One of the fastest growing private companies in America, Alex and Ani was born in the former costume jewelry capital of the world. When founder/creative director Carolyn Rafaelian was growing up in Cranston, RI, she would help out at her father’s jewelry factory, Cinerama. “I’d play around and create my own pieces,” recalled Rafaelian. “Eventually, I created cocktail rings, which were the first official Alex and Ani pieces in 2004.” Still based in RI, the eco-friendly business, named after Rafaelian’s first two daughters, has helped revive the industry by obtaining recycled materials from local mills for its signature expandable wire bangles. Along with the wildly popular customizable charm bracelets, rings, chain necklaces and endless hoop earrings, Alex and Ani has branched out into other areas. They have an app on the way, two Teas and Javas cafés in operation, a candle collection and a new beauty line in 40 U.S. stores and over 1,500 retailers worldwide. In the company’s book, Path of Life, customers explain why they wear Alex and Ani products, which are filled with positive energy (involving shamans and physicists) to empower the individuals who wear them. The spiritual Rafaelian discussed spring lines and the vital force of her lifestyle brand.
Long Island Pulse: How do you define positive energy and how are your products infused with it?
Carolyn Rafaelian: I design pieces that I want to wear, things that hold positive energy. The ancients called it chi or prana. Today’s science knows it as vital force, the natural energy that supports life. each product is infused with positive energy in three important ways. It’s manufactured with positive intention in carefully selected American factories. The symbols featured in our designs carry their own energy and are accompanied by thoughtfully crafted and meticulously researched meaning. And each design is positively intended to empower the wearer and reflect the unique qualities of the individual.
Pulse: What are your best-selling bangles right now?
CR: Path of Life, Lotus Peace Petals and Because I Love You Mom. These charms portray—with integrity, symmetry and beauty—what Alex and Ani is all about. The thoughts, prayers and intentions that go into our products are coming from a place of love.
Pulse: What’s new in your jewelry line for spring and summer?
CR: We’ve recently launched Natural Wonders and Carnivals and Caravans—a nod to the whimsy of American traveling carnivals. Both collections are playful, bright and ideal for summer weather. They perfectly complement the spring trends of natural elements and earthy tones. The 2014 collections are full of energy, corresponding to the powerful Chinese Year of the Horse.
Pulse: Why is your new beauty line of soaps, body creams, mists and perfume called Scent 7?
CR: The name was inspired by the spiritual number seven, which categorizes many wonders of the natural world: Days in a week, biblical days of creation, colors in the rainbow and notes on a musical scale. The collection represents the four elements: Earth, air, fire, water; and the soul’s three directions: Above, below, within. Crafted with harmonious energies and essential oils like Tarocco blood orange and pomegranate, the hypoallergenic ingredients balance the body’s chi.
Pulse: 20 percent of each Charity by Design bangle sale goes to the organization it represents, such as Stand Up To Cancer. What nonprofits do you work with in New York?
CR: Our Charity by Design department currently works with Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, public charter school network KIPP NYC and generationOn, a global youth service movement.
Pulse: Last year Alex and Ani generated over $230 million in revenue. Why do you think your products are so popular with celebrities and others?
CR: Alex and Ani is about love, integrity and positive energy. People are connecting with our brand on a subconscious level. They’re feeling the energy that we give off. They believe in who we are and what we’re about. Connecting with a brand on a soulful level is powerful and our customers feel and experience that.
Pulse: Your CEO, Giovanni Feroce, recently stepped down. You’ve said you’d like his replacement to take the company to the next level. What might this entail?
CR: We’ll be launching a line of small leather goods, including clutches and wallets in the fall. We’re exploring various opportunities to move forward as a lifestyle brand. But Alex and Ani will always stay true to its roots. We will continue to inspire, spread positive energy and create eco-friendly pieces made in America. The possibilities are endless.