned for 10 years, in Washington, D.C. before becoming General Manager for Lord & Taylor, for five years. There were only four women store managers out of 50 stores, quite a different moment in time. At this time, I was more focused on textiles and apparel, which had been my first passion.
I relocated to Philadelphia in 1994, and joined Neiman Marcus in King of Prussia as a Merchandise Manager. One of the areas of responsibility involved jewelry. Neiman’s allowed me to really get familiar with various jewelry designs and artists, which is how I met Steven Lagos, a then up-and-coming jeweler. Through my work as a buyer, my love of the craft, and my relationship with Steven, jewelry became a focus and passion. This is my 13th year working at LAGOS.
How has your appreciation for jewelry changed as a store director?
My experience in jewelry and merchandising with national accounts is a major reason why I’m in the incredible position I am today. Steven, the staff, and I have re-branded the store by focusing on building community relations and creating a signature product, which is the Caviar Collection.
I have a lot of pride about running this business. I love giving advice to the customers and helping them build a collection that has meaning. Whether they’re in the market for themselves or a loved one, it’s truly satisfying and rewarding experience to watch and assist someone pick out a piece that reflects their own personality.
What is your favorite craft that you own?
My LAGOS bracelets are my favorite craft since they really encompass my career and my passion. I acquired my first Caviar bracelet in 1996; the handcrafted beauty, the attention to detail, the quality of the materials, and the creative inspiration are all absolutely astonishing.
I particularly find the methodology behind this bracelet to be special. Using an “old world” technique, the design is first created in pencil, then transformed into a wax mold. This is when the metal is poured in, allowing the max to melt away ("loss wax process"). There is so much more to all the moving parts of this complex jewelry making and intricate designs.
How do you display it?
Janice models her stack of bracelets from the Caviar Collection.
I would say a huge part of why Caviar is my favorite craft is because of the display. As a jewelry aficionado, part of my personal aesthetic is creating the perfect bracelet stack.
I play with the colors and textures on my wrists each morning when I get dressed. My stack reflects not only my outfit for the day, but also reflects my larger personal style and brand. My favorite is mixing black and white bracelets, but I’m also known to mix up the textures by adding a linked or beaded bracelet in the middle of my stack for some extra flare.
I oftentimes have customers or friends ask me about stacking, since this is an increasingly popular way to display these pieces. When wearing a few bracelets, it’s best to wear them in odd numbers. Personally, I like to work in a new and an old piece to the stack since it’s a great way to evolve a personal collection and continue to develop your aesthetic. For me, the best part about the stack is that each person can create it differently; the sense of individual identity and empowerment from displaying your favorite jewelry in this manner is incredibly satisfying.
What meaning does your jewelry have to you?
Each bracelet I own has a story to tell or marks an occasion. For example, I have a few garnet pieces, which hold a special significance because that’s my birthstone. Then there is my Fluted heart necklace, which is the first piece I ever received from Steven. Each piece represents a pivotal moment in my life – I truly treasure them.
Jewelry has emotional value. If you receive it as a gift, it’s something memorable, personal, and unique. You remember the day you bought it, or and who gave it to you. Jewelry has a story, a deeper meaning, or sometimes even a sadness from inheritance. It could even be that it was from a gumball machine and you’ve held onto it all these years. Helping my customers pick out a piece of jewelry is a wonderful experience. Jewelry is so special to me, and I feel so fortunate that I am able to share and spread my craft with a larger audience.
Janice’s collection of LAGOS jewelry over the years.
Check out more from our My Favorite Craft series by visiting bit.ly/1Y2WbdD