What do Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, actress turned author Jenny Mollen (wife of Jason Biggs) and French department store Colette founder Sarah Andelman all have in common? Apart from being famous mothers, and that they each embody female empowerment; they all wear the Canadian jewelry brand LITZI.
Source: Designers Lynda Guy & Alice Usiskin
Montrealers Lynda Guy and Alice Usiskin bonded during a jewelry-making class over a shared love of sports and motherhood.
As a creative experiment they turned their children’s molars into solid gold sweet tooth pendants. “Some people thought it was weird, but why should something so precious be stored at the back of a drawer?” Lynda asked me over coffee in Little Italy as we talked about their booming business.
“We started slowly. We focused on milestones around having children, telling our story; not only as mothers but as women. The power of female friendship was really important. We started with little initials and simple designs.”
The two women realized quickly that they worked well together. “Anytime one of us has an idea, it’s like improv and we say “Yes, and…”, so even if the idea might be terrible, it may spur another idea. Litzi was Alice’s grandmother’s name. Not only is it unique, but it honors our roots and the women in our family.”
A year later, while listening to the British rapper Little Simz, they were struck. The lyrics “Women can be kings” became the impetus for their first collection. “It became about being your own king. Whether you’re a stay at home mom or a CEO; if you have a path that you are super proud of, that’s empowering.”
Kings is a selection of crowns, dog tags (you can have engraved), and the handwritten word king in LITZI script. “We are both tomboys and we wanted the collection to be unisex. George St-Pierre helped us with one of our campaigns. When we launched it was really well received and we were featured in a lot of magazines.”
It was by asking “Which women inspire us?” that they decided to take a chance and reach out to Sophie Grégoire Trudeau’s stylist. They shared the LITZI story and asked if Sophie would wear their heart and pearl necklace. “She said ‘sure’ and responded well to our story which is in line with her values. She even wrote us a thank-you letter. We saw her later at C2 Montreal and she treated us like old friends. Alice is gutsy and approached her.”
Risk-taking is part of the LITZI success story. “I’d been following author and actress Jenny Mollen on Instagram. I knew her books. She is witty. She has a son the same age as mine, and after I would put Leo to bed, her Instagram stories were my escape. She’d be hilariously hiding in the bathroom after putting her son to bed, and I related. I reached out to her on Instagram and told her who we are and told her that we do custom name necklaces. I was really honest. I said that maybe we could design a necklace to honor her dog Teets who had recently passed away. She said yes! We made it for her and she gave me her address. I sent her a little package and she posted it as an Instagram story!”
“Jenny also wore our necklace on the ‘Rachel Ray Show’. We got a bunch of new followers and orders. She wore it a second time on Instagram and we got another 200 followers. She was a real boost. Now a lot of our orders are coming from the States. Some are for kid’s nicknames, or anything from PB&J, to Monster, or Squish.”
In the park one day, ex-professional basketball player Lynda received a phone call from an unknown number. “I was at a kid’s birthday party and I got a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. I decided to answer it anyway. It was Jenny! We had such a good chat about jewelry and a little brainstorming together. She’s the nicest person. I could hear her walking around New York, and she’s talking to me, and I was beside myself! I spoke to Alice about it, it was such a buzz! Then I got stung by a bee and that brought me back to reality. One afternoon we were working at the table and Jenny popped up on my screen for a FaceTime call! I had a dead plant in my background. Not stylish at all, but she is really generous and lovely. She is who she is on her Instagram. We chatted again about what she envisions and potentially doing a project together. If this works out it would be amazing and a major boost for us!”
Lynda also reached out to Sarah Andelman on Instagram. She offered to create a necklace with Sarah’s son’s name Woody in the LITZI script and Sarah accepted. Sarah then posted the necklace on her Instagram stories as a thank-you.
Asos influencer Ruddy Trobrillant also wears LITZI. “He’s a wacky awesome tattooed guy and is always the happiest. He goes to all the Paris Fashion Week shows and looks amazing in the jewelry.”
For the latest LITZI collection Ramona, Lynda and Alice are experimenting with more delicate designs. Ramona is inspired by Bob Dylan’s travels through Woodstock in the 60’s.
“Alice had visited with her mother. They retraced Bob Dylan’s path. They went to a café where he’d write lyrics and share them with the locals. He was trying to escape his fame, find his community, and collaborate with other artists. We loved the thought of artists working together and getting back to their roots. We created our own take on love and peace signs. The world needs that right now.”
They have also redesigned all the zodiac signs inspired by a large medallion from Lynda’s family. Using their history as inspiration is part of what makes LITZI jewelry so personal.
“We were looking through Bob Dylan’s lyrics and there is one song called Ramona that stood out. It’s about a woman who is rooted in who she is but wants to try new things. She has beautiful flaws. He talks about ‘your cracked country lips’ and we loved the idea that you are perfect in your own way. You have these flaws that make you wonderful and owning that and being proud of that appeals to us as immigrants tied to our own roots. Anyone can be Ramona. She is easy to relate to. She’s a little bit wild, and strong.”
LITZI jewelry is made out of solid gold or sterling silver depending on the design. Some can be made in rose gold or in gold vermeil on silver. Each piece begins with a drawing that is photographed and then imported into Illustrator. Once the image is cleaned up, it is imported into a program that 3D prints the mold. It is then produced here in Montreal and takes about two weeks from the time an order is placed through their website.
Visit the LITZI website here.
“I’m going to hustle and I’m going to make it happen. I’ve been putting it out in the world. We’re a small business and we spend our time at a kitchen table. We take chances on each other’s recommendations and we trust each other. We’re excited. If an idea doesn’t happen, it will lead us somewhere else.”