“Never be afraid to express yourself, enhance your infinite beauty by embracing your infinite individuality.” -Tatiana Ilia
“As a kid I always wanted to be a fashion designer because I loved to create. From a very early age, the arts really fascinated me, it felt like an arena where I truly belonged and was able to express myself freely, whether it was through painting, drawing, writing, or even just making clothes for my dolls,” says Tatiana. “Although I did not become a clothing designer, I am still heavily involved in fashion and creating through my jewelry and accessory line, so that does align with the purpose that I foresaw for myself from an early age.”
Tatiana Ilia is an eclectic Haitian American jewelry and accessory designer, artist, and creative curator from New York. I was introduced to Tatiana from our recent feature with Travis Weekes, as she was mentioned for being one of the 10 creatives that he #COSIGNS. Aside from her jewelry and accessory line, ilia by Tatiana Ilia, that she founded in October 2011, Tatiana collaborates with various creatives in the New York area. Some collectives she mentions that she works closely with are AV8TED, Driven Society, and WNDR WMN.
In addition to her work as a designer and creator, Tatiana also delves in philanthropy by working with several organizations to assist the many families residing in her native country of Haiti, especially those that are still living in harsh conditions after the devastating earthquake in 2010. Influence and giving back is a major role of entrepreneurship and we #COSIGN Tatiana not only for being a multifaceted creative and entrepreneur, but for identifying that helping others is just as important as helping yourself.
I spoke with Tatiana about her early beginnings of her business, dealing with success and adversity, as well as the legacy she plans to leave behind when it’s all done.
How did you get in the jewelry business?
I first sparked a true interest in jewelry during my later years of high school, and I established my jewelry and accessory line in October 2011 while I was in college studying media & communications, and American studies. From when I was in high school, I took part in various creative collectives and projects, especially an online magazine that my friends and I created; once that ended, I wanted to create something of my own that was close to my heart and truest passion. That’s how ilia by Tatiana Ilia was born. Through this time that I have been making jewelry, I have allowed my line to grow organically and make unique jewelry and accessories that are meant to uplift, empower, and inspire.
Tell us about the early beginnings of ilia by Tatiana Ilia.
ilia by Tatiana Ilia all started with the idea of me creating my own line and having the drive and passion to create. After I told myself that this is something that I really was going to do, I started experimenting with different jewelry making materials, and began making my first collection of costume jewelry. Most of the items that I created were hand assembled/hand beaded bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. I then tapped into my network and resources to coordinate photo-shoots, build my online shop, and do pop-up shop events. From that point on I have been continuing to make jewelry and extend my network to help put my pieces out there. Another thing that I had to do in between all of this is get my business paperwork in order. This included getting my IRS tax ID, Doing Business As certificate, New York State sales tax, and trademarking paperwork in order. This is something very important for all up-and-coming entrepreneurs and business owners to know about and look into.
How much of your time is spent on creating jewelry versus building your business?
For me balancing time has been a constant juggling act because I have so many things going on at once, but to be honest I couldn’t picture it any other way, because I want to do it all. When it comes to making jewelry and building my business, I want to say that it’s often split 50/50, so whenever I’m not doing my full time job as a tax consultant, I’m creating, whether it’s making jewelry or setting different things in place for the various business initiatives, projects, events, and photo-shoots that I work on.
What has been your proudest moment as an entrepreneur thus far?
I don’t think that I’ve reached my proudest moment as an entrepreneur yet, but some of the most memorable moments that I am proud of include when I showcased my jewelry and sat on two separate panel discussions with Senator Jack Martins and Senator Elaine Phillips, to speak to the youth in my neighborhood about my story and following their aspirations. This is especially important to me because I’ve came a long way from where I started and if I can inspire or empower someone based off of my story, that’s amazing! Also, whenever my team and I have successful events or shoots, I feel very proud because so much work goes into curating these moments and when I watch it all happening, I see the magic that is created through us coming together and inspiring each other and others.
As an entrepreneur what has been your darkest moment and how did you overcome it?
Generally in life we can experience some pretty dark moments, but through those moments I’ve learned to take the bad with the good, and this goes for being an entrepreneur as well. When you are an entrepreneur your business does not run efficiently, or at all, if you are not putting in 100% because everything relies on you; unlike if you work for a big corporation with many other team members to back you up. With that being said, some of my darkest moments were when I had a lot going on in my personal life from family to relationship issues, and I was losing that drive and determination to create or do anything at all. I often even questioned whether or not I should continue with my line and everything I was doing on a creative level and if it was really my purpose. I then overcame this through the universe showing me signs and surrounding me with people that believed in my art form, talents, and purpose. I would be lying if I said that even with that support, I don’t have moments of doubt, but I continuously try to overcome those dark moments by reminding myself to trust the process and the gifts that God has embodied in me, which helps me to realign myself with my purpose.
As an entrepreneur what are you most afraid of and why?
This is pretty hard to answer but I would say that as an entrepreneur I am most afraid of loss or taking an L. However, through this evolution process that I’ve been experiencing, I believe that everything happens for a reason, and there’s always a silver lining. So even if I do take a loss, I know that I have to learn from those experiences to turn those L’s into W’s and win.
What’s more important to you currency or legacy? And why?
Currency and legacy are both very important to me for different reasons, some obvious, but I would say that legacy is most important because I believe that those that leave behind a legacy also leave behind people that are impacted by the legacy of what they did. Money is important for obvious reasons, especially because we live in a capitalist society. If you don’t make money, you don’t eat, you can’t provide for yourself. However, legacy has no boundaries and when you inspire, help, and/or leave a positive impact on other people that is eternal; it can be passed down in so many ways.
Who do you #COSIGN?
Goldie Harris – @GoldieHarris
DioMara Delvalle – @Diomara_D
Dot Cromwell – @DotCromwell
Aala Marra – @AalaMarra
Lavan Wright – @LavanWright
Greg Cally – @GregCally
Tracy G – @ItsTracyG
MJ Songstress – @MJSongstress
Niqa Mor – @Niqa_Mor
Chill Moody – @ChillMoody