Alumna Clarisse De Los Santos Launches Jewelry Line De La Luna
Tell us a little about yourself: My name is Clarisse De Los Santos and I graduated Magna Cum Laude from FIDM with a degree in Merchandise Product Development in June of 2008. Like many, I’ve always dreamed of starting my own fashion business. Starting is one thing, finding success is a beast of its own. However, after many challenges and difficult lessons, I found success unexpectedly.
Tell us about your jewelry line and how you got your start: A little over a year ago, in the December rush of shopping for Christmas presents and attending holiday parties, my jewelry company was born. Making my gift list, I wanted to give my closest friends something thoughtful and very personal. I immediately fell in love with these delicate hand chains made of gold and diamonds but the thought of spending over $400 a piece was unrealistic. Then it hit me; the hand chains were simple. I was more than capable of designing and making my own pieces. I took a trip to the Downtown Los Angeles jewelry district and bought 18k gold plated chain and Swarovski crystals at a little bead shop off of 8th Street. That day I created the Soulmates hand chain for the friends that turned into family.
After the New Year, as events began to die down, I took a look at my card statement and all in all I spent a little over $1,500 on gifts and making appearances at holiday gatherings. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if I could make more jewelry and earn that back? So I took to Etsy to test it out. I designed a few more hand chains and in keeping with the bohemian chic theme, I made some head chains as well.
I absolutely love the elegance of open back dresses and unexpected details. Think about making a stunning entrance and leaving a lasting impression. So I created a few back necklaces for special occasions. At that moment, I decided to call the shop “Made With Love In LA.” Essentially, the pieces were created for people I love and they were made on my desk, in my house in Silver Lake, in Los Angeles, CA. I didn’t have the budget to hire a model, so one of my closest friends, Jessica Zanotti, agreed to model for me. It just so happens that she’s a FIDM graduate with a successful career in styling and blogging.
Afterwards, I posted the Moon & Stars back necklace on Pinterest, and honestly, the rest is history. I didn’t realize that with this one photo I would eventually ship pieces to Australia, London and Paris. I never imagined that brides from all over the world would chose my piece to wear on the most important day of their lives. For that, I am forever humbled and grateful.
I realized I should probably do something real with my Etsy shop when the Moon & Stars back necklace made it into UK’s Perfect Wedding Magazine, Ceremony Magazine, Junebug Weddings, 100 Layer Cake Blog, Brides of Oklahoma Magazine, and several others, with no effort whatsoever on my end. So I decided to register the business under a new name, De La Luna. It’s half of my last name and a small tribute to the one piece that started it all.
How does LA inspire you? I currently live in San Diego, but I’m in Los Angeles for two weeks out of every month. I stay in Silver Lake, which is this small artistic neighborhood tucked between Downtown LA and Koreatown. I've lived in this neighborhood for almost eight years and plan on moving back when 2017 comes to a close. In that community, I’m surrounded by writers, painters, sculptors and musicians, really a plethora of creatives who inspire me in unexpected ways. The neighborhood is also home to lots of vintage clothing and furniture shops that spark ideas for me.
What are the benefits of having a business in LA? Being in the area makes it easier to connect with brands and influencers that I can collaborate with for content and marketing. Those connections often lead to more networking opportunities for the growth of my brand.
How do you feel FIDM prepared you for what you are doing now? When I applied to FIDM, I thought I wanted to be an apparel buyer. It was a safe, business oriented major that would at least let me work in the fashion industry. Deep down I really wanted to be a fashion designer, but the thought of that scared me because of the immense vulnerability and scrutiny that creatives subject themselves to.
After speaking with a counselor, she knew that buying wasn’t for me and insisted I apply for Merchandise Product Development instead. I am so thankful that she saw right through me. MPD allowed me to learn a wide range of business tools and have the opportunity to design apparel and accessories. The most crucial skill I learned was Computer Aided Design. We spent three semesters focusing on Adobe Illustrator and I still use those tools today.
Looking back, which classes at FIDM were most valuable to you? I loved Classification and Line Development. We forecasted trends, created themes and each designed a full line of products for the selected store.
Any advice for current FIDM Students? As soon as possible, get an internship and work hard. Applying what I learned in school to a fashion job was crucial. It cemented and reinforced all of the tools FIDM provided to me from my education there. Oftentimes, internships will lead to a full time job right out of college. Be willing to learn. Even if your internship is in menswear and you really want to be a dress designer, there is always something you can learn from every experience.
What is your biggest goal right now? I’m working on a big project that I can’t quite talk about yet. So at the moment that is definitely my biggest goal.
Check out the latest De La Luna collection here.