If Leo Sachs-Michaels, designer of up-and-coming jewelry brand Leo Black, had to name one reason as to why her jewelry line has made a spot for itself among the glittering, highly coveted shelves of Catbird, she’d credit it to fate. But truth be told, the reason the line has garnered the attention from publications like Nylon, InStyle, and Interview Magazine is because it’s unlike anything on the market today.
Inspired by the notion of jewelry and adornment as talismans, Leo Black is a deeply personal line. “The process of making [jewelry] is very spiritual, and whether it starts out with a sketch, or [with] meditating — it’s very thought out. It’s meant for the wearer to absorb that quality, and my voice [in jewelry design] is just creating pieces for women that they can connect with on an energetic level.”
Sachs-Michaels has always been an artist, but it wasn’t until she took a filler class in college that she realized her true passion was jewelry. Spanning three full collections — her untitled one of a kind pieces, The Primary Collection, and the newly released Seven Minutes in Heaven — the progression of her work is a testament to her journey as an artist. Inspired by the history of jewelry within Ethiopia, Egypt, and the native cultures of the American southwest, both her one-of-a-kind pieces and The Primary Collection explore the relationship between humanity’s connection to the earth by using a combination of bone, brass, animal hair, and precious stones. “[The line] has gotten smaller, more sleek, and the stones I use are more precious,” she explains. “Instead of braiding something, putting a skull on it, and trying to make sense of an idea, now I can actually have inspiration and make it into a small useable talisman that will last forever.”
Inspired by the ‘90s, Seven Minutes in Heaven delves into the idea of hanging on to childhood memories as a sort of talisman. “It’s that ‘90s inspiration of growing up. The things that were in my jewelry box, and the things that I adorned myself with then weren’t always animals, but they were things that gave you power in other ways,” says Sachs-Michaels. “It’s that weird nostalgia, but it’s a good feeling because I remember how amazing it felt to put that mood ring on. It’s just tapping into that very true part of yourself, that seven year old that’s like, ‘what feels good? What makes me happy?’” Grown up mood rings, Magic 8 Balls, and references to the Spice Girls can all be found within the shimmering confines of 14 karat gold rings, necklaces, and earrings, paying homage to those days of sleepovers and roller skating parties past.
As she looks to the future, Sachs-Michaels is focusing on the larger picture. “I want to do more wedding and engagement pieces. The inspiration is going to be my ancestors, and each piece is going to [represent] one of them — each piece will be a different woman.” Due out sometime late next year, the debut wedding and engagement collection from Leo Black aspires to be an updated version of your grandmother’s ring, the sentiment and history still there, but with a more refined, modern feel.
At just 26 years old, Sachs-Michaels has accomplished more in just a few short years than most designers hope to see in their entire lives. Her work is an abridged history of the art of jewelry making, drawing inspiration from all sorts of cultures, time periods, and schools of thought. She may attribute her success to fate, but for those of us that don’t subscribe to the ideology that our destiny is written in the stars, it’s easy to see that Sachs-Michaels got here on her own — though she may have followed those guiding lights on the way.