As a part of the Morning Lazziness series about empowering women who are encouraging and doing incredible things with their ideas in society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mariana Russo Chambers.
Jewelry industry veteran and native of Argentina, Mariana Russo Chambers founded Cut + Clarity® to modernize the jewelry business model by bringing sustainable fair-trade jewelry manufacturing into the 21st century. With over 15 years of experience and has collaborated closely with Council of Fashion Designers of America members, Mariana brings customizable fine jewelry direct-to-consumers with an immersive e-commerce platform.
She empowers by creating personalized, unique ways for women to tell their stories in solid gold. Mariana is dedicated to creating a legacy for future generations, like her daughter, through fine jewelry and storytelling.
Such a pleasure having you; please let our users know about yourself and Cut + Clarity?
I’m Mariana Russo Chambers – so excited to be here. I was born in Argentina and immigrated to New Jersey with my family when I was six. I grew up in the New York metropolitan area and now split my time between New York City and St. Pete Beach, Florida, with my husband, Andrew, and our 4-year-old daughter, Mikaela (Mika). I’m the founder of Cut + Clarity, a customizable fine jewelry brand that is sustainably made in NYC.
What brought you to this specific career path?
My career path has not been a straight line (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this). I was an Italian major in college and am a native Spanish speaker, and I actually started my career as a language teacher. After graduating college, I taught at the local high school (where I had attended).
That first summer of teaching, I decided I wanted to explore something in the fashion industry. Being so close to NYC, I found an internship at a small Italian company that manufactured fashion trims overseas and needed an Italian speaker. I loved learning the intricacies of garment trimmings, manufacturing, and the business of it all. Eventually, after more experiences (more on that later), I fell in love with jewelry manufacturing and have been doing that for about 15 years.
What prompted you to start your brand?
After 5 years of working for the Italian start-up, I decided to focus strictly on jewelry product development and production. I worked in-house for a short moment and then had a consulting business for the better part of 15 years. There, I was a jewelry product manager for brands and retailers. I loved working alongside creators and brands to bring their ideas to life in a streamlined way.
Partnering with manufacturers worldwide and connecting with jewelry makers around the world was something I loved. However, I saw time and time again that there was a disconnect between the customer and the brand. The customer demanded more personalization, and the large brands were less flexible to meet the demand, in part because of the business model they were working in and also the inability to change how they manufactured.
The production and business model I started to envision allowed for real-time customization while making the customer both critic and creator and in full control of what they bought – all the while staying local and lean.
Enter – Cut + Clarity.
My initiative is to focus on local manufacturing hubs to support our communities. Our mission is to keep our local industry going connecting the traditional artisans with modern design and eCommerce.
What challenges did you face at the start of your business?
Trying to gain market share in a traditionally male-dominated industry was and has been a huge challenge. Many times manufacturers were adamant on how our designs should change based on their “experiences” (a.k.a. being a man who swore they know best). They had a difficult time changing their manufacturing ways and ideals according to what a woman suggested, despite my experience.
The truth often is – they are set in their ways and don’t want to hear something else – even if that something else truly is better.
How is the jewelry business evolving, and what is your take on it?
Currently, I see that we are at the intersection of understanding the connection between traditional craftsmanship and digital commerce. There are ancient skills that are still used today and should continue to be, and then merged with technology to bring true fine jewelry to the customer – and this is what’s happening with Cut + Clarity. The customer today is ready to invest and feels comfortable doing so online and demands personalization.
What is an important lesson you’ve learned from running your own business?
The business itself is everything, meaning that careful planning, cash flow, and execution are what keeps the business going. You can have the best idea, but if you don’t support it with a true business structure, you won’t survive.
What jewelry are you obsessed with?
I currently love the 90’s charms, engravable gold pieces, and layered chains. I love classic pieces that stand the test of time. Mixing our pieces with classic brands like Rolex and Cartier that will also always hold value is one of my go-to’s.
What is your no-fail go-to when you need inspiration or to get out of a creative rut?
Poetry. When I feel stuck, I want words to lead the way and create the visuals and connectivity I’m missing.
According to you, what five skill-sets should a woman have to give them strength?
This is a difficult question to answer because there is no one-size-fits-all. For me, I need to make sure I am (try to be – got to give myself grace!):
- Self-reflective – give myself a room to think
- Steadfast in decision making – not doubting myself
- Forgiving – towards others and myself – when we make mistakes
- Fair – seeing both sides of an argument
- Compassionate – for myself and others
What is your favorite mantra or affirmation that you say to yourself to keep you going?
I love Louise Haye’s quote: “I am in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.”
In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
For me, this is where reflecting on my family’s selfless sacrifice kicks in. My family left all they knew for the hope of a better life, and I honor them by overcoming my moments of self-doubt. My friends and family are my support system and my husband and daughter keep me grounded.
I have built these mechanisms into my life because I cannot do it alone. I connect with people that can understand what I am going through and can support me without judgment. I realize that not everyone is fortunate to have those relationships in their lives, so through Cut + Clarity, we offer the place and platform to have that.
If you had taken a different career path, what would it be?
I think I would have stayed a teacher. I loved connecting with the kids, and my passion was always finding ways to get the lessons across in a meaningful way. I think that many kids understood where I was coming from and that filled me with joy.
If you could have dinner with three people, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
- Carlos Gardel – Argentine poet and tango singer. He really captured the moment and time of what life was like in Argentina and what it is to be Argentine.
- Cleopatra – she was a powerful woman in a man’s world
- Rupi Kaur – poet. She has and continues to share her raw emotions in an effort to connect and heal others. Her selflessness is astounding.
Lastly, what does success mean to you?
To me, success means being able to support and uphold others through your life and work. If you can claim your own job, success means that you can also support those who never imagined shining through your efforts. Success means that the things that blocked you as a kid are no longer a barrier, and you’re ready to learn and grow from them.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.