Name: Joseph Knight
Job: Chief Designer & More Daddy Maverick Big Love at Knight&Hammer
ProFASHIONal: Joseph Knight – in black
Reality Chic – in pink
How did you become interested in designing? Have you always loved it?
My love affair with jewelry began in my grandmother’s jewelry boxes. My grandmother, Ida Katherina Hammer, affectionately called Oma, turned her master bedroom into a walk-in jewelry box. This room ignited my imagination and fueled my appreciation for magnificent baubles. The walls were filled with framed vitrines of vintage brooches while jewelry boxes of necklaces, rings and gem bracelets were scattered over every available surface of the room. As a child, I spent hours finding hidden treasures.
Oma designed beaded evening handbag and accessories. Her studio overflowed with Maxwell House coffee cans brimming with gold plated charms and rhinestones that my young mind thought were diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires. I spent each Saturday of my childhood with this magnificent woman. Saturday would start with my father dropping me off at her apartment at 7AM. Oma and her friends, sporting Chanel suits, would be waiting for me in their garden courtyard with a breakfast of thin German pancakes filled with fresh jams and fat crystals of sugar. I’d sip hot coco while they drank strong black aromatic coffee. During their conversation these elegant woman of German Catholic and German Jewish heritage would commission me to create jewelry for them. In those days I took payment in kisses and European chocolates. Unfortunately, I don’t do that today. My early creations consisted of Oma’s rhinestones glued to paper which they tape on to those Chanel suits like Important Jewelry purchased from Cartier, Winston’s or Tiffany.
Take us back to the beginning. What was your first job in the industry and was it difficult to land?
At the age of 11, I had the largest paper route for the Bergen Record. On my paper route there was a jewelry store run by Dottie Morton, an elegant woman always draped in long strands of pearls, gold chains & diamonds. I always made her store my last stop so I could spend time learning about gems & jewelry. She was very generous with her time and nurtured my talents. I always knew what I wanted to do & never had a problem getting the job I wanted. Furthermore, I never thought I couldn’t do something. People often say, “Oh wait you’re too young.” I’d just walk in and act like I owned the place.
If you could list the main steps you took to get where you are today, what would they be?
PERSERVERANCE, PERSERVERANCE, PERSERVERENCE! I really love & believe in myself – in a good way – Love yourself & you can get through anything. BELIEVE & you will achieve! I know it sounds corny but it is true. People are attracted to people that are humble & confident & want to have what you are offering.
Take us through the creation of a piece of clothing or an accessory.
I’ve just created a new necklace ‘Warrior Lover.’ It is a dog tag style charm with the word LOVE spelled out with weapons – gun, grenade, switchblade & rifle. This bit of warrior chic was inspired by my SuperMuse & BodyRock Sport founder Kelly Dooley. Kelly sent me a picture of the word LOVE spelled out with weapons. It made me crazy, possessed even. I had to make this a piece of jewelry. I envisioned the women warrior princess that would wear it. Of course she’d wear a dog tag style charm on a black matte enameled steel link chain. It is now in production. I am often inspired by images & history and I always design with a muse in mind. Sometimes she is a real person, or a character from history or literature. But it is these women that inspire me to create adornments, talisman & love tokens for them.
At what point did you decide to give back a portion of the proceeds to charity?
Always! From a very young age Oma always said, “You’re blessed, to continue receiving those blessings give back.” I want what I create to be more than an accessory, I want it to in some small way change the world making it a better place.
Could you tell Reality Chic readers the skills they should build or work on to one day become a designer?
Once again I turn to my sage Oma. “You’re not a designer until someone outside your family buys what you are designing.” Lots of people like to think they are designers but the proof is in the sales. If what you are designing isn’t selling, change careers.
What advice can you give to a 20 something that you wish you would have known when starting out?
Save 10% of everything you earn for a rainy day.
Do you have a typical day? What’s it like?
I don’t have typical days. That’s the best part of being your own boss. Everyday is a blessing to be alive and an adventure.
What would be your best advice today for someone who wants to get a foot in the fashion industry’s door with the long-term goal of being a designer?
Find the designer you admire and appreciate. Go work for them, learn everything you can for a year or two and the entire time hone your own skills so by year 3 you can go on your own.
In your opinion, what’s the best part about being a designer and the worst part?
The best part is I can work until 3am and get up at noon or not sleep at all or sleep all day. Also being able to have the flexibility to be there for friends and family when they need you. The worst part is money management but a good financial planner can really help ease those pains.
Do you believe fashion school is necessary or are there other options for those who went to a typical four-year college?
Not at all. I was a poli-sci art history major in college.
If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
Last but not least, is there any new projects you’re currently working on that you’d like to share?
My childhood Army men spent countless hours protecting my sisters’ Barbies & my Smurf village. So now I’ve recreated them cast in bronze covered in precious metals to protect today’s modern warrior princesses! And while they protect her a portion of the proceeds from this collection benefits the Military Order of the Purple Heart. I am also launching a KickStarter program to raise funds to create inventory of the Army Men collection.
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