Story by Lia Aprile and Photography by Claudia Lucia
Amanda Thomas interned for me at Rachel Pally one summer, when she was 17 years old. At that point, she was already a year in to running her jewelry and accessories line, Luv AJ. I remember her tenacity and ambition. It was familiar—I also started Rachel Pally when I was quite young (though at 22 I was practically ancient compared to Amanda!) and I was inspired to see another girl with so much grit. I knew then that she was going to be unstoppable, and I was right.
Luv AJ is a premiere accessories brand, and Amanda is a force. We’ve been friends for nearly thirteen years now, and I’m still consistently inspired by her cool, on-trend designs, and her powerhouse work ethic.
- Rachel Pally
[Words and Story by Lia Aprile]
Rachel describes you as "The Queen of the Millennials." Do you think that's an accurate description?
That’s an amazing title. I think because I started Luv AJ in high school, before social media or the smart phone, I had to have a great sense of guerilla marketing from the beginning. Before Instagram and Pinterest. I had to do it all, in terms of promoting the brand and trying to grow it to its fullest potential.
Where do you think your smarts about that came from?
Both of my parents are entrepreneurs. My mom's always been extremely encouraging, and given me great ideas. When I first started creating jewelry I would do holiday trunk shows at my high school. I would try to sell jewelry to my classmates in between classes. I was just trying to get the brand out there as much as I could, through my peers, and the opportunities in my community.
In other interviews, you attribute your success to a combination of hard work and “right time right place” fortuitousness. But to me it sounds like you were really gutsy. Do you think that you're gutsy?
I think when I was younger I had nothing to lose. Luv AJ started out as my hobby, not my job. So, walking into stores and requesting buyer's meetings, cold emailing magazines and editors, it didn't seem scary to me because “no” was okay. I don't think I would have been that gutsy had I started Luv AJ at 25.
What do you remember from your time interning with Rachel Pally?
On my first day I got to drive downtown with Rachel to the warehouse, and I was asking her so many questions in the car about how she got started. She was so kind...she answered all of them. Which is rare, because often with internships you don’t even get face-time with the owner, let alone get to pepper them with questions!
There was one thing she said that really struck me. She told me that when she started her line, she wanted to be clothing designer but she didn't know how to sew. That really blew my mind. I said, "What do you mean?" And she said, " I have a vision and I'm a great designer, but I hire people and work with people that can execute my vision."
That was a light bulb moment for me. At that point I was hand-making all my jewelry, and I was scared because I really only knew how to wire wrap, which is a very simple technique. I had been thinking I might have to start taking jewelry-making classes! But after speaking to her I realized, no, I can go find a factory that can make my designs for me.
Do you think that having early success made you grow up any faster?
I've been running a business for a long time, but that didn't necessarily make me feel like an adult. Getting married, buying a house, having more personal and financial responsibility: that's what makes me feel like an adult.
I was reading some of the (many) articles that have been written about your personal style, in addition to your super-cool jewelry designs. Have you always had a sense of personal style?
My sister is 14 months older than me, and the two of us were always obsessed with fashion. We built this closet—we called it the "Narnia closet". We knocked out a wall in between my closet and her closet so it just became one big closet. I’ve always been into fashion. It's the way I express myself.
But as I've gotten older, I don't know if I'm lazy or just a creature of habit, but I’ve come up with a uniform and now that's really all that I wear.
Einstein did that. Obama does that. You’re in good company.
I've always been an accessories person at heart. I gravitate more towards shoes and bags and jewelry. I dress very simply. I love a great pair of leather pants, a great oversized cashmere sweater, and then I let my personality shine through with a dope pair of boots or a sick jacket or statement necklace. Though sometimes I'm just not feeling it, and for a month I just don't look cool.
What is the best thing in your closet right now?
I have a pretty insane shoe collection. And for a little while it collected dust, but now I'm getting back into them. I have a pair of Dalmatian-print, horsehair Alaïa four-inch high boots. It's a shoe that transcends time. I feel like they're going to be cool forever.
I also wear Rachel Pally almost every day. Her fabric is the most comfortable, flattering fabric ever. I think that’s what’s amazing about her line: it’s flattering, and you know it’s going to look good and feel good, no matter what.
What's your favorite thing in your fridge right now?
Our fridge looks like it belongs in a frat house! It’s all wine and Pellegrino. But the one thing that everyone makes fun of me about is I have a drawer dedicated to condiments from fast food restaurants. I have every Chipotle sauce, I have In-N-Out special sauce, and then a bunch of artisanal ranches from pizza places that I frequent.
Condiments are the accessories of food.
Absolutely. I believe food is a vehicle for sauce.