Meet Lisette Ffolkes: The Woman Behind Caribbean Inspired Jewelry Line Jam+Rico
A doer, who dreams of a world full of excitement and color, Lisette Ffolkes, a New York based jewelry designer, born to a Jamaican father and Puerto Rican mother, started creative endeavors at age 14. She is the woman behind Jam + Rico, an exquisite line taking its inspiration from the Caribbean heritage with the ultimate vision to combine her love for travel and culture to create timeless yet bold pieces, all while paying homage to the women who have inspired her along the way. Lisette earned a B.A. in Apparel Design at the University of Delaware, where she started exploring a process based on innovation through color, textile, and texture.
Fatima: Please tell us about your background.
Lisette: I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and always had a creative and adventurous spirit. As an only child, arts and crafts were a way to occupy myself growing up. My mom also played a huge role in nurturing my creativity. She gave me all the things I needed, but not necessarily all the things that I wanted, like jewelry. My mom was raised having to create what she wanted. Whenever she would go out to the disco, my grandmother would buy her fabrics and she would have to make her outfits. There was always a sewing machine around, so it felt natural for me to start creating at an early age.
Fatima: What made you start a career as a jewelry designer?
Lisette: A desire of mine has always been to create a business where I can explore my creative ideas, and express my aesthetic through fashion and jewelry design. After a few years in corporate fashion, I felt it was time to begin pursuing my own entrepreneur endeavors in an effort to build a sustainable brand, and position it for long-term success. The women entrepreneurs and business owners I have worked for in the past are whom I draw inspiration from. I admire their business acumen, creativity, and accomplishments. I continue to work hard to create the same for myself.
Fatima: What does Jam + Rico stand for?
Lisette: I wanted the name and brand to connect with me as much as possible. Jam + Rico is a tribute to my Jamaican and Puerto Rican heritage. The plus sign represents all of the other cultural identities that are a part of me. I have always been inspired by my heritage, and wanted to create a line that payed homage to the Caribbean culture.
Lisette Fflokes (left)
Fatima: Why was it so important to create a jewelry line with those influences?
Lisette: It was important for me, as it is a part of who I am. Growing up with Caribbean immigrant grandparents in America, it was always important for me to connect with the history of where my family came from.
Fatima: What do you think is the place of the Caribbean culture in the United States?
Lisette: Growing up in Brooklyn, there was always a strong Caribbean community present. From restaurants, music, festivals, parades and art, I was always surrounded by the influence of the islands. I was lucky to have grown up in Brooklyn, and know that most of the U.S. does not have such a strong community. I believe when a community is strong enough, the people influence their neighborhood to impact everyone with the traditions of their homeland.
Fatima: What has been your experience in the U.S. as a woman of a minority descent?
Lisette: As a woman of minority decent, I would describe my experience in the U.S. as challenging, but nevertheless rewarding with many opportunities. My corporate experience has been in fashion for the past 7 years, and with an industry mainly composed of women, one would think it has been fair. However, I have found that the industry is mostly dominated by men in managerial roles. From a business perspective, I have been surrounded by tons of support, as many programs cater to women of minority decent. I have also collaborated with woman business owners, who have provided guidance and support. Thankfully, I created a strong network, who look out for minority female business owners.
Fatima: Can you give us the characteristics of the woman you envision wearing your pieces?
Lisette: A strong, beautiful, and powerful independent woman, unafraid to enter the room, be noticed, and take charge.
Fatima: Which ones from your current collection are your favorites, and why?
Lisette: Our current line is inspired by our recent trip to Jamaica. The countryside is so lush and full of plant life that I wanted to create a leaf earring to represent the trees of the island. We created statement earrings and the smaller version.
Fatima: Going back to your journey as a designer, what has been the most challenging aspect?
Lisette: The fashion industry is always changing and as a designer, you have to be on top of the trends, development calendars, and compete with fast fashion. In a demanding industry, consumers always want something new, and fast fashion has taken over. Our goal is to provide well made timeless pieces that will outlive trends, and last longer than poorly made fast fashion.
Fatima: And, the best parts?
Lisette: I really enjoy the process of it all; from collecting inspiration and collaborating with passionate artists and far-reaching creatives, to meeting new people like my beautiful customers and being a part of pop-ups, all in an effort to advance my company’s brand and name. These are the most rewarding part of being a business owner. It’s all so very much enjoyable! I don’t even notice how hard I am working, because of the fulfillment I find in the process of being able to create and further that which I imagine.
Fatima: Has your family been supportive?
Lisette: My family has been the backbone of my business. They have supported me every step of the way; by attending events, helping sell at shows, and providing advice. They will always be there to give an honest opinion and keep me grounded. If I ever need to lean on them, they will be there without skipping a beat.
Fatima: What advice would you give someone craving a creative career?
Lisette: I believe the most important idea of this whole entrepreneurial route is being absolutely passionate about the process. You truly have to enjoy what you are doing more than the rewards that may follow. Becoming lost in the process and being passionate about the necessary steps that must be taken to get to the finish line is what sustains us entrepreneurs. I use to wonder how runners can run for hours in marathons, I can hardly run for 2 miles lol. Well, it’s not just their training and practice that helps them reach the finish line, it’s their passion for running! They just love to run! Being an entrepreneur is the same, you have to have a love for the process necessary to get you to the finish line.
Photo courtesy of Jam + Rico