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April 12, 2007 - Image 15

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-04-12

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

{the fashion b-side]

ThursdayApril 12, 2007 -s5

Styling by arts editors Kimberly Chou and Caroline Hartmann. ABOVE: Julia Friedman in olive dress from Beanie June Boutique and vintage
scarf, stylist's own. RIGHT: Marie Matta (left) in T-shirt and red suspenders, model's own. Alex Pasquinelli in blue Soda Blu dress from
Beanie June Boutique and gold choker from Salvation Army.
From hobby to lucrative career,

Daily Arts Writer
Steven Shein doesn't see himself
as a jewelry designer.
Sure, his self-titled line of most-
ly necklaces is sold at hotspots
like Kitson - the L.A. boutique
worshipped by young, trend-hun-
gry female celebrities - and the
Whitney Museum of American Art
in New York. The likes of Mischa
Barton and Paris Hilton have been
photographed wearing his plastic,
flat-laminate pieces.
But Shein never thought he'd
find himself in the fashion indus-
try. Despite the success thus far, he
just wants to be a serious artist.
Growingup in southern Califor-
nia, Shein went to college in Santa
Barbara "mainly to surf and smoke
pot." He wanted to study art, but
his parents weren't keen on the
idea, so they agreed on architec-
ture school as a compromise.
There he discovered the school's
laser cutter, which inspired his
first line of jewelry Lee Riot.
Everythingsnowballed from there,
Shein said.

He entered an environmen-
tal design program at the Art
Center College of Design
in Pasadena, Calif. Shein
had been making bracelets
when one of his teachers
gave him some insightful
advice: "'Yougotta find
out whether the world
wants it or needs it.
What does the world
need right now?"'
Shein appreci-
ated his teacher's
wisdom later when he
finally became involved in the
fashion industry.
Without prior interest in fash-
ion, Shein experienced the signifi-
cance of marketing and advertising
in the industry early on after nam-
ing his first jewelry line, Lee Riot.
The brand started strong until
Shein got an angry letter from Lee
Jeans, who blocked Shein's trade-
mark application and attempted to
"I had to keep on moving for-
ward, and I couldn't use the Lee
Riot name anymore. My lawyer
told me 'The best thing to do is just
use your own name.' " Shein said
he never intended to do so, having
thought that there's always a sense
of inflated ego attached to epony-
mous brands, but he felt forced
into the situation, he said.
Shein next moved to Los Ange-
les, where he rented an apartment
with Whitestarr frontman Asher
Levin (Shein's brother is also in
the band). An L.A. native, Levin
knew the buyers of various stores
in the city and got the ball rolling
for Shein's jewelry line.
During the duo's first stop on
Robertson Boulevard - one of Los

Angeles's glitziest, most celebrity-
laden streets - they walked into a
store called Madison, whose buy-
ers immediately bought some of
his jewelry.
Shein's pieces, made mostly
from plastic flat-laminate, wood
and mirror, are laser-cut into
mini-icons like boomboxes, straw-
berries, roller skates and flamin-
goes. The jewelry's tiny details and
glittery, candy colors have a smart
collectible quality, reminding Gen-
Yers of the toys and play acces-
sories they had in the '80s and
early '90s. At about $100 a pop, the
pieces are an obvious step up, but
certainly still in the price range of
L.A. fashionistas.
"I'd say this is where the sparks
began to fly - which is kind of the
birth of everything and how it led
to a global business," Shein said.
"I would make everything and
(Levin) would sell everything. I
really credit him."
Kitson has catapulted to Rob-
ertson Boulevard icon status
since opening in 2001, practically
becoming a celebrity hangout for
Lindsay Lohan, Teri Hatcher and
Nicole Ritchie. The store carries
Rafe, Pucci and Missoni (to name
a few) and has since expanded Kit-
son Kids and Kitson Men down the
Since then, things have contin-
ued to grow. Steven Shein jewelry
has been picked up by stores all
over the country and internation-
ally. Projects for Disney and lower-
end jewelry boutique Claire's are in
the works, too. On 80spurple.com,
one of the biggest online sellers of
Steven Shein, 14K rings, earrings
and clothing are now available.
And Shein is finally starting

to accept his role in the fashion
industry, despite his initial reser-
"I'm kind of like this character
who got sucked into this world,"
Shein said. "It's turned out there's
a world out there that I didn't real-
ly know anything about, which is
that teenage girls buy jewelry and
fashion, and I've obviously learned
to embrace that."
Shein said he someday hopes
he can go back to school and earn
himself a degree in sculpture, but
his fine-art endeavors might have
to wait - it doesn't look like Shein's
career in jewelry design is going to
slow down anytime soon.
Go to
for more photos
and commentary.

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