Jewelry designer Jenny Crane McHugh brings our city her new handcrafted jewelry line full of bright, whimsical pieces that feel extra personal to Charlotteans.
Marked with bright colors and a bit of spunk, Campbell + Charlotte offers serious gemstones in a fun, unpretentious way.
Join us for our conversation with Jenny, a local business owner and creative mind, who shared her story of the business, brand, and even offers up some style tips.
Can you tell us about how your daughter (and her name) inspired your business and vision?
The namesake Campbell + Charlotte is deeply meaningful to me. Campbell is my first child and daughter’s name who, in many ways, was the push I needed to leave the corporate world and take a chance on my dreams. It is magical and crazy what a mamma instinct can do to you – I immediately knew I wanted to make my daughter proud and show her that hard is not impossible.
In terms of the vision for the brand, Campbell continues to grow into a headstrong, independent little lady who doesn’t take herself too seriously – all of these traits are present in the brand and our designs. Our Juju ROAR charm necklace was directly inspired by Campbell. When she started learning animals and animal sounds, a lion’s roar was her favorite. She would run around the house “roaring” and we couldn’t get enough of it. I wanted to remember that special time with the ROAR pendant.
Charlotte, NC is where I live with family and where the initial collection was born. Hence, the name Campbell + Charlotte.
Can you break down a few of the collections from this brand and how they differ?
The line is broken down into four collections that, for me, represent different facets of myself. The intent is that each has its own personality or invokes a specific type of feeling when our client’s wear a piece from that collection.
- Juju Collection: We describe this one as: Happy. Magical. Sparkly. The Juju Collection is a true reflection of the way we feel about fine jewelry – it should make us smile and it should make us feel a little giddy.
- Evolve Collection: We describe this one as: Strong. Modern. Boss. The Evolve Collection is inspired by the universal truth that becoming our best selves often requires embracing the unknown and using this unknown as strength.
- The Found Collection: We describe this one as: Dramatic. Bold. Vibrant. When I first started designing fine jewelry, this collection exploded out of me. It reflects our love for gemstones, color and a flair for the dramatic. I think of the Found Collection as the creative jumping off point for the entire Campbell + Charlotte line.
- The Crew Collection: We describe this one as: Your go-to folks. Your BFFs. Your ride or die. The Crew collection is full of the pieces you will find yourself wearing everyday.
How can customers get their hands on these products – online, storefront, or both?
For now, online! Through our website or directly through Instagram as well @campbellandcharlotte
What intangible things, beyond the jewelry, do you hope to bring to your clients?
Above all, hands down, we want our clients to feel like fine jewelry is approachable and that their experience with Campbell + Charlotte made them feel happy. Jewelry is such a personal and special purchase and I don’t take for granted that I get to play a small role in so many awesome life events for our clients. When we have the pleasure of making an engagement ring, wedding band, or a pair of earrings to commemorate a special landmark in time, we know our clients will think of that special day every time they wear those earrings. So, I guess in terms of intangibles, I hope both our clients’ experience with us, and the resulting jewelry piece help enhance a memory that will (hopefully) last a lifetime. That is pretty lofty but we choose to think big around here.
What is your inspiration behind the whimsical, fun designs? The classic designs?
The whimsical, fun designs are truly a reflection of what I think has been bouncing around in my head since I was a kid – just fun, happy things that make us smile. On the classic designs, my approach was to take something that felt pretty classic and add an unexpected design detail that would delight our clients when they discovered it.
Can you tell us about what materials you use and how you decided on them?
In terms of metals, we use 14 karat gold (yellow, white or pink) and platinum (at our clients request). The collection really comes to life through our stones – we use high quality, vibrant diamonds to bring lots of bling and then obsessively search for unique or vibrantly colored gemstones as the finishing touch.
Did you always want to own your own business?
I don’t know if I would say I have always dreamed of owning my own business but I have always dreamed of designing my own jewelry line. I never in a million years thought it would actually happen. One of my parents’ favorite memories involves the nightly war I waged as a two year old in refusing to remove the dozens of plastic bracelets, necklaces and earrings I wore each day. Then, each morning, every piece had to be put back on before the day could start. I love this memory so much because, in a time when launching a new luxury collection can be somewhat crazy, it gives me comfort that I am actually landing in the right place and following a lifelong dream.
Who are your personal style icons and influences?
I have so many but probably not a surprise that almost all of the people who come to mind are related to jewelry! I don’t think anyone can work in jewelry without acknowledging the fabulousness of Iris Apfel – I’m not even sure that the word “icon” really does her justice. I particularly admire her use and love of color. I adore Jody Candrian’s jewelry – I have a number of pieces in my collection from her. She finds such fun stones and then does a killer job pairing them together for serious statement pieces. She is also the nicest person and a fellow Charlottean! Somewhat strangely, I have found myself particularly interested and inspired by Elton John’s personal sunglasses collection. Like much of his fashion, I love how he just does whatever he wants, doesn’t care if others are going to like it, and makes it fabulous. Another jewelry designer who really inspires me is Marie-Helen de Taillac. She hand selects all of her stones and really focuses the designs on the beauty of the stone.
Who is your target clientele?
I have so much to learn about my customers as the brand grows and I can’t wait for this craziness to be over so I can go out and meet them all. But, for now, I am really focused on what has inspired the Campbell + Charlotte brand: “Serious jewels for those who don’t take themselves too seriously”. We love the idea of our clients unapologetically knowing what they want and going out there to get it. I envision strong women and men who love color, love to laugh, and love a little bling.
What is your own favorite accessory? What’s a piece of jewelry you wear again and again?
Narrowing it down to one is an impossible task – I have so many I love! I attach jewelry strongly to memories so I have so many pieces that remind me of special times. Obviously my engagement ring and wedding bands are sentimental and my husband bought me a pair of simple but stunning diamond earrings when my daughter was born that I wear all the time. My husband, Mike, and I have a tradition that each year on our anniversary, he gets me a special piece of jewelry and we engrave the anniversary year somewhere on the piece. I have dreams of one day handing this collection down to my daughter and walking her through the history of our marriage, one jewelry piece at a time. That doesn’t help narrow it down to one piece but those pieces are probably my favorite in my personal collection.
How do you recommend women incorporate “bolder” pieces into an outfit?
Oh my goodness, I love this question! Here are a few thoughts/questions I often have related to this:
- You don’t need a bold outfit to wear bold jewelry. In fact, I often find that pairing a simple outfit with bold jewelry can be more impactful. I will wear a simple white blouse and jeans and layer up like 5 of my most bold necklaces. I mean, currently, I am at home wearing sweatpants with four Juju charm necklaces.
- Color is your friend. Don’t be afraid to pair two (or more) bright colors together.
- If she can wear it, you can wear it. If you see someone else layering up 5 necklaces, rocking some killer earrings, or stacking up their wrists and you like it, then you should do it too.Leopard print goes with everything. We love a leopard print and consider it a neutral. When all else fails, throw on some bold jewels with anything leopard print and you are all set.
Can you tell us an example of how some of your pieces are made – the process from start to finish?
Everything starts with the design – generally that involves me working on a sketch through a number of iterations or seeing a gemstone I love that immediately brings the design into crystal clear focus. I am sketching all the time – on napkins, receipts and in my sketchbook. I have to capture them immediately so I don’t forget! Once I have perfected the design, I have an amazing production crew that I work with up in New York City where all of my pieces are made. These are true artisans who have been in the jewelry industry for years and can help ensure the design is sound and production ready. The design is then made into a CAD design, which is the design software that jewelry designers use to take an item from sketch to reality. The CAD design is then used to facilitate the entire production process. Throughout this process, I am hand selecting diamonds and gemstones to bring the piece to life.
How does Campbell + Charlotte differ from some of your other brands, lines, and everything you’d done before?
I have had another jewelry line called Button Box Design for about 10 years. This line is much different than Campbell + Charlotte – I hand make all of these pieces and the materials used make our price points more approachable. The line is still completely inspired by color and a love of gemstones which definitely translated into Campbell + Charlotte. Outside of Button Box Design, my career thus far has been very corporate. My career has spanned a number of industries and roles including executive recruiting, brand management, digital marketing and digital product management. I am both thrilled and terrified to be starting over in a way. But it is not lost on me that I am incredibly fortunate and extremely lucky to be following my dreams.