You may not yet be familiar with her name, but Alex Woo will undoubtedly win you over with her designs. I'm well aware that many women would not appreciate being called "cute" (mainly because we'd rather be referred to as drop-jaw gorgeous), but every now and then you come across someone who really exemplifies the best possible meaning of the word "cute," which is how I felt when I met Alex Woo, 30, the jewelry designer who's best known for her "little numbers" collection (an elegantly simple - and yes, cute – collection of pieces that are accented by well, you guessed it – numbers). But believe me, when I say “cute,” I mean petite and sweet with a winning smile, and so charming that you’re not even the least bit annoyed by the fact that she also happens to be incredibly talented.
Having grown up in New York City, she studied fine arts for most of her life, specializing in sculpture, but about three years ago she started to think that she would enjoy sharing her artistic vision with more people, and so she started designing the jewelry line. She finds the work extremely rewarding as she is still working with her hands (every piece is hand-finished and, of course, she’s the one who creates the molds), and she’s certainly fulfilled her desire to share as her work is carried in over 100 stores around the globe.
When I met her at her studio in Chinatown, she was wearing a number eight diamond necklace and I asked her to tell me about her most famous collection, which is reminiscent of the nameplates that Sex and the City brought back in style a few years ago, but better. She told me that it was an instant hit, and she thinks it has to do with the fact that people love personalization and secrets. “Everyone has a number that has a special meaning, maybe just for themselves, or maybe for some one special in their life.” Of course, I inquired about the number 8 that she was wearing and she said that she certainly changes day by day but her eight necklace was one of her favorites since eight is a lucky number in China.
Moving on to her newest collection, she explained that she was inspired by movement, light, and reflection. She went on to say that she really thinks about designing pieces for appropriate seasons, thinking ahead to whether people will need something for a turtleneck sweater or whether a bracelet will be seen on a totally bare arm in the heat of summer. The Nevis collection has very light pieces in fringe that have great movement. The Calypso line is delicate and each silver leaf is hand sculpted to make sure it reflects the precious gems they are paired with. And if you’re more interested in reflection but are looking for something with a bit more weight, then you’ll be drawn to the Lucia collection, which have a high contrast finish and is crafted to reflect the light and colors around you.
Yes, maybe a lot of Woo’s work can be considered cute, but trust me, cute may be overused as a word, but in reality it’s pretty rare, and when you come across it, you’ll know.
By Jenny Lee
Photographed by Fumito Shibasaki