12 June 2018

JCK Las Vegas - a very kind interview by Rob Bates

Interviewed by Rob Bates, JCK News Director

Ten years ago, she was relatively unknown. Currently, everyone in contemporary and luxury jewelry design wants to know what’s next for Sieglinde Lim.

Now at 42, Master Goldsmith and jewelry designer Sieglinde (Linde) Lim has accumulated a dizzying list of successes in both finance and jewelry, although you would never have heard it from her.  Lim is self-effacing, warm, private, thoughtful, and has a gift for reflecting and redirecting conversations away from herself.  She is multilingual, holds a Ph.D. in Statistics from an Ivy League plus an Oxford Law degree (not including the other handful of degrees with high honors she picked up along the way from noted institutions).  For over 12 years, she was a successful hedge fund portfolio manager flying weekly between NY and London, all before being accepted into the renowned historic German goldsmith school, Goldschmiedschule, where she graduated at the top in her class.  Prior to founding Atelier Linde Lim, Lim had worked up the ranks as a designer to the acclaimed jewelry houses of Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget, and H. Stern. Then, almost immediately after her debut Baselworld jewelry presentation in Basel for H.Stern, she was a star.

Since then, she’s become a single parent to three sons and won numerous awards, such as a 2007 Mercedes-Benz recognition for Emerging Design Talent. Mercedes-Benz continues to annually support her company's creative endeavors through a unique corporate partnership.  These days, Lim’s now-ness is unquestionable. She’s the rare designer with restraint enough to let a gemstone be itself, real and beautiful; yet she finds the right amount of gold to add in that turns a piece of jewelry into something more than just the sum of its parts. Even rarer, Lim’s designs bridge the gap between walking down the street and the cover of Vogue.  In late 2018, her design studios, catering to her private label business, will expand from NY, Chicago, and Munich, with plans to include Hong Kong.

The mannered and observant Lim sat down with me at the Bellagio resort lobby during JCK 2018 Las Vegas to answer my list of questions.

Photo credit: Kristy Copperfield © 2018
What’s your earliest memory of wanting to make jewelry or become a jewelry designer? 
As a child of immigrant parents, it never crossed my mind to equate the love of jewelry and adornment with being a jewelry designer.  Being a goldsmith or jewelry designer was not a possibility in my universe, it was only about how jewelry made me feel, the love for alchemy, and the potential I saw in changing the classic lined jewelry my mother and grandmother owned. I can remember as early as 5 years old, picking out my own jewelry from her closet, asking my mother if it was all right to alter the pieces I had, and the passion I felt when I would have the ideal creation.

What personal qualities are you most proud of? 
My passion for honesty, intent to consider other perspectives, and willingness to work like mad.

Describe a professional setback or failure that may have shaped a later success.
Prior to creating Atelier Linde Lim, I collaborated on opening a contemporary goldsmithing school in Chicago and attempted to implement a pro bono inner-city youth metalsmithing program. It was the ending of my tenure there, due to different pedagogical perspectives. I think if these conflicts were not present, I would have never come to NYC to start Atelier Linde Lim.

Which fashion designers (current or historical) do you most admire? Why?
I really admire the feminine style of Cambodian designer, Romyda Keth.  Her choice of vibrant coloring and attention to detail using natural fabrics, as well as patterns that fit and compliment the natural curves of a woman are relevant to the times.

Looking back to your premiere of Atelier Linde Lim, at what point did you realize your position as a private label designer was a real success?
Years after the debut of my collection, I recall strolling with my then two sons past the Barney’s New York flagship on Madison Avenue, halting in my tracks to stare at the storefront windows dedicated to a few jewelry lines I private label design for.  My toddler twins immediately recognized many of the pieces as they had seen them evolve from sketches in my drawing books.  One blurted out, “Mama! I think your jewelry is almost famous!” It was such a surreal experience.

Can you explain how you manage dual roles as a designer with the daily concerns of a business owner?
It’s a challenging balance. Often times, I feel like an amateur juggler from having to do both, but I see no other option. I try to have objective views on both sides, and there are days that I sometimes prefer not being the other, but it all seems to improve with time and plenty of patience as well as practice. It’s impossible to separate both because they are interdependent of each other.

Between high fashion and daily wear, how do you account for both in your designs?
It is often a difficult balance that has to be struck, to make design successful. I look at each design sketch and ask my team and myself: What is the purpose of this? What are we trying to convey? Is it intended for everyone? Or only the few? Et cetera.  And, from there, it evolves into a game of adding and subtracting…

What is the difference between an artist and a designer? How are they similar? 
An artist works with abstract ideas that are left to interpretation. A designer works abstract ideas into a tangible, functional medium. Both artists and designers are similar in the fact that part of our jobs is to dream.

Lastly, would you share a list of some of your personal interests?  Beyond my three boys.... spice markets, TED talks, newspapers (specifically The Guardian, Die Zeit, The Atlantic, the NYT), running a volunteer metalsmithing program for urban youth, fly fishing, cooking, NPR, gardening, dancing (Latin) under the summer stars in Chicago's Grant Park, and off-piste downhill skiing.