Beyond the dress

Jewelry designer profile: Vanessa Zahid.

Sally Hedberg


Jewelry design can often be overlooked as the mere frosting of runway show styling. If itâÄôs not a 30-carat Harry Winston, then it can be brushed aside as an afterthought to the clothing designerâÄôs creation. But thatâÄôs just silly. Jewelry design equally deserves spotlight acknowledgement, and up-and- comer Vanessa Zahid has taken matters into her own hands.

For Zahid, 26, her calling in the fashion industry wasnâÄôt always fixated upon jewelry. Although she developed an early appreciation and education about precious stones and beading through the expertise of her jewelry shop-owning aunt, commercial modeling came first, so she had to temporarily stifle a lingering creative impulse.

âÄúIâÄôve always been interested in art and design and fashion, but also with different cultures and eras of history,âÄù Zahid said. âÄúI like the idea of intertwining them.âÄù

After brief stints in New York and L.A., her life settled and that idea took firm root. The St. Thomas University graduate got engaged, moved back home to Minnesota and the urge to start her own business could be ignored no longer.

âÄúIn LA I saw lots of different aspects of design and modeling,âÄù Zahid said. âÄúBut I found myself way more interested in the actual design, in interacting with the designers. I finally knew I needed to do something artistic and that I wanted to work for myself.âÄù

Enter: jewelry design. She started off simple, creating an online vintage store through a haul of product she purchased from a family friend and antique shop manager. Though the web business covered her expenses in nearly two weeks, it wasnâÄôt what she wanted. Hunching over a computer managing sales wasnâÄôt as fulfilling as she thought it would be initially.

âÄúI always knew it was going to be temporary, but it just wasnâÄôt creative enough,âÄù Zahid said.

Two months in, she scrapped the online gig and finally shifted focus in the right direction: physically crafting her own line. The results portray her vision entirely âÄî a mixture of classic elements like freshwater pearls and vintage timepieces and pendants meshed with bold global influence like glass turquoise and detailed beading. Her work is daring and eye-catching, tailored to someone who appreciates distinctive art.

Her debut collection was undoubtedly solid, but as an artist who hasnâÄôt lived in Minneapolis very long, the legwork to get her launch noticed by the community was no easy feat.

âÄúAt first I didnâÄôt think about having a fashion show,âÄù Zahid said. âÄúI sent out all of these emails to people announcing my collection and they all ignored me. No one responded.âÄù

But despite mild discouragement, she decided that hosting a launch show for a jewelry collection, though not common, could be the perfect step for her career. After finding the perfect clothing template in Gina Marie VintageâÄôs trendy basics, the stars began to align for the young designer.

âÄúA lot of jewelry designers are a side take of the clothing designer,âÄù Zahid said. âÄúBut thatâÄôs not what I wanted.âÄù

And thatâÄôs not what she delivered in mid-September at the launch. Though taking a financial gamble by offering free tickets to key players in the fashion community, the success yielded from the event has more than compensated. SheâÄôs made sales, sheâÄôs been approached with collaborations, her designs have been used to style local fashion editorials and sheâÄôs even amidst the works of a top secret L.A. deal that involves a celebrity (she canâÄôt say who) donning one her gorgeous designs (hmm âĦ Natalie Portman would look stunning in Vanessa Zahid). For now, her collection is only sold locally at Bumbershoot, but she plans to pursue other retailers as long as theyâÄôre the right fit.

For someone who created her line within only a few months, Zahid has accomplished a lot, setting a high standard for the way jewelry designers in the Twin Cities can operate. After all, the bracelet is just as important as couture.