In a bright loft located in the heart of Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, you can find Kate Hudson, Rihanna, and Jessica Alba hanging out. Large matted photographs of celebrity clients and magazine spreads that include Lana Jewelry hang sporadically along the expansive walls of this design studio. In a corner office with a view of downtown, Lana Bramlette decompresses after a business trip to London, and it is this design space where Lana Jewelry comes to life.
“There is a difference between artists and designers,” says Bramlette, owner and designer of Chicago-based Lana Jewelry. “An artist has their own vision, then creates something they think the world needs. A designer sees a need and tries to create something to satisfy it.”
Bramlette, who started her jewelry business with her father, Naum Fertelmeister of Lake Forest, clearly sees herself in the latter category: a designer who saw a need for versatile jewelry that was effortless yet sophisticated. Observing the women around her, Bramlette noticed most of them weren’t wearing jewelry. Realizing that women needed pieces that were simple enough to be worn on a daily basis, she designed what would become known as her signature look: hoop earrings.
Designing something as simple as a pair of hoop earrings can often be more difficult than creating something elaborate, Bramlette says. But her modernist approach to classic jewelry staples quickly caught the eyes, ears, and hearts of celebrities such as Cameron Diaz and Angelina Jolie. Ten years later, she is regarded by many as the “Queen of Hoops.”
A confident businesswoman who runs in the same sophisticated circles as designers from New York and London, Bramlette says her North Shore roots keep her grounded. “The thing about those people is that most of them aren’t really from there. They were from small towns and had big dreams.”
Bramlette’s dreams began in high school, with a penchant for style and a fondness for fashion. She remembers being exposed to the taste of North Shore women during her adolescent years. “They didn’t have to prove anything to anyone,” says Bramlette. “There was this self-assurance. And anytime you have that, a cool and undeniable sense of style manifests.”
It was this exposure that taught her how to design for strong, stylish women. “When I started, I was looking to design the perfect pair of ‘jeans’—jewelry women want to wear every day and feel good in,” says Bramlette. “We put a twist on standard classics; we give them a modern sex appeal.”
Bramlette, who refers to herself as the “anti-Bohemian” of jewelry design, continually challenges herself to create pieces that combine a graceful aesthetic with a flirtatious attitude. Bramlette says she strives to create jewelry that intrigues men and inspires women. “It’s not about trends,” says Bramlette, “It’s about a certain je ne sais quoi, a delicate charm.” With her business-minded personality and the versatility of her jewelry, Bramlette has charmed her way into the jewelry collections of women around the world. “You can see women of every age, in every city, of every social circle wearing our pieces,” says Bramlette. “We design for incredibly strong women—they connect to our pieces.”
But even with big-time stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Fred Segal, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, and the U.K.-based Harrods backing Lana Jewelry, Bramlette says her biggest supporters are still her clients in the North Shore.
“It gets me excited when I go up to the North Shore and people recognize me,” says Bramlette. “They want to stop and talk to me about my jewelry. In that way, my jewelry keeps me connected to my roots. The fact that people feel so strongly about my brand—that they seek it out and come talk to me—that’s what keeps me going.”