It’s a golden opportunity that came straight out of the blue.
Nominees for the upcoming Emmy and Golden Globe awards will be walking the red carpet in handmade necklaces from Winnipeg company Jillian Leigh Jewelry, but exactly how the award show organizers discovered the local brand of gold adornments remains a mystery.
"We still don’t know how they found us, but we’re really glad they did," says co-founder and jeweler Velia Amador. "It means a lot to us to be able to participate in such a high profile event because it’s going to help us gain some international exposure."
"And if any of the celebrities loved our pieces and ordered something from us, I think I would die," says Jillian Sheedy, the business’s other half and a self-professed celebrity enthusiast. Before they were business partners, the women were co-workers at a corporate office. They started Jillian Leigh together in 2018 after Amador — who had been forging jewelry as a hobby for more than a decade — offered to make some custom bracelets for Sheedy’s wedding.
"We decided this might be a good partnership because we really enjoyed working together," says Amador, who makes the jewelry while Sheedy handles the designs, photography and marketing. "I don’t have any formal training, it’s all just self-taught... I’ve really upped my skill level and challenged myself to learn more so we can execute some of our collections."
Together, they specialize in delicate, minimal, gold-filled earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings and anklets.
"It has the same properties as solid gold; it’s just a bit more affordable," says Sheedy, who last year decided to focus on the venture and her photography career full-time.
The pair made a name for Jillian Leigh on the local craft-market circuit and have been working to boost their online sales amid the pandemic.
"We actually had an amazing year last year, considering," Amador says. "We were able to gain momentum through our website… and that momentum has continued throughout this year, with the added bonus that we can actually do markets again."
The award-show opportunities are expected to take things to the next level.
Amador, who still works 9 to 5, has been busy making 250 of the custom necklaces in her home studio.
Being able to source enough materials and components for their biggest order yet from other small independent businesses has been a challenge. The unisex design features a simple gold key on a long chain.
"They had the idea for the key and then we put our own Jillian Leigh spin on it," Sheedy says. "The pendant is an old-fashioned skeleton key that’s very on-brand for us and pretty modern-looking."
Nominees for the Emmys, which air Sept. 19, and Golden Globes, which take place next February, will be adorned with the chains before they walk into the award show venue.
"I’m so excited to see who is going to be wearing handmade pieces by us — it’s pretty crazy," Sheedy says. "I never would’ve thought this opportunity would come, especially for a couple of small-town local makers from Winnipeg."
"It’s really exciting to know that a little piece of us is out there in (Los Angeles)," Amador adds. "To be asked to make them is a pretty big privilege."
Both entrepreneurs say they will be tuning in to the film and television awards to see their jewelry in action.
Jillian Leigh will also be making a small run of the necklaces for local shoppers to purchase online at jillianleigh.ca. The brand can also be found at local retailers Mad About Style, Made Here For You and Style Bar.
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.