Photo credit: WILYMI Jewelry Co
Photo credit: WILYMI Jewelry Co

CULTURE

Behind the Brands of The Edit: WILYMI Jewelry Co

This summer, we’ve opened our doors of ‘the edit’, in the vibrant beachtown of Port Dalhousie. Our chic general store features a collection of Canadian brands, and here we take you behind the scenes to learn about the founders and their stories. Our pop-up, located at Lock and Main Marketplace (17 Lock Street), is open Thursday to Monday from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Meet Romina D’Ugo; Founder of WILYMI Jewelry Co.

Photo credit: WILYMI Jewelry Co

Photo credit: WILYMI Jewelry Co

Website: www.wilymi.ca and www.etsy.com/ca/shop/WILYMIjewelryCo

Instagram: @wilymijewelryco

Tell us a bit about yourself:

Always a seeker of understanding this wild, wonderful (and sometimes confusing) human experience, art was such a soother for me growing up.  I always appeared to the outside world as an extraverted performer.  From dancing on So You Think You Can Dance, to TV and Film acting (most recently a feature called “I Like Movies”, which had this very cool and explosive premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival), to choreographing for Margot Robbie and Cara Delevingne In the DC feature film Suicide Squad.  I seemed like such an outgoing spirit.  But these extraverted expressions of art have always been held and sustained by the quiet, soothing artisanal work of jewlery designing/making.  Oh!  And journaling/poetry/writing of any kind.  

The two really merged, the introspection of writing with the physical expression of this thoughtfulness in my jewelry creations.  

I approach life through the lens of art, allowing one discipline to inform and inspire the other.

Tell us the story behind your brand

Covid really struck an ominous chord in me, and simultaneously, I found myself completely out of work in my other artistic endeavours.   I was in a mental health dark spot.   It was rough.  Taking a quote from author Maria Semple’s book “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?”;

“People like you must create. If you don’t create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.”   I laugh about it, but truly, art keeps me out of all sorts of trouble!  Feeding me something I sometimes don’t even realize I’m missing/needing.  

The state of the world and the state of my mind felt insurmountable.  All I could do was (play some Jill Scott, and) quietly create my jewelry.  Immerse myself in the intentions I knew I needed to focus on, and create pieces that represented that, so I could wear these daily and remind myself it would all be okay. 

Photo credit: WILYMI Jewelry Co

Photo credit: WILYMI Jewelry Co

The work that came from this darkness, seemed to really attract people.   Friends and strangers alike would stop me and ask about my work— they’d ask to literally buy the earrings off my ears!  (Best feeling on the planet, by the way.   We both walk away feeling so good).  So I began this hobby, which became a business, but always (and I mean always) grows from the simple guideline:  “Would I love to wear this? Does this intention inspire me to feel empowered, calmed, more capable?” Coming from that place, my work seems to connect with just the right clientele who also seek to express their fashion via sentimentality and open-heartedness.  

Hence, I came up with WILYMI as the acronym for Wear It Like You Mean It ~ jewelry with intention.

What inspires you?

Raised by two Italian immigrant parents, heavily tethered to generations of poverty including WW2 wreckage, and the importance of handing down one’s most valuable, sentimental belongings for future generations.  Often, jewelry.  Marking your hard work, your sense of art and perspective, your desire to live on.  The comfort and pride of carrying these family treasures, adorned to our bodies.  I LOVE the sentimentality behind those family heirlooms (including the tarnishing and fraying pieces. They’ve lived well and hard!).   It’s all very symbolic of the beauty that can grow from the pain of the unthinkable.  This is the purpose of Art, for me.

Where’s your favourite spot to vacation in the summer?

Speaking of Italy, and getting very excited for my next vacation (!!), every year my husband and I take a trip there.  Relishing in a new adventure of a new region to explore, and only barely mapping out the trip, and almost entirely leaving the journey to chance and gut instincts in the moment.     Meeting locals and gathering discovered treasure-spots of friends who’ve ventured nearby in the past, I find myself so deeply inspired by the glamorous and simultaneously quirky details of doorknobs, cobble streets, obscure restaurant dish ware, and anything else that screams ART.   Which is everything there!   A spiritual connection as well, as my family lineage tails back decades to this land.  There is something that moves me to tears when I’m there.  In Italy.  It’s ineffable.  This year, we loosely plan to venture to Rome (again— I can’t get enough) and Puglia (where my mom is from).   I get butterflies just thinking about it.  Let’s go!!!

Romina D'Ugo

Photo credit: WILYMI Jewelry Co

What does 2023 hold for your brand?

This is the year of detail and obsession for WILYMI.   Coming off of such a dramatically booming and blossoming 2022 with red carpets, festivals, cool designer shows, and dream retailer collaborations, I took a step back and noticed, I need to get back to the minutia.  Simplifying and streamlining collections in a way that is more versatile for my clients, with more multi-use pieces, and really leaning into what I’m in love with, and forgetting the rest.  Right now, that’s a lot of lush, brilliant pearls paired with luminous matte golds.   Another passion of mine is honouring and advocating for the sisterhood.  I am devoted to supporting various female empowerment charities (WILYMI’s fave and constant right now is @GirlsInc), and advocating for women’s equality on podcasts and social media platforms.  So I’m creating a line dedicated to those incredible matriarchal-type-women who have gone before us, and pave the way for us to take up more space.   

I truly make this art, with all my heart.

Find WILYMI Jewelry Co at our pop-up located at Lock and Main Marketplace (17 Lock Street) from Thursday to Monday, from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

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