A couple of weeks ago I visited the showroom of Rita & Zia, a jewelry brand from Geneva just like myself. I met the lovely designer Sandrine Barabinot behind the brand or shall I say empire ? You heard right. Since its launch back in 2006, Rita & Zia quickly became a real success and is now sold all over the world. I had a little chat with Sandrine and took a few pictures to show you what her collection is all about. I thought I’d share with you some of her thoughts about what she does through this little Q&A… enjoy!
Soraya: Sandrine, I’m really happy to be meeting with you at your showroom and learning more about how Rita & Zia was founded. Please share with us how you got started?
Sandrine: It all started wit the Tibetan prayer-necklace style that I reassembled on an elastic thread with a four-leaf clover. I guess it brought me good fortune, or maybe it’s what we call the placebo effect? Who knows! After the wooden beaded necklaces followed the good-luck charms with gold symbols on a red thread. The motto was: three knots, three wishes. At first, I looked for cotton threads that would last three months so everyone would see their wishes exhausted but it turned out that they are more tenacious. It’s funny because once I witnessed the success of this bracelet, we extended it to hearts, peace signs on cords, beads and chains.
Soraya: What was the most challenging aspect of launching your brand in such a small city, where fashion is not everywhere?
Sandrine: Well, I went to knock on everyone’s door; I had to sell my jewelry and my brand. Even though my background is in fashion, it was very difficult because it was a rather new concept for the Swiss market. Before my new adventure, I worked at Thierry Mugler, at Prada, at Bon Génie in buying, and at Cariocca, to name a few. It was all becoming very dull and, honestly, I was hungry for more. I needed to create something…. something that had nothing to do with ready-to-wear but still related to fashion. That’s how Rita & Zia was born in 2006.
Soraya: I can’t help but wonder if you are a spiritual person or do you feel close to a particular culture? I see that you have many religious symbols in your collection…
Sandrine: Absolutely not, I feel close to all the cultures and for me it was more about putting the beauty of each symbol (religious or not) forward. Geneva is like a melting pot; people come from all around the world and they are from various ethnicities; that’s what I wanted to emphasize. I remember that when Rita & Zia was first launched people were wearing the beaded bracelet with the Christian cross, Fatima’s hand and the Star of David all together, and I loved the idea. I hope it will continue to encourage people to stay open-minded. Nevertheless, I’m quite superstitious after all… which explains why I launched the good-luck charm bracelets in the first place [laughs]. You know, I think that this is our brand’s forte, in addition to having various price points from 50chf to 1000chf? and customers from the age of ten to seventy! True story.
Soraya: So, what’s your motto in life?
Sandrine: Let’s all be Zen… [Laughs]. No really, the world would be a better place.
Soraya: If you had to describe the Rita & Zia woman, what would she look like?
Sandrine: That’s a tough one because the Rita & Zia woman is several women at once, but one thing is certain: she likes fashion, likes to travel, she’s open-minded and likes to take care of herself.
Soraya: Is there something in particular that inspires you when it comes to designing your pieces?
Sandrine: I think I’m mostly inspired by my passion for fashion, and then sometimes when I travel I’ll be inspired by the culture that surrounds me, obviously. For instance, I took a trip to Mauritius two years ago and when I came back, I simply had to incorporate a good-luck tortoise in my collection.
Soraya: What’s so special about the store in Geneva?
Sandrine: I was very lucky to be surrounded by people who believed in my brand, so after four years I opened Rita Concept in the heart of Geneva’s Old Town, which is like a concept store where you’ll be able to find books, furniture, ready-to-wear, handbags and my line of course. We also have our atelier in the basement because everything is made in Geneva. It’s an added value to our brand.
Soraya: Where can we find Rita & Zia around the world?
Sandrine: In addition to our store in Geneva, we have two Rita & Zia stores in Lyon, and we’re looking into opening stores in Paris, Brussels and Cannes. And then we have selling points all around the world from Kazakhstan to Poland and Lebanon, or in very exclusive Concept stores such as Smets in Brussels. Overall we’re sold in 130 stores around the world. You can also purchase Rita & Zia pieces online on Caratime, Carastone and some pieces on our e-shop!
Soraya: Impressive! It seems that everything happened very quickly….
Sandrine: Everyone says that, but for me it was a very long process, which involved a lot of hard work. But, now that I think about it, what’s six years in a lifetime?
Soraya: What’s your best-selling item?
Sandrine: The serenity necklace with wooden beads and the Rita Rock knuckle rings were our best-selling items so far. Maybe because they represent the versatility of the brand. Having said that, we still have the timeless pieces all year around, in addition to Rita men and our black line with yellow gold, white gold, diamonds and precious stones.
Soraya: Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
Sandrine: Yes! We just launched Rita Home, we’re presenting our ethnic rugs to the press in a few weeks and we just created our first capsule collection, which will be launched on the 1st of December and sold exclusively in our flagship store in Geneva. Just in time for the holiday season.
For more information, visit : Rita & Zia