For jewelry designer Renée Kopec, the creative process is all about the journey—as in, she makes pieces from souvenirs she gathers traveling—so it makes sense that it took hopping between two different schools, University of Pennsylvania and FIT, to figure out what exactly she wanted to do. Explains Renée, “I’ve always liked clothing, but in fashion classes, they just tell you to draw something and then to make it, which didn’t really work for me.”
But all that higher learning was distilled down to the art of accessories when, back at UPenn, she took a class on folklore and adornment that peaked her interest in the craft: “I like that jewelry has a symbolic meaning to people and carries more of a memory than clothes. It’s timeless.” And speaking of personal symbolism, the impetus for her first Renée Frances collection in 2012 didn’t fall far from the tree—many of the wavy, lace-like brass and silver rings and pendants were molded from a pinecone she found in the backyard of her dad’s house in New Jersey. This straight-from-nature process is one she still relies on at home in Brooklyn. “I am kind of a scavenger at heart. I’ll go running, and I’ll pick up rocks or pieces of debris,” she says. And if her work was an end-of-term project, we’d give it an A++.