Unapologetically BIJULES | Interview with Jules Kim
At 22 years old, with 300 dollars in her pocket, Jules Kim made the move from Richmond, Virginia to NYC to pursue a better, bigger, and brighter path. She was DJing and throwing parties and enjoying life and ended up taking a detour into creating her own jewelry. Why?
“It was a personal reaction to me not having any cool shit to wear.”
Fifteen years later, she has a successful business called BIJULES where she is able to put her creativity and uniqueness into incredible statement jewelry pieces.
“We are living in a really interesting time right now. We are in the middle of a culture shift. If one thing moves, another thing has to react so right now as an artist I feel it’s my job to react, to be super active, to be really engaging with my work and words.”
In her career, Jules perceives what she does as completely emotion based.
“My job is always defined by me. It’s never defined by what I do. It’s really up to me and my feelings".
What I find myself doing right now is pushing towards that balance between personal and professional happiness and never actually thinking that success is going to be reached. All of us define success differently. It’s always good to set the goal but it doesn’t mean you’ll achieve it. The pursuit of success is enough to keep fuel running for me. It’s the fuel that empowers my career path and trajectory but also provides a constant challenge for me. Artists are all problem solvers. We figure out what is wrong or how it is normal and change it so it is constructed by your own point of view. In this case, the issue is use of utility and design. Those are the two top things. The prices and aesthetics are a secondary issue for design and production to address. For me, just looking at it, it’s all based on simplicity and creating emotion in a room that doesn’t move.
“Jewelry is a super intimate thing, at least from my perspective, and if it’s not then more than likely they’re not my client.”
Jules’ relationship with her clients is extremely unique. She doesn’t design for a person, she designs for a personality. It is almost her way of expressing what she thinks of her clients, what she feels from them.
“From my perspective as a jewelry designer and one who is engaged in that level of excellence and communication, it’s really important for my clients to know they are safe with me and their information and dialogue and all that is super intimate. I like to romanticize the dialogues I have with them because it’s so beautiful being a jewelry designer, I don’t want to create a business where it’s just a customer thing. Having a client means that they trust you, that they’re loyal, that they will come back
Her intuition with her craft has served her well and allowed her to pursue a career that speaks on all different levels.
“For sure I’ve made some really crazy mistakes in my path but at the same time I’m still sitting here producing and creating things that I am really proud of. I am constantly in a state of learning and have to be open with the way that I learn because as a creative we aren’t skilled in management of time. We aren’t necessarily skilled in organization. All of these things that are left brain right brain. My intuition has developed as an artist but then my intuition also has to guide me towards being an entrepreneur. It’s all up to me so I am very serious with the type of circumstances I enter into.”
With such a close relationship with her clients, we were curious how these relationships form. How she gets her clients to open up enough to reveal a side in which Jules can draw from in her creative process of jewelry making.
“I ask questions depending on what they are coming in for. For engagement rings clients or bridal clients, this question is ‘why do you love her?’ Normally that puts them into a thorough freak out, or it puts them in a comfortable relaxed place because right now they are quite sure. Normally that’s my first question – it’s a destabilizer. Then I go from emotion based questions to business, easy to answer questions. When do you want this? To what’s your budget? The first one they might not know but the second or third question they know. If they do know the first and don’t know the second or third, then I can help them. Either way if they are unstable in any part of those questions I can keep them on track and guide them.”
“I am not a commercial artist so when a Tiffany’s client walks into a Tiffany brick and mortar, it would be off brand to be asked those three questions. That is not what that client came in for. He knows what he wants. He knows how much it costs, and he’ll wait about 30 minutes before he has to do something else. As opposed to my condition, where I can have someone in front of me for 2 hours.”
“It’s not just with an engagement ring either. A woman that comes in to buy something for herself or there’s so many different situations where jewelry is being bought and what I really rely on is knowing each and every one of those presentations at all times. In anything I do, I don’t ever want to have no answer, if I don’t have an answer it means I haven’t thoroughly thought through the situation. I think visualization is super important, not just as a creative but also as a human.
The way Jules gets her clients is very much word of mouth. She is not interested in mass media or marketing herself as a commercial jeweler. The way she works is different.
“Imagine we are in the ocean casting a net, anything I catch inside that net will be together so I am actually throwing and anticipating unity because once I cast that net, everything that is contained inside is all intentional. So what I’m doing, more or less, is giving the opportunity for people to come to an event, which is a night party. But then I’ll have a creative think tank in the studio. Then I’ll have a day party which is like a dj based party. Then I’ll have trunk shows and appearances. Then I’ll throw out the Beyoncé net. All of these things are super intentional to try to get people talking amongst themselves because word of mouth is the most prestigious form of marketing ever – no one can beat it no matter how much money you have. It’s more natural. I can always cast the net again. It can be considered a feeding frenzy, which is interesting because a lot of marketing these days is hype based. If I do anything for hype its more or less because I believe in it. It’s not because I’m trying to pull shade over anyone. I am a fan of authenticity and if that’s what drives hype then that’s cool.
Even when meeting her clients or the people receiving the jewelry she makes, there is already an innate connection.
“It’s all part of that type of strategy and I know it sounds almost inauthentic to say that’s its strategy but I would totally not being truthful if I weren’t to say everything I do is full of intention, nothing I do is accidental.”
“I want to be able to empower those who empower me so it’s not just a one sided exchange. It’s an elastic give and take.”
Jules is always working on something up and coming, bringing back some of her first iterations of jewelry 15 years ago and making them relevant to what is happening know
“I am creating micro collections within the site so if you go to the website, normally what I’ve been doing is creating full body collections and launching them to market in Paris. After 15 years, I’ve found that there’s a current culture shift happening. In order for my brand and my work to proceed properly in this shift, it would be a wise decision to rebrand the collections that I’ve already put out and have already cycled through the market because the current people or market has never seen my stuff before. they’re all too young. It’s been 15 years. Someone who is 40 would know but someone who is 20 has no idea.”
“The younger they get the more immediate information needs to be for them. A full-bodied collection takes too much time so what I’m doing now is briefly throwing out a concept that has nothing to do with the original concept. It’s like I’m mixing the street vibe I grew up with, with high religion statement jewelry that the pope wears.”
“I came from humble beginnings and I want to make sure that everyone knows that because I want to make jewelry for people who have gone through shit. I don’t want to make things for people who are status quo, I won’t.”
This September, Jules is presenting a collaboration with Charlie Goldcap, the King of Canal Street Grillz since the 90s. From the IRAK crew to DiCaprio’s entourage, Charlie created a Canal Street destination for custom real gold mouthpieces. Decades later, Jules will help him rebuild his living legacy in the form of a storefront gallery during New York Fashion Week.
Cover photo by: EMMANUELLE TRICOIRE