By Rebecca Luongo
Crossing busy Newbury Street, I come across a store that has managed to succeed despite the intense competition. The line stretches almost to the door as people are buzzing around inside, excitedly picking out charms and pendants to hand on their custom bracelets. Alex and Ani has beat the odds and become immensely successful, especially among the college crowd. The eco-friendly company is known for their expandable, customizable charm bracelets that are perfectly stackable and admittedly, insanely addictive. There is a charm for just about every occasion, sports team, hobby or interest imaginable, and because the bracelets are expandable, they fit almost any wrist. The versatile jewelry appeals to more than just the college crowd and has been seen on everyone from Bethany Frankel to the Queen B herself, Ms. Beyoncé Knowles.
Alex and Ani has seen unprecedented growth under the leadership of founder, CEO, and creative director Carolyn Rafaelian. Together with her team, she has managed to create a product that stands out in a virtual sea of jewelry and keepsake items while maintaining the original integrity of her vision for her company. When asked about what lead to the astronomical ascent of her beloved company, Carolyn’s answer was simple: “Because it’s genuine, it was created out of love. A mother’s love for her children – there’s nothing greater. By creating Alex and Ani I gave them an authentic example of how important one life lived from the heart can be.” That same passion and vital force can be felt throughout the company and extends all the way out to the customers wearing her jewelry.
It is Carolyn’s personal touch that makes the jewelry she designs and sells so appealing to such a wide audience, and it should come as no surprise given her early life. The name Alex and Ani is inspired by her two beautiful daughters, you guessed it, Alex and Ani. As a child she often spent time with her father Ralph Rafaelian at their family jewelry factory, Cinerama, in Cranston, Rhode Island. It was there that she got her first taste of the very hands-on business of jewelry making and design. Her early experiences working in her father’s factory are woven into the carefully crafted pieces she produces today. “The vintage components that my father collected in the factory can still be found in our pieces. From rare chains to uniquely cut beads, these materials are real treasures,” Carolyn explains, “My father also instilled in me the importance of working in integrity, making decisions mindfully with the wellbeing of our world and our customers in mind. This legacy lives on in Alex and Ani.”
That legacy lives on in more than just work ethic, as Alex and Ani proudly hails from Cranston, Rhode Island and maintains its headquarters there. The eco-friendly company uses recycled materials from local manufacturers in their pieces. Partnering with New England royalty like the Boston Bruins, Alex and Ani is proudly made in the United States and contributes heartily to the local economy. Though a beautiful city in its own right, Cranston is not the first city that comes to mind when you think of Jewelry powerhouse, but Carolyn counters, “Rhode Island is my roots; it’s my foundation. I find a lot of my inspiration here, especially in Jamestown, RI. Spending time there allows me to open my mind and take in all the inspiration that surrounds me. It’s my soul’s spiritual place and I always feel inspired and liberated when I’m there.”
Since it’s inception in 2004, Alex and Ani has seen incredible growth and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. In fact, the company has grown into a multimillion-dollar organization and continues to increase its physical presence by opening up new retail stores all over the country. But don’t expect Carolyn to place any expectations on where she will go from here. She prefers to keep the company’s future open ended and open hearted. “There’s no ultimate goal for Alex and Ani. Just like life, there is no end result; every day we are mastering the day before.”
Carolyn Rafaelian and her team aim to spread the positive energy of the brand to anyone who wears Alex and Ani jewelry. Even with the stratospheric popularity of her company, she still finds time to give a few pieces of friendly advice to young entrepreneurs looking up to her. Ms. Rafaelian tells me, “The first bit of advice I have is to make sure that your heart and your mind are operating together. You can’t be all passion without knowledge or all knowledge without passion. It just doesn’t work. So when passion and knowledge are meeting in the middle, you’re ready to move forward. When you’re that strong, with those two things in contact, listen to your inner voice. Be careful; don’t take on other people’s bad advice. Always remember to keep your unique vision, that’s the most important part.”
Keep an eye on Alex and Ani, because they are poised to have even more success this year. You can shop them online at www.alexandani.com or visit one of their perfectly curated retail locations in New England, including 115 Newbury Street in Boston, 260 Patriot Place in Foxboro, and 1 Abbot Street in Wellesley.†