From her magical, secluded home in Mount Washington, Andria Crescioni handmakes her leather jewelry line under her last name. Up narrow stone stairs surrounded by wild flowers and right past her lily pond, the balcony overlooks neighboring mountains and valleys, accompanied by the soothing sound of wind and occasional chicken cackles. She finds inspiration in nature around her and allows her intensive education from a diverse group of master craftsmen to guide her brand's motto. Teachers from Parsons, Peruvian leatherworker colleagues, and her father and long-time collaborator have helped set the foundation for Crescioni's endless possibilities. As she gets ready to launch her second collection (Fall 2014), Andria Crescioni is happy to be back in her hometown Los Angeles.
Hi Andria, you live in a dreamy place!
Thanks! I guess it wasn't hard finding it...
I know this area well, but your property is a true hidden gem! It makes sense that your line is made here though. It breathes nature, craftsmanship and a chill lifestyle… Having studied in busy Manhattan, why did you start a line with such ancient feel?
While studying at Parsons I became interested in traditional craft and ways of modernizing it. I was doing batik dyeing on silks and trying to figure out a method that would work for me. I was doing hand weaving with leather also, which was really interesting. I realized I really enjoyed the process of handcrafting goods and learning through trial and error.
Do you keep any of those early pieces?
I do, they're at my parent's house actually.
Nice. So you obviously have a strong connection with California as your home. How was being in New York City for your 4 years of school?
I got to work with people in the fashion industry that otherwise I wouldn’t have met. One of my teachers taught zero waste pattern making and told us about the Awamaki Lab Project. I thought that would be something really interesting to do after school, so I applied and did this designer's residency in Peru that promoted traditional weaving in the Sacred Valley. I started working there in the fall of 2011 doing mainly design development and production.
So recent then, you started your line so fast after moving back home.
Yes! I was experimenting with leather jewelry and handwoven fabrics while in Peru.
You describe Crescioni as an "accessories line rooted in traditional crafts and culture". Which specific crafts and cultures are you referring to? Does it all come from your time in Peru?
It's inspired by Peruvian techniques, because while I was down there I learned a lot of leather working, which is what I am doing now. Then also I am really interested in African handmade talisman pieces and things like that. So it's a mixture of different things.
But in Parsons you majored in apparel design, right? How did you get into jewelry?
Well, in my senior year at Parsons I apprenticed with accessories designer Jason Ross. We were making samples and doing production for Donna Karan and Urban Zen at the time. I got really interested in what he was doing and that inspired me in terms of design. I learned the process of making leather goods at his studio, everything from cutting and dyeing to hand stitching, working with leather, mallets, and hammers.It allowed me to express myself in a more primitive, immediate way. Something that apparel design did not.
Wow, I see such great master figures around you! What about the brass you use? I know your dad helps you with that, did you learn from him, or is he doing all of that himself?
We kind of learned together actually. He is like a craftsman in his own right and I grew up always making things with him. He helped me create the jewelry element of my thesis at Parsons. I would send him drawings and little patterns, and since he was in LA and I was in NY, we would spend the majority of our partnership chatting on the phone. It was very effortless, we really enjoyed working together. So when I moved back here to LA, which was almost 2 years ago, and knew I wanted to start a leather goods line, I knew it would be a good opportunity to collaborate with him, so we both sort of started experimenting with the brass pieces.
That's so sweet!
It's really fun. He lives in the Valley, so I go there one to two times a week when I'm doing production.
What's his name?
Carlos. My dad's last name, Crescioni, is Italian, but he is Puerto Rican. It's an ancestral name from Corsica.
What about your first name, Andria. I had never seen it before spelled with an i.
Oh, really? It's the same, my mom just wanted to spell it different.
So special! It seems like you're back home to stay.
I think so! What I do will always be rooted in the West, California and the feeling I have being out here.
After moving to such different places, it's so nice that you still have a soft spot for home.
I grew up in the Valley and then I moved to New York to get my BFA, so I was there for four years and right after I graduated I went to Peru assuming that I would go back to New York and get a job in design after…but something about being there really changed my perspective on how I wanted to live my life. You know, I was living in Ollantaytambo, a really rural town, super super tiny. It was beautiful. The lifestyle there is so different from New York, you can take long lunches, go hiking, it was such a closed knit community that it made me realize that I was a little bit more inspired in that atmosphere as opposed to being in the city where there's so much chaos and it's hard to center yourself.
What was further away from home, New York or Peru?
I think the lifestyle I had in Peru was similar to the one I have in Los Angeles. Obviously it’s simpler there, but we would wake up, hike, go to work, walk home for lunch and eat outside - I try to do those same things here. So I just decided to go back to LA and try to do what I really want to do here, I just feel more comfortable and more inspired.
You have two collections out so far, do you work on seasons?
Yes, I am in the midst of production for Fall 14 but already thinking of inspiration for the following season.
Oh yes, your Fall cookbook is already up on your website. It's gorgeous, so much texture!
Thank you! That's one of my favorite aspects of working on the line… creating a mood through photography, styling, and graphic design - all the supplementary things you can do.
Like the story around each collection?
Yeah, the storytelling. I love figuring out where to shoot next. I collaborate with photographer Andrew Lee on all the lookbooks. We went to Red Rock Canyon in the Mojave Desert to shoot this last collection and I got inspiration for my next one.
So you take your inspiration from the places that you go to, basically nature.
It's mostly a feeling when I go somewhere. And I also look at vintage saddle making, industrial design books like Carl Auböck, and Georgia O'keeffe at Ghost Ranch. It's just a combination of all the things I find interesting, whether it's the history of it, the techniques, or its visual aesthetic. So I guess it's a combination of modern art, nature, and traditional craft.
Carl Auböck's book “The Workshop” is breathtaking.
Yes! I went to Mondo Cane in NYC and saw a large collection of his pieces. It's really cool, the scale, and to hold them!
Well, the weight! There's this store here in LA, Object, that has a few things from him too… it's so nice, it feels like such a thing.
Going back to your line… we have talked about how much your time in Peru has influenced you, and learning zero waste pattern making. But what does it mean for you to design ethically?
The Awamaki Art Project in Peru made me explore different ideas of sustainable design and what that means to me. I really want to make sure that there's an ethical practice on what I do. For now, I think it's more about doing what's true to myself, simplifying in terms of lifestyle, materials, and in general. I work with the same type of leather in all of my pieces, I keep my scraps and try to repurpose them. Also making things locally.
Is there a specific direction you want to take the line towards, like expanding onto other accessories? What are your plans?
I was trained in apparel design, so I think I will always have the interest of expanding into clothing. But right now I only want to explore the idea of taking this jewelry line further and expanding my range of accessories. Now I'm working on bolder pieces, but next season I want to work on what does it mean for me to do an earring, maybe making simpler versions of these pieces for customers that are interested in the mood and vision of the line, but don't necessarily want to wear such a bold statement piece.
It's a commitment, for sure!
Totally, so I'd like to make little renditions of what I have done in the two first collections. And I also have a few clutch designs for the near future.
I see you're wearing Kathleen Whittaker studs.
I love her jewelry!
Do you feel connected to this artistic community happening in the Silverlake/Echo Park/Downtown area of LA?
I do, it's really inspiring to meet women that are truly passionate about their work.