One of my fondest memories as a child, was watching my mother and aunts getting ready to attend a Somali wedding. The way we do weddings in the west, is far different than how weddings are done in the east. In the Somali culture, weddings are not only seen as a special day for the bride and groom, but also a time to see family members from all over. You must look your best, and dazzle the crowd as if you are apart of the bridal party yourself. Watching these women put on an assortment of rings, necklaces, and bangles, instilled in me that jewelry was the ultimate feminine accessory. Not only for weddings, but for everyday life- adding elegance, edge or a sense of style to any woman. Cue in Kimberly and Jennifer Gennace … Jewellery designers with European flare and American dreams. After chatting with the twin sisters, I realized you truly can never ‘not have’ enough jewellery 🙂
HA: Ladies, I know you both as jewelry designers based in Chicago, but how would you describe yourself to world?
KG: We are jewelry designers, creators, innovators, and craftswomen from Long Grove, IL, who have been using our minds and hands to create and inspire those around us. We love when we can connect with people on a level where their passions take on new meaning.
HA: IANNECI is a very interesting name. What does it stand for?
JG: IANNECI is our last name in Italian. It is our great grandparents last name so when they came here from Italy, they americanized the name to Gennace.
HA: That’s great that you still kept your roots in the business. So how did IANNECI start and your humble beginnings.
JG: Ianneci started by Kimberly and I creating jewelry when we were young and selling it to our friends at school. We loved the art of creating and our jewelry designs have grown up with us.
KG: We used to ride our bikes up to the downtown area and go store to store to show our product until we got an order. We were so excited when we got our first order. We went home to make the jewelry to fulfill the order and delivered it the next day. From that day on, our business has grown organically along with us.
HA: I have to ask since I have sisters, how is it working along side your twin?
KG: We are lucky to have each other as we pursue our business. It is hard to find someone who is on the same page and has the same passion for what we do. We both bring different strengths to our business and help push each other beyond our comfort zones.
JG: I look at working with a family member, not as a challenge, but an advantage. Two are better than one and we are able to support and bounce ideas off each other to create a great working relationship.
HA: You know what makes each other tick. Is that good for running a business together?
JG: Yes, we have our different things that each of us does well and we make it mesh well together as we create a seamless well oiled machine.
KG:We bring different strengths to our business. We both bring different aesthetics to our jewelry where it is truly a collaborative effort in creating each piece that goes into each collection. We push each other to do the unexpected!
HA: Where do you draw inspiration from for your designs?
JG: From all over: from European magazines, bloggers, everyday people, top fashion trend sights and of course our travels.
KG: We get inspired by hearing stories of entrepreneurs who are making contributions to impact our world.
HA: Since you have traveled around the world, which city stands out the most to you?
JG: Florence as this is where we visited a few Italian fashion houses, one that manufacturers Fendi bags. Italy has a special place in our design aesthetic where we like to fuel our creativity as we are half Italian.
KG: Paris has left a lasting impression on me with the architecture and the laissez faire lifestyle, as well as the crepes! Parisian women are effortless in the way they dress-it is something that is inspiring!
HA: Those are both beautiful places! What have your travels taught you?
JG: It influences design and it pushes it forward even more to make it the best it can be. It opens up your mind and creativity on another level.
KG: our travels have opened up our minds to new cultures and to be better designers to keep pushing the envelope of our creativity. Our design aesthetic is a cumulation of our travels and the cutting edge fashion. It pushes our thinking about how we approach new collections.
HA: What is one thing you have noticed that differs between fashion markets in Chicago, and fashion markets in say NYC, London, Florence, and Paris?
KG: The one thing we noticed that differs between these fashion markets is the forwardness of people adapting new trends and ways of dressing. In Europe, people feel very comfortable in their skin and seem to be the fashion influencers, being the initiator of trying new things, whereas here in Chicago, it takes people a little while to catch onto new things.
HA: What is your favorite piece in your collection?
JG: My favorite piece are the Draped Bracelets and fringe Woven Necklaces as it has a touch of edge to both pieces and it’s unexpected.
KG: I have a fondness to the Lace Necklace as it has taken on new forms throughout the history of IANNECI.
HA: Why do you use big parisian fashion brand names to label your collection?
KG: When we design a piece, we usually have someone or an aesthetic that we admire and want to embody that in a specific piece. We have strategically named our pieces as a result of the look and feel that we want to capture.
JG: A lot of our pieces are also named after our family, mom, older sister, and Italian aunts.
HA: Have you both always wanted to design jewelry?
JG: Yes it’s a passion we both have wanted to do. Our father was an entrepreneur himself and we were exposed to him having his own business as a Contractor. We love creating things that women feel empowered in wearing and we love getting to “dress” women in our jewelry!
KG: We always knew we would have our own business. It was a natural progression from working in the fashion industry and gaining experience to put forth in our jewelry brand.
HA: Where do you see Ianneci in 5 years?
JG: Ianneci will become an international business where we plan to enter European markets first then expand to other countries.
KG: We would love for IANNECI to be a household name where it is known in major cities around the world.
HA: Those are both big goals! Which household name in the industry do you look up to?
JG: In the fashion industry, I look up to Italian family businesses like Missoni, Repossi & young up and coming designers who excel at bringing fresh vision to the industry.
KG: I would have to say the same and add Consuelo Castiglioni at Marni, Silvia Venturini Fendi at Fendi, and Miuccia Prada at Prada. We also look up to the new generation of jewelry designers that are rising up at some of these fashion houses like Gaia Repossi and Delfina Delettrez. It is interesting to see how they bring a fresh perspective to a fashion house with history.
HA: How do you think Chicago could step up as a fashion city?
JG: I think women in Chicago can take more risks and be ok with trying new things and branch out to help express themselves more.
KG: Chicago is a fashionable city yet we lack resources to be cutting edge like NYC is.
JG: Chicago is a great central place where we are based out of primarily because it’s our hometown. My favorite neighborhood is River North. My favorite place to eat is Quartino and RPM. I love to shop at Nordstrom, Zara, and TopShop to get unique and fun pieces.
KG: Chicago is a great city, welcoming people and the midwestern work ethic is like no other! The pace of life is just right! I love the west loop and all the great restaurants there like Little Goat and Santorini. We love discovering new places like Another 20 Boutique.
Sox Or Cubs?
JG: Not a big sports fan, but I did go to a Cubs game this summer.
One thing about the city you love?
JG: I love the architecture and the beauty of Chicago. It continually exemplifies beauty, especially by the lake. I love being by the water.
KG: I love experiencing the 4 seasons in the city.
Favorite things to do in the city?
JG: We love going on adventures by trying new restaurants, visiting new shops and museums/exhibits for inspiration. In the summer, I love being by the lake and watching the boats.
KG: We love checking out new areas and shops that are opening. We like to pop in to the local markets over the summer and ice skate at Millenium Park in the winter.
If you could take a visiting friend to one spot, where would it be?
JG: Cafe Babareeba. They have such a great atmosphere and such great food and mango sangria! YUM!
KG: I love walking on the river walk near our building and watching the boats go by in the spring/summer seasons.
HA: As entrepreneurs, what is one piece of advice you would like to give to the readers?
KG: Live outside of your comfort zone, your life will be much more fulfilling this way!
JG: Keep motivation, passion and perseverance at the forefront of what you do. That will stretch yourself beyond what you think you’re capable of.
Quote you live by?
JG: Life is about change and being courageous, taking risks, pushing yourself to do good and to be better and to live a life that is truly fulfilling.
KG: “Dream Big and start small.”
For more on Ianneci Jewellery, please visit: http://www.ianneci.com
Photo courtesy: Jennifer Kathryn Photography