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If in 2008 you told Laura Lombardi, then a newly-minted Chicagoan, that a successful jewelry line was on the horizon, she probably would’ve laughed in your face. Even with a year’s experience in the craft under her belt, the plan was always to pursue fine art. “I started studying illustration at FIT and SVA when I was 13, and in college, I was doing all this drawing and sculpture,” the native New Yorker remembers. For undergrad, she moved up to Boston, where she landed a job working for a group of jewelry stores—and, surrounded by all the chains and crystals, started to incorporate those elements into her sculptures. That work became a gateway drug of sorts, and the art student soon turned to making jewelry full-time. But not until her subsequent move to Chicago did Laura decide to establish her namesake line of classically inspired vintage metal accessories.
And that visual arts training? It plays an important role in shaping her aesthetic. “I like to make things that are eye-catching and interesting, but at the same time, I don’t want them to be fussy,” the designer explains. “I was really into repetitive imagery—making big mandalas—and sculptural wall pieces that echoed things growing out of the ground, and I try to do that with the jewelry also. The way I see things is still the same.” The other inspiration comes from her Italian roots. Although she has plenty of love for the Windy City, Laura holds citizenship in Italy. “My dad’s side of the family is from there, and I grew up speaking the language,” she explains. “That side of me is very drawn to the classical aesthetic and dark aspect to Italian culture, and I’m very influenced by it.” —jiayi ying