By Emerson Patrick | November 4, 2015 | Watches & Jewelry
Fine-jewelry designer Baylee Zwart wants to save the ocean and its creatures, one piece of liquid gold at a time.
Let there be light! Designer Baylee Zwart donates a good portion of the proceeds of Azlee’s oh-so-delicate Light Collection, featuring the Light Rod necklace and ring, as well as the Burst rings and earrings, to the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito.
What’s better than a stunningly modern, geometric, 18k-gold and diamond collar? One that helps feed California’s embattled ocean mammals. That’s what to expect from Azlee, the new fine-jewelry label from O.C. native and Venice resident Baylee Zwart. With every purchase, Azlee (an amalgam of letters from Zwart’s first and last names) gifts 10 pounds of food to Sausalito’s Marine Mammal Center. Since launching early this year, the simultaneously minimalist and dramatic ear jackets, stackable rings, and chokers have been snapped up by Zoë Kravitz, Rihanna, and WeHo’s Roseark boutique.
Prior to embarking on her passion project, Zwart headed sustainability in product design at Toms, where she worked on a high-end collection, collaborations, and on improving the shoe brand’s ecofootprint. “[Launching Azlee] was this awesome fusion of all the things I had loved thus far,” she says. “To see [charitable giving] implemented so well in a for-profit business like Toms made it seem feasible. I gained a lot of clarity on how to do that.”
But the origins of Azlee actually began years ago, when Zwart moved to Guatemala after college to work for a nonprofit (she says her alma mater, Santa Clara University, opened her eyes to philanthropy, sustainability, and social justice). Zwart brought along druzy quartz she’d bought in Morocco to Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, wanting to have a ring made. Instead, unexpectedly, she made it herself after learning — and falling in love with—metalworking. “I felt so creatively inspired,” she recalls of sketching jewelry designs during her long boat rides each morning and evening. “I was surrounded by volcanoes, and the constant triangles [in nature] were a huge influence.” Indeed, triangle motifs run through her wiry debut collection, Light, in bursts.
Next up: 2016’s Electric collection (which will benefit a different California-based, ocean-related charity), some pieces from which are now available. “I like having one main concept,” the avid surfer and diver says of the line’s spark, circuit, flash, and electricity motifs — all in gold and princesscut diamonds, of course. From her personal style to her designs, Zwart holds true to her vision: “minimalist, clean, sleek, and worldly — influenced by a bigger world perspective.” After all, the designer says, “I had always thought I didn’t want to just do fashion. I want to have more of an impact than that. Helping animals, especially via ocean-related causes, is a need I want to meet. I’m passionate about both, so why not simultaneously do them?” She clearly has all the wires in place.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY KARLA TICAS