This month I had the pleasure of interviewing my friend Lillian Dokken! The owner and designer of the jewelry line Lilli Dokken. She is a breath of fresh air in a market saturated by fleeting fades and cheap knock offs, she is a true classic, and her designs reflect that! I loved hearing about her design process, favorite pieces and what it takes to balance a successful business and home life. All you note takers make sure you pull out pen and paper, she is about to drop some wisdom your way! Enjoy!
Tell me a little bit about yourself, what do you do?
First off, I am so excited to have this interview with you! Thank you!
I am Lillian Dokken, Jewelry Designer and Owner at Lilli Dokken. I went to Savannah College of Art and Design, where I discovered my passion for designing. The entire process, from ideation to prototyping, captivated me. No matter how difficult the task, I was committed to seeing my ideas become a reality. I found my niche, and I found my voice. After graduating with a B.F.A. in Jewelry and Objects, I designed accessories at Lilly Pulitzer. For the past two years I have done some freelance design, but mostly pursued my own brand.
Have you always had an eye for jewelry and fashion?
Yes, I have. I like to say that adorning others is “a part of my being”. It started when I was young and has continued throughout my life. My family has always joked that they had their own personal stylist. I have memories of every family member asking me about something with their outfits every Sunday morning. Since I was young, it’s was instilled in me to help others feel confident and beautiful.
I originally went to SCAD to study Fashion Design or Marketing, but really wanted to try a jewelry because I’ve always loved jewelry and made it a lot growing up. I took Intro to Jewelry, was enthralled that this “manly thing” (using big tools and torches) could make such feminine, beautiful jewelry. I knew after that first class that I had found my obsession, and I wanted to do it for the rest of my life.
When did you first become interested in design?
I've always had an eye and zeal for creating, but it wasn’t until my Junior year when I realized that designing was really where I felt gifted. I took a corporate sponsored class with The Limited. This basically means that the class works // designs for the company based on their ideal client, trend research, color inspiration, etc. IT WAS A DREAM! It was my favorite quarter in school. I thrived on the all-nighters and hard work. In the end, I had 6 pieces picked that were sold in their stores. We had a big event for it, and my “ah ha moment” was seeing the pieces that I dreamt up and prototyped on the CEO, mannequins, and other people at the event. It was such a fulfilling moment, and I am so thankful that SCAD gave me that opportunity! It was when I knew what I wanted to do with my life. After that, I did as much as I could to prepare me for a design job after graduation.
Explain a little bit about your process.
My typical process for a collection is to come up with a concept and really pour into that. I pin TONS of images on that concept and really dig into words, shapes, colors, and textures based on that inspiration. I print images out, make a massive mood board, and then start sketching. Sketching to me is physically drawing, but I also sketch by laying stones out and playing with the colors and placement of them. It is my favorite part of the process! From there, I eliminate and narrow things down. I then make samples of the pieces (solder and assemble them together) as well as make detailed specs for my US manufacturers. These specs call out everything they need to know in order for me to get the quality I want. Based on my specs and samples, the product gets soldered and sent back to me for assembly and cold connections. Once I am done with this, they’re sent off to my plater. All my component’s base metal is brass, but they get plated in a matte, 24k gold, antique finish. Once the product is plated, it is sent back to me, and I set the stones. It’s quite an ordeal, but it’s the name of the game and worth it because I want to keep everything in the US and as local as possible.
You just launched your first collection! CONGRATULATIONS! What have you learned about yourself in the process?
OH - THANK YOU! I mean it’s literally surreal hearing those words. Boy, it’s been a long journey. I could honestly write a novel on everything I have learned about myself in the process! So I’ll keep it as short as possible and just give my top 3:
1. I’ve learned that my perfectionist personality is great to have, but sometimes you have to let things go or it will never get done.
2. To (try) to love myself more and not be so hard on myself. I am my own worst critic, and I am a one-woman show right now - so working by yourself AND for yourself can be hard if you don’t learn to forgive and love yourself some.
3. Human interaction is crucial. Working from home can easily allow me to hermit myself. Scheduling time to see others is key to force me to get dressed, get ready, and get out.
Do you currently have a favorite piece?
I joke that I don’t like to say it aloud because I don’t want to hurt the others feelings…
- The Lyndsey Statement has had my heart from day one. Something about her feels like heirloom, which I love. I also love her color combo and how glam she is. https://lillidokken.com/products/lyndsey-statement-necklace
- The Lilli Bug concept is also near and dear to me. I have collected vintage bug brooches for quite some time, so it was only natural for me to start using them as inspiration for my own designs. My plan is to launch a Lilli Bug design with each collection, so you too can acquire special bejeweled bugs!
As a female entrepreneur and wife how do you balance work and your personal life?
This is so hard and something I am still learning and working on. Thankfully, my husband is extroverted, so he is very good at making plans that keep us social or planning time to spend with each other. I would say that has been the biggest help for me – planning things outside of work.
What advice can you give others wanting to get into your field?
Nothing good comes quickly or easily. I’ve always heard that, but thought that I could beat those odds… News flash - you can’t. Just hang in there and know that there is no winning in comparison and shortcuts.
Where can others stay in touch with you and purchase your products?
Ok now for some fun questions!
Favorite city to visit:
I hate how cliche I sound, but New York. I wanted to live there so badly and it was a goal of mine, but life doesn’t always go as planned and usually works out better ;) But there is something about that city that makes me feel so confident and happy.
I love sweet and savory! My go-to is ground turkey taco meat with a taco seasoning I make, corn, onions, peppers, cauliflower rice, lots of lime, and the key ingredient is sweet potato!!!
Favorite way to spend your weekend?
Going to Zumba on Saturday AM, and just hanging with my husband and trying to relax as much as possible. I’m the worst at stopping to do nothing, so we usually try to do things around the house, drive with the windows down looking at beautiful houses in Nashville, or binge watch whatever show we are currently watching.
Dog or Cat?
I love cats but Sloan is allergic, and we’re both more dog people at heart! We have 2 pups that are like children. We love them so much!
What makes you feel loved?
My top two love languages are words of affirmation and acts of service.
Isn't Lillian JUST SO LOVELY!! I loved this interview and could not get over her line of "nothing good comes quickly or easily," what a strong and accurate motto for young entrepreneurs! I hope you are as inspired by Lillian's interview as I was, and that in turn you dream a little bigger and dig your heels in a little deeper to see your dreams come to light! Nothing is impossible!