Shelley Sanders launched The Last Line in July 2017 following her observation that the fine jewelry industry was missing a trick. Deciding to bridge the gap between the high end, highly priced, and the reasonably priced but not well designed, fine jewelry market, Shelley got to work and came up with a concept that made fine jewelry not only stylish, but also affordable.
Sanders puts her heart and soul into designing, as she describes, “where did you get those, I’ve been looking for them forever” pieces that can be worn on a daily basis, without losing any charm whatsoever, including delicate “huggie” hoop earrings with colored gems, diamond studs, tennis necklaces, bracelets and statement rings – all of which can be stacked and layered with your own personal touches.
What makes The Last Line’s playful gold and diamond jewelry even more interesting and accessible is the fact that the brand sells their pieces at the cost price with no retail markup, and refuses to retail at any department stores or boutiques, along with an option on their website for customers to pay for their purchases in installments, and allowing for people to truly invest in their “forever pieces” – staying true to their principles and clientele.
The founder, designer, wife, and mother of three told us, “The inspiration behind the name of The Last Line is it is the last jewelry line you’ll ever need and trust me, I plan to live up to the name”- and we just had to know more. AboutHer.com caught up with Shelley Sanders herself for a quick chat about why The Last Line is what exactly we’ve been looking for.
Tell us a little about The Last Line - where did it all start for you?
I have always been creative and I’ve always been into jewelry, even as a little girl. Looking back, I had no idea that my career would be creative and jewelry would be my business. I can remember being pretty young and being interested in jewelry and not just the glamorous, “dress up” side of it but actually the intricacies and design elements–– the shape, the metals, and of course, the stones. Often with my notebook, I would doodle throughout the day, from the coins I collected to miscellaneous shapes and designs which always makes me smile since today I draw every piece we make before we even begin production.
Fast forward to high school and later college, I loved design and creating, to this day I have been known to get sucked into a design because it’s technically interesting or challenging. I ended up in New York to study Fine Arts at Parsons, but they cancelled the Metals program and I was so bummed. I ultimately returned home to California to train with Master Jewelers in San Francisco and almost immediately knew I was going to work in jewelry for the rest of my life so after working on lots of other people’s lines for over 16 years, I decided to launch my own.
What makes your brand different from the other fine jewelry brands on the market?
There are so many things (which is why I love when people ask) but more than anything, we are not just a jewelry company, we are a brand.
When we decided to officially launch The Last Line, I had been designing jewelry for over fifteen years and felt like I had seen everything that was out there, but somehow something was still missing. After lots of research, we determined there was a definite whitespace in the market, there were two core buckets: reasonably priced, not-so-great design or amazing design and quality, extremely high price but nothing in the middle and nothing with all the options under one room. So we decided it was time to close the gap and launch The Last Line in July of 2017. Our goal was to present well-designed, well-priced pieces for every day that still honored traditional craftsmanship and could speak to both an established jewelry collector and the everyday girl just beginning to invest in fine jewelry. The inspiration behind the name of The Last Line is it is the last jewelry line you’ll ever need and trust me, I plan to live up to the name.
Your brand's aesthetic is playful, fun, and very cool - who is the typical "The Last Line" customer?
I’m not sure The Last Line has a “typical customer” especially because we offer so many different styles. One of the goals with the brand when we started was that I wanted to create a brand that can service a range of customers and I believe that as we continue to roll out new drops, there will always been something for everyone. We want to make sure that we are the destination for fine jewelry no matter where you are in your jewelry box, whether she is looking for her first pair of earrings to a wedding band or is a seasoned collector looking for something to really catch her eye.
The Last Line stocks only online and at pop-ups, despite an inevitable interest from third parties like department stores, why is that?
Well, the biggest reason is control, not in a negative way, but rather the opportunities being direct-to-consumer gives us. It allows us to present amazing, quality pieces without a mark-up that retailers require but more importantly it allows me to be hands-on with the line at every touch-point. We are building relationships with our clients from the beginning which I think is key for any brand's longevity. When you ask a question, you’re getting an answer from me, which just isn’t likely in traditional retail.
We have a whole category of pieces called “you asked, we listened” which has been built off of customer requests.
The brand is essentially making fine jewelry affordable, relate-able and accessible to a more fashion-conscious clientele. Tell us what goes into your design process (from initial sketches, to sourcing materials etc., where is it made)?
I sketch every piece before we go into production, so that takes time and of course, there are almost always revisions but the intricacies of design has always been important to me, it’s these details that make a difference. When setting a bracelet or necklace, I want to actually be able to see each of the stones, it’s not just about a piece looking pretty. Having a background in production (and as I jewelry shopper myself) it was important to use quality materials that look great and merit their cost. A lot of our pieces are produced just a few steps down from our studio in Beverly Hills and in these styles we’re often using hand-set stones, hand-twisted gold, or hand-painted details.
What is the quintessential piece from The Last Line's collection? What’s the one item you think every woman should own?
If you’re just beginning to invest in fine jewelry, diamond huggies are perfect, you can wear them forever and they’re a great foundation piece. As you build your collection, I think every woman should have a tennis necklace, a pair of gold hoops, a diamond stud (upgrade over the years, ladies!) and ideally something personal, whether that is a hoop charm with your partner’s name or a necklace with your family’s zodiac signs in charms. It’s the personal pieces that make your collection and easily can start a conversation.
It’s yourself and your husband who head the brand, both leading a family life together as well as working together, how do you strike a healthy work-life balance?
Balance is a nice word, but often a work-in-progress for us as life and business partners. The best thing is we share the same vision and there is no one else I could imagine working alongside, we are so in sync it makes it easy to work together. Uniquely, Teddy who is the CEO of the brand is also a photographer and a creative so he’s super involved. On the other hand, I’ve been known to moonlight in a business decision or two so we fit together like perfect little puzzle pieces, balancing each other out and helping each other. I know it’s rare to be able to create jointly with anyone, let alone your husband, so I feel extremely lucky.
What have been the most defining moments of the success of The Last Line for you and what do you hope to see for the future of the brand?
The definition of success has changed so much over my career, I’m still defining it! At the beginning of my career when I was designing for other lines, it was seeing a magazine placement of something I designed. When I was in production, I would work so hard on a piece for weeks and if I got a great sample, and that was the best, even if we never made it I was still proud of the accomplishment. Currently, I am happy to see people’s reaction to The Last Line, a happy customer to me is everything, especially when they receive a piece as a gift! It’s still a bit of a pinch me moment when I see women from all over who are wearing The Last Line in their everyday lives, almost two years in and I’m still as excited as ever to see.
As a female entrepreneur, there are likely many who would be inspired by you and your business. Who are the women that have inspired you?
I’ve never been celebrity or model obsessed, for me I’m way more inspired by real women I see and their individual styles, living their life—looking rad, making it happen.
What empowers you and how do you use your position to empower others?
I have three children two boys and one girl, they are total inspirations and bring so much color to my life, figuratively and literally (read: lot of hearts, rainbows, and glittered items) in my house and they are always picking me flowers. Those elements often translate into my design process and provide inspiration. I think there is also something very empowering about having your own business, especially a creative one. One of the things I love most about being a designer is that I am often creating something that makes someone feel something, whether that is happier, prettier, stronger, etc. which is a nice bonus to my job.
Lastly, what advice would you give to anyone who is looking to start their own enterprise within your industry?
First, trust your gut. Second, you will always learn more from listening no matter the situation. In any business, things will happen, especially one like ours where we are talking to hundreds of people a day and when it does happen, assess what happened, dust yourself off (because you will fall in starting something) and move forward. I am constantly checking in on what I did, what worked, what didn’t work, etc. it’s such an important learning for growth, personally and professionally! Equally important is to establish (and believe) a clear vision of what you are setting out to do, the worst thing you can do is lose authenticity of your goal, your business, your product, whatever it is. That’s not to say that you can’t do new things, but do it with your own lens. I have a rule that I will only ever produce things that I am happy to present and wear myself, if I don’t believe in it, why would someone else?