Few people know exactly what they want to do with their lives at the tender age of 17. Fewer still follow that dream for almost four decades, eventually building an empire. But Steven Lagos isn’t a typical kind of guy. Affable and earnest, Lagos exudes the intelligence of a mogul but the sensitivity of an artist: two traits crucial to his success in the competitive world of jewelry.
Lagos has won awards and a fiercely loyal, global following for pieces like his instantly recognizable Caviar designs made up of tiny orbs of gold and sterling silver. Houstonia caught up with the designer at Neiman Marcus last week where he presented his newest collection plus several one-of-a-kind pieces to a bevy of adoring fans.
“I always had a passion for art and design,” explains Lagos, his eyes sparkling with enthusiasm, “I started making jewelry in high school and I liked the way people responded to it. It’s tangible. People treasure it.” Realizing he could bundle his favorite creative outlet with an actual way to make a living, Lagos launched his eponymous line at the age of 20 in 1977.
Thirty-eight years later, Lagos stepped down as CEO of the company this February to assume the role of Creative Director. He is embracing getting back to designing full-time while also traveling nonstop for inspiration. He is especially keen on how technology has changed his company and the industry, in general.
“We used to introduce 30 new pieces per season, which happened twice annually.” Lagos offers, “Now we’re doing 300 per year, which would have been just impossible back in the 70s and 80s. It’s absolutely amazing.”
Indeed, myriad monumental shifts in the business, from the Internet and social media to CAD designing and 3D printing, have all changed how Lagos operates. Sketches inspired by travel used to be drawn on paper and faxed to company headquarters; they’re now jotted down in Lagos’ phone and easily emailed to staff for development. One quick peak at his electronic drawings showed dozens of design ideas just waiting to come to fruition.
The way jewelry is purchased has changed a lot, too. “When I started in this business, men way more frequently bought jewelry for the women in their lives. The gentlemen almost always made the purchase. That is definitely not true anymore!” laughs Lagos. “Ladies self-purchasing has been a quantum shift in the marketplace. Our ‘My Lagos My Way’ campaign synopsizes that spirit. We create items that are cherished. It’s very personal and we want women to be able to customize their look as much as possible.”
Connecting with customers has also become far more possible than the designer’s pre-internet days. Lagos explains, “We get to reach out directly by way of social media, which has presented another major shift in terms of marketing. It allows for a direct dialogue with our customers and we can control the message, which is also great.”
Indeed, in a cutthroat industry where missteps can bring down the mighty, this Philadelphia-based jewelry brand is a prime example of responsible growth and longevity that refuses to entertain trends. Says Lagos, with a knowing smile that must come from selling over 2 million pieces of jewelry in his career, “We do what we do and we do it well. We’re very focused on solidifying our brand while growing in a smart way. We don’t do trends. We do timeless.”