Anita Ko uses diamonds and gold to tell designer stories about L.A.
In 2006, Anita Ko, a Los Angeles-born jewelry designer, started her high-end brand, which has become a favorite for celebrities such as Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, January Jones and Miranda Kerr. Fans of Ko’s work generally appreciate the ultra-feminine quality of the diamond and gold pieces. (Ko’s line ranges from $400 for spike studs to $100,000 for custom pieces.)
Themes of Ko’s collection, including the panther, leaf and stud motifs, are ubiquitous among women who want aspirational jewelry that’s easy enough to wear every day.
Raised in the Pacific Palisades, the first-generation Korean American, 42, captures the vast look of L.A. in her jewelry. Sometimes edgy but always pure luxury, Ko’s pieces, ranging from ear cuffs to pinky rings, have the grit and the glamour of Los Angeles’ style and influential subcultures.
“I have a clear idea of what my aesthetic is and I was lucky enough to grow up in Los Angeles and be influenced when driving on Sunset and Doheny and seeing the punk rockers to seeing the rich ladies at the Polo Lounge,” Ko says. “I got to experience the Mexican culture. I got to experience the wealthy, affluent Westside culture. … So I think that all of those influences together kind of made up my aesthetic. And I really try to design jewelry that I want to wear, that my friends want to wear, to go to a business meeting, to go to dinner to go to the supermarket, to go to sleep.”
Ko’s rose gold-and-diamond leaf motif is often worn by celebrities as a ring, pendant or bracelet. Her delicate spike pieces are also top sellers because of their contrasting look with the fine materials. Also, Ko has deviated from working exclusively with diamonds and has included emeralds and rubies set in opulent cocktail rings.
Although Ko’s life in L.A. has included many pockets of the L.A. area, she works from an office at the border of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, a convenient location so stylists and celebrities can easily drop in to see and borrow her jewelry. Her days flying back and forth to New York for sales appointments with retailers tend to be few and far between. That’s because during the last couple of years representatives for most of her retail accounts travel to L.A. on a regular basis, she says.
“I always had to meet them in New York before. Now they’re in L.A. every quarter,” says Ko about the increased attention being put on L.A. designers from retailers.
Ko’s production has always been L.A.-based, starting back when she began tinkering with jewelry-making at 14. “I would ask my dad to just drop me off in the jewelry center,” she says. “Even then, I was making my own fine jewelry. I was never into costume.”
Once she started her line, she experienced the challenges of starting a fine jewelry brand in what has traditionally been a heritage business.
“It is still male-dominated,” says Ko about the jewelry industry. “I had many people in the business try to charge me higher prices. When I first started people looked at me like a kid, a little girl trying to do jewelry and probably wouldn’t be in business next year. I think that there are probably seven or eight of us females that are taken really seriously at the jewelry shows because we’ve built bigger businesses and we deal with the majors.”
Despite early challenges trying to become an established jewelry brand, Ko remains clear about the look of her pieces and who she is designing them for.
“I design for women,” she says. “And I can design for what I want to wear. That’s where we win a little bit over the male jewelry designer because we’re designing for our client. We know who she is. We know how she’s going to wear it, layer it and live in it.”
Where She Finds Inspiration In L.A.
Govinda’s Buffet at the International Society for Krishna Consciousness’ Los Angeles temple