As they began to delve into NBA media and search for moisturizers, the couple relied on Gorjana’s new jewelry-making hobby to keep them afloat. Developing a passion for craftsmanship during her work at the Newport Beach jewelry designer, Gorjana had started traveling to downtown Los Angeles on the weekends, buying lower-grade gemstones and plated metals. with which she made delicate necklaces and bracelets for friends in her spare time. Gorjana loved how the work combined her flair for design with an intuitive understanding of construction she had inherited from her parents, her engineer father. And late at night, when she bent over the gems and bits of yarn strewn across her small desk, she recalled her childhood in Serbia, watching her grandmothers turn tangles of wool into beautiful textiles.
“[My grandmothers] were housewives in every sense of the word,” Gorjana said. “They knitted my sweaters and sewed my dresses by hand. When I was 8, I wanted a sweater for my Barbie, and they taught me how to crochet one. I learned from an early age that if you want something, you can just make it yourself. Her friends and family quickly became obsessed with Gorjana’s pieces, subtle and timeless in a way that is rare for priceless four-figure jewelry. Indeed, at the time, the most affordable jewelry on the market seemed timeless; tended to be fashionable and loud, where Gorjana’s favorite beautiful pieces exuded a calm, classic simplicity. With her small collection of pieces, Gorjana has attempted to bridge that gap by recreating the sensibilities and craftsmanship of fine jewelry, but using the much more affordable materials common in the contemporary market.
“My friends and family loved it and I realized I had this niche of having the quality and beauty of high-end pieces, but at an affordable price,” she said.
The enthusiasm of their friends convinced Gorjana and Jason to buy some of their pieces from local boutiques. Planet Blue was an early fan and retailer, as was Lisa Kline on Robertson Blvd., who took a batch of necklaces on consignment and sold out within days. Building on their early success, Jason and Gorjana began approaching other Southern California retailers and attending trade shows and fairs, slowly growing their distribution and name.
New pieces and styles were slowly incorporated into their small inventory, Gorjana blending her intuitive eye for design and affinity for fine construction with a burgeoning understanding of who her clientele was and the role her pieces could play in their life.
“A lot of jewelry is difficult to make yourself,” she said. “It wears you out; you don’t wear the jewelry. That’s not how I want to design for women. Our demographics are so broad, so I want the pieces to appeal to many different types of people and ages. gorjana has a certain aesthetic where you can make it part of your style, wear it the way you want, make it part of your life.
As the identity of the gorjana brand matured, the couple began cutting their teeth on the business side, looking into wholesale production, erecting a fulfillment center in the living room of their one bedroom sleeping in Laguna Beach and going on weekends on the road. California coast to plant stores. With no experience in retail, let alone starting a business, Gorjana and Jason were learning as they went, and it wasn’t always a smooth process.
“I remember calling a specialty store in Newport Beach and telling the manager I was interested in showing him my jewelry for sale,” Jason said. “He said, ‘Do you have a sheet of lines?’ I said no. He said, ‘Do you have a showroom?’ I said no. He said, ‘Well, are you going to be at the market?’ I said no, hung up the phone, looked at Gorjana and said, ‘Okay, we need to understand what a linesheet is, what a market is, and [find] a showroom.’”