Some kids grow up with plastic toys and blocks. Yvonne Léon was one of the lucky ones: Her parents and grandparents worked in the jewelry business, so she was allowed to play with gems and diamonds.
That sounds like the perfect Parisian childhood. But Léon is quick to point out that as much as she was surrounded by precious materials, her favorite playthings were paper, glue, and stamps—speaking to her imagination and dreams of becoming a designer.
That ability to take raw materials and turn them into something exceeding expectations has stuck with Léon from her time at the renowned Parisian school of Esmod to her work in fashion magazines to her current position as CEO of her fine jewelry brand, Yvonne Leon.
Her years at Vogue magazine in Paris not only informed Léon’s personal style but also gave her the tools she now uses daily in her jewelry line. Blend that with her family’s decades of knowledge and her father’s sense of style—more on that later—and you have the seeds of a career focused on beauty, luxury, and, of course, jewelry.
“I loved the fashion universe,” Léon says. “It was very interesting, and it introduced me to the world of creation and sparked my love of fashion.”
Those Vogue deadlines also made her good at multitasking, Léon says—something that allowed her to make sure every detail was perfect while also filling the pages of one of the world’s most important magazines for clothing and accessories.
How did she get through those high-stress situations? “I am creative, good with numbers, and know how to sell,” Léon says. “I am very resilient and never stop thinking about new objectives and projects in my mind.”
With these skills, Léon was ready to re-explore her fascination with jewelry. Besides her interest in design, she found her muse while traveling, going to museums, and visiting vintage shops for jewelry, furniture, and decorations.
Léon says her father’s eye for what looked great on her mother gave her brand its signature piece: the under earor “ear jacket,” an earring that is worn under the ear.
“Everything around me inspires me for new jewelry ideas,” Léon says. “My first design was the ear jacket. My father designed a piece similar for my mother in the ’80s and I was inspired by it. I added pearls and diamonds. My brand was launched after its creation.”
In operating her own jewelry brand, Léon says her father’s influence as well as her family’s understanding of what makes people happy inspire her.
“I used to work at my parents’ shop when I was younger and learned the importance of prioritizing the customer,” Léon says. “I watched my parents working hard to satisfy their customers and maintain the customers’ loyalty to ensure that they will come back again.”
That is exactly what Léon hopes will happen as she continues to develop her talents within her eponymous brand.
“I want my brand to grow and evolve with me,” Léon says. “I also want to expand beyond France and open stores in London.”
Top: Yvonne Léon started her career in fashion magazines, working on tight deadlines and slaying all the words. Then her background in jewelry became a siren song, calling her back into the family business (photos courtesy of Yvonne Léon).
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