Cult Obsessed: Amanda Thomas of Luv Aj
(Who we’re obsessed with and why you should be too.)
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we wouldn’t be surprised if Amanda Thomas of Luv Aj lost track of her numerous praises. We won’t name names, but many of her of her chain and stud combos have been coped. But, it’s NBD to the trendsetter, who is often two steps ahead of everyone else. Between the handpieces and ear cuffs (some adorned with shark teeth, natch), it’s no wonder best dressed celebrities, bloggers, and gal’s about town are lining up for her edgy embellishments.
Unsurprisingly, she outgrew her original digs and created a custom studio, complete with a geode chandelier. So, we took a tour of the new space and grilled Amanda about her top LA haunts, whose jewelry stash she’d love to raid, and why her foodie sibling plays a large roll in Luv Aj’s day-to-day.
CULT: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how Luv Aj came to be.
Amanda: My journey to becoming a jewelry designer happened kind of by mistake. When I was in high school, I interned for a Venice-based designer, and she taught me the basics of jewelry design in her Abbot Kinney studio. My parents would drop me off and I would help around the studio – she ended up teaching me how to wire wrap. Her work is so phenomenal and intricate, and I was in awe of how she collected all of these incredible vintage components and put them together to make something even more special. She really inspired me to be creative, and that’s when I began dabbling jewelry-making. I started making pieces on my own and selling them at school to my friends. One day, when I was shopping in Fred Segal, the head jewelry buyer stopped me to compliment my necklace and asked me where I got it. When I told her I made it, she booked an appointment with me immediately to show her my line. I went home, whipped up 20 more pieces, and that was it! By 16-years-old, I was selling to stores like Fred Segal, Lisa Kline, and Madison and already featured in Elle Magazine. It happened quite suddenly, but I’ve been running Luv Aj for nearly 10 years… wow I feel old!
CULT: You often work with your sister on lookbooks and videos — have you guys always been collaborative or is this a new relationship for you two?
Amanda: Absolutely. My sister Claire and I are both really creative – we get it from our parents! We have also lived with each other our entire lives, so we have gotten into a flow of bouncing ideas off of each other. Whether she’s recipe testing for her blog, or I’m debating on two different chains for a sample, we come to each other for creative input so it only seemed natural to collaborate together where we could. My sister is a commercial director and food photographer, so I always have her shoot my lookbooks. She’s 1) free 2) knows me better then anyone else and knows my taste and 3) totally kicks ass at taking photos. I feel lucky that I get to work with her on the regular.
CULT: What inspires you more, the present or the past?
Amanda: Present. I used to be OBSESSED with vintage jewelry, but lately I’ve been paying more attention to what goes down the runway. I love seeing what the big dogs come up with and then trying to create jewelry that is on trend but much more affordable.
CULT: You’ve grown so much that you’ve created a dope new studio space (congrats!). What are some things you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
Amanda: Oh jeeze! A million things. I think one thing I learned (recently, which is sad) is to not sweat the small stuff. Running your own business is very stressful, and there’s a ton of bad shit that happens daily, but you have to stay level-headed. You have to keep moving forward. My mom gives me pep talks almost every day — she and my dad run their own production company and deal with the same problems on a bigger scale, so if they can survive it then I certainly can.
CULT: Any challenges working and living in the same space?
Amanda: I would say there are more pros than cons! I love waking up and walking 10 feet to work. My studio is outside so my house feels like a home and my studio feels like a work zone. They have totally separate vibes for me. Plus, I get so much more work done. If I want to pop in for an hour here or there on the weekends, it’s not such a trek.
CULT: Your ideal day would include…
Amanda: Hanging with my boyfriend, eating delicious food, and drinking rosé on the beach somewhere.
CULT: What music do you listen to at the studio?
Amanda: Lots of rap music. But, soft rap. Lots of Drake, Miguel, and Frank Ocean.
CULT: If you could raid one person’s jewelry stash, who would it be?
Amanda: Honestly, Rachel Zoe’s. She’s got some insane vintage jewelry I would love to rummage through.
CULT: You tend to travel a lot — where have you been recently that really blew your mind?
Amanda: Well, I’m heading to Bali next week and have a feeling that will blow my mind. So, I will get back to you on that one!
CULT: You’re also LA-bred. What are some local spots you can’t seem to stay away from?
Amanda: Farm Shop for iced tea and brunch, Maha Yoga for hip-hop yoga (yes, really), Elyse Walker for window shopping and drooling over all the new Givenchy I can’t afford, and Joan’s on Third for the best Chinese chicken salad ever.
CULT: What’s your best advice to amateur jewelry designers?
Amanda: Keep at it. Make sure you distinguish yourself from the rest. And get a showroom, you can’t sell jewelry without one.