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Leandra Medine (best known as The Man Repeller) is as pervasive in the fashion biz as an appreciation for footwear, but today we're turning our attention to another member of the family: her older brother Haim Medine. His costume-meets-fine jewelry line, Khai Khai, just launched this year and is already stocked at luxury NYC retailer Fivestory, and as of this month, at Louis here in Boston. Medine's sparkling collection of 18k gold and diamonds earned him a spot in our 2013 Racked Young Gun class, so naturally, we were curious about the budding designer as he moves beyond the family business.
Jewelry is your family business. Did you always anticipate joining it?
In the back of my mind there was always a part of me saying it was my destiny. I've been brought up surrounded by jewelry and fashion so you could say that it runs in my blood. But you know, I just wanted to go out and try to start something on my own as opposed to entering the family business off the bat. Gaining experience outside is extremely important. It gives you the proper work discipline that's needed, because working for the family as I'm sure you can imagine is pretty lenient. Your boss is your father, you're very comfortable with your father. I think he respected that I wanted to gain experience outside and I think he wanted me to do that, so when I decided I was going to work for him he welcome me with open arms.
The brand name is your childhood moniker and the line is pretty whimsical, with trendy motifs and fun shapes. Is there any meaningful piece in the collection inspired by your childhood?
I really love my Monkey collection. I think it's something unique and original. It holds sentimental value to me because in my room growing up I had these three monkey sculptures that my mom put in there. I love the concept of the Three Wise Monkeys, the significance and meaning behind it. Plus they were these really deep blue colors and I love the color blue, so I was drawn to them every time I walked into my room. My inspiration for the collection come from all sorts of places but a lot come from childhood passions and thoughts. At the end of the day it's a playful, whimsical collection, so being able to pull inspiration from my childhood made perfect sense.
And you have some web savvy, social media symbols (&, @, #, brackets). How does the web play into the success and growth of your brand?
Well I think social media has become a staple in business. You need to have an effective strategy. Since it's become a fixture, I thought that translating the symbols into fine jewelry would be catchy. It's not something that I think will fade over time. People are used to seeing these things from the @ to #. It's the norm. I think it's important that I'm seen as one of the pioneers of that.
Your sister Leandra is obviously a huge supporter of your brand. Do you collaborate at all while designing? To what degree, if any, are you working together on this?
She's so busy with her own thing, as you can imagine, so it's rare that she can come into the office, but now and then she will. She comes in like a stormer, throwing out all these ideas and I'll build on it based on her input. Her being an inspiration for a lot of my designs is a valid statement, my mother as well, she's also extremely fashionable. I guess I could say that I've got this whole creative background based on the way I was raised with my parents.
Occasionally on her blog, The Man Repeller, your family lives life online in the public eye. How does that affect your business?
I guess I can answer that in two ways. The fact that we were brought up with a close knit family is something I'm very happy about and fortunate for. We publicly display it, and I think it makes for a really nice story. I started out doing production and design for my father and gaining knowledge to finally reach the level where I thought I could do something on my own. At the same time, people would be dying to have someone like my sister help launch a brand, so it's great but I'm also trying to create a name for myself. When people hear that my sister is so involved they'll be like "Oh, he got the easy way out!" but at the end of the day I'm fortunate and wouldn't want to have it any other way.
In Racked Young Guns you had said you consider both Leandra and your mother your muses. Do you always design with women in mind or is there a goal to expand into men's?
When I'm designing it's strictly a women's collection. Whether or not I get into men's, yeah, that's a question mark in my head. It's something I may want to explore. Maybe if I start designing pieces for myself—people always ask me where my jewelry is—I'd start with a couple and see what the reaction is. I think that the women's jewelry market is huge and there is a lot of room for growth.
The collection is so dainty you might even have trouble translating that to men's. You might have to define a new look for it.
I don't think men would want to wear such dainty jewelry. It would have to be a totally new look.
Do you think the knuckle ring trend will stick?
I think it's something that's very hot right now. I haven't really gone crazy with it because of that reason. I don't want to throw all my eggs in one basket and go crazy with the knuckle rings, but right now I offer about six or seven on them and they're a fairly reasonable price point.
Will you ever move into more color or customization in regard to stones?
Definitely. I think the collection is beautiful, but I wanted to keep it uniform with all diamonds when I launched. I built my brand that way by creating this expectancy when people see my jewelry. Now I'm getting to a point where I'll explore other colored stones. I think it's important for the growth of the brand.
What do you think is going to be the top selling piece at Louis? What about your collection is going to speak to the Boston woman?
I think the Boston woman is very similar to the NY woman. Maybe it's not as big of a fashion capital, but there are a lot of trendy women that will find different things that appeal to them. I know they sold one of the Follow Us rings, that's with "FU" dangling off of it. There's something there for everybody; they did a phenomenal job in selecting what they wanted to have in their store.
Where do you see Khai Khai this time next year?
I'm hoping that I'm in at least another two or three department stores. I'm working on building the brand within the US and will slowly start shifting energy into overseas. There are huge markets to tap in Asia, Europe, South America.
· Khai Khai's Haim Medine Counts His Mother, Sister as Muses [Racked]
· Khai Khai Jewelry [Official Site]