Gretel Going's Good Fortune - In Conversation With The Designer Behind Fortune & Frame
"I think the idea of positivity being a constant struggle often comes out in the Fortune & Frame line," Gretel Going of Fortune & Frame shared with us below, "Our fortunes specifically speak to happiness as something you work hard for, not something that you’re just born with." While we're inclined to agree, trust us when we say it was good fortune (and perhaps a little good luck) that led us to the powerhouse that is Gretel Going of Fortune & Frame.
Her story is one of passion, purpose, and patience. As a self taught designer, Gretel's path hasn't been the most conventional, though that hasn't stopped her from cultivating a truly special approach to jewelry design. With multiple collections under the Fortune & Frame umbrella (they include F+F Signature, On The Mend, Traps, and FfGg), the line's ethos is attributed to accessibility - which extends to both design and brand values. Gretel herself, even writes all of the fortunes with the hope of emphasizing what she mentioned above, "happiness as something you work hard for, not something that you’re just born with."
As far as the pieces themselves are concerned, each style is thoughtfully made in New York City with careful attention to quality at every stage of the process. Her collections are built around a certain narrative that often dictates the aesthetic of each piece. Gretel's meticulous (and truly admirable) attention to detail is undoubtedly present in her collections so far, and in a sense, helps to tell a unique story that the wearer can carry with them. With this, Gretel's upcoming design plans include building upon her signature line and introducing new sets for her customers to mix and match seamlessly - without being too uniform of course.
With all that's happening within the Fortune & Frame studio we were honored to visit Gretel at work to talk more about what she's got planned for the year, the evolution of the Fortune & Frame woman, and what she's assembling daily in every aspect of her growing business. Check out the full conversation with the inspiring jewelry designer below, and head over to The Style Line for an exclusive second part of this interview.
Please introduce yourself!
I work so much that sometimes I don’t think there’s much of me that’s not Fortune & Frame. Well, that’s not true. I’m always working on something.
I just made a chandelier out of a big tree branch I found in Central Park. My mom’s mom taught me to sew so I made some curtains before that. My dad’s mom taught me how to cook so I’m constantly trying out new vegetarian dishes. I just reupholstered some 1920s chairs I found outside on the sidewalk, I’m working on some shelves for my dining room, and I sometimes write Shouts & Murmurs articles for the New Yorker and don’t submit them. It never really stops…
My friends think I’m ultra-domestic, which is probably true, but I think it’s more likely that I’m just a total homebody. I also love to travel and am endlessly curious about the world and people, although my biggest indulgence is being alone. I think of myself as an extroverted introvert—someone who likes meeting and talking to new people, but who gets energy and ideas while by myself.
What role do people play in Fortune & Frame and in your mind who is the Fortune & Frame woman?
I think people and their reactions play a huge role in the line. Before I launched the line two years ago, I realized that I hadn’t gotten anybody’s opinion on it and suddenly had an “oh, shit” moment thinking that it is very possible that no one would like it. So now, every time I hear somebody say they like the pieces or compliment the line in any way, it still calms the me from two years ago who was so scared to share my line with the world.
There are so many different Fortune & Frame women. There is the ultra-independent, self-made woman. There’s the working super hard to make a life for herself woman. There’s the woman who’s working through some life crisis and needs to be comforted by knowing that people have been where she is before (and lived to tell about it). There’s the woman looking for meaning. And there’s also just the gentle woman who loves pretty and sentimental things. Those aren’t official buyer personas, but they are the women who tend to gravitate toward our pieces.
Walk through F+F Signature and On The Mend. How did these particular themes come about and which resonate with you the most?
The original fortune-holding pieces inspired every piece in F+F Signature, which I like to say is “Fortune & Frame in its purest form.” That collection includes all fortune cookie pieces, two classic fortune-holding lockets and a fortune-holding frame. The very subtle underlying theme of this collection is the idea of setting out to do something, working really hard to do it, and achieving a final outcome that is a reflection of everything you did in pursuit of it.
I designed the On the Mend collection at the same time as F+F Signature, and it followed a very different path. The two-year period of my life that I worked on these two collections was characterized by the unlearning of a lot of the things (or habits) that I’d picked up earlier in my life. They were no longer serving me and I wanted something different from my life than what my current path was showing me. Once I had the realization that I could choose to be who I wanted to be, and that I didn’t have to keep doing things the way I’d always done them, I embarked on a journey to essentially “break myself down and build myself back up again” into the person who I wanted to be, rather than the person who I had just kind of passively become. That is the theme of the On the Mend collection, which is far more pronounced than that of F+F Signature.
As summer draws nearer, do you have any design-related resolutions for the year ahead?
I’m going to be introducing more “sets” within each collection. So, for instance, every fortune locket will be complemented by earrings, bracelets, and/or rings with similar design elements—although I don’t want them to look too matchy-matchy. I actually introduced this idea of sets in my most recent collection, Traps, which came out in February.
I’m also determined to grow our more mainstream collection, FfGg, which launched at Anthropologie and online this March. It’s a line of fortune lockets that are more playful and still gorgeous, but don’t break the bank. Our other pieces are fairly costly to produce so what is a fun idea (the fortune locket), hasn’t always come at a knee-jerk price for our customers. Ideally the FfGg lockets get out there as everyday pieces that the every-woman can afford, and the other collections allow us to be more experimental, creative and editorial.
We love Fortune & Frame’s premise for positivity - after all, good fortune and fashion are two things everyone needs! With this in mind, we like to keep things fun here at Brand Assembly. So tell us, from the design process to the day-to-day tasks, how do you keep things fun and inspired as the brand continues to grow?
Positivity isn’t something that comes super naturally to me; it’s something that I’ve worked really hard to achieve. It now feels natural to look at situations that have two potential explanations, and to gravitate toward the more positive of the two. I think the idea of positivity being a constant struggle often comes out in the Fortune & Frame line. Our fortunes specifically speak to happiness as something you work hard for, not something that you’re just born with it.
Our brand of fun is more so not taking anything super seriously, although we’re endlessly serious about what we do. Fun is having the freedom to do whatever we want without people telling us what to do. It’s about being able to say no when something’s not right, and yes, when it most definitely is. The type of people who have been attracted to working with us so far are self-driven and feel rewarded when they do great work and take ownership of something. With those parameters in mind—and knowing that we’ve all chosen to do what we’re doing—every little task is fun and fulfilling, and contributes to the bigger picture.
Personally what has been one of the most fun aspects of running the brand for you to date?
It is really crazy to see something that had never before existed kick and scream its way into reality and develop a life of its own. I’m also still constantly taken aback when new people approach me (like you guys!) and are interested in hearing more of the story. It’s all just so fun and interesting to watch unfold.
Many contemporary fashion designers that we’ve spoken with have alluded to the fact that they’ve got their hands in every aspect of their business. So from PR to social media, what other areas of your business have you developed a passion for? Have these discoveries led to any new inspirations for the brand’s story?
It’s actually my dream to not handle a lot of the day-to-day business of the line. Ideally, I’d just handle the things I’m good at, which are designing the collections, writing the fortunes (and anything copy-related), and being the person who maintains the integrity and “soul” of the brand. I’d then leave the rest to people who are really good at doing everything that I’m not great at. All of that said, I do think it’s wise to have your hands in every single aspect of your business upfront. There’s no better way to understand the details that make it run, so that when you do pass those things on later, you’re more informed and can better identify the people who are going to be able to help you do them right.
What do you assemble daily?
I’m always trying to do something original and never want to hit a point where my designs feel like something that’s “been done.” I want for each collection to have a very strong personality that stands on its own, but is also recognizable as part of the larger Fortune & Frame family.
I’m also always looking for my pieces to say something—usually they know what they want to say before I do, so that ends up taking care of itself.