When Lisa Sahakian found out she would no longer be paid overtime at her job, she decided to pursue a side hustle to make more money.
She started making charm necklaces for her boyfriend, then her friends and eventually her friends’ friends.
Though she had no experience making jewelry — she barely wore much of it — Sahakian has found success in creating charm bracelets, necklaces and earrings, much of it inspired by humor and pop culture symbols. She decided to call it “Ian Charms,” as an ode to her Armenian heritage, as many Armenian last names end in “ian.”
“It was so spontaneous. The timing of it was so crazy, because charm jewelry wasn’t a thing, and it just happened right as I was doing it,” Sahakian told WWD. “I was just making stuff that I would want to wear. Luckily, our first clients were our friends and we’d remake theirs three times, and then we got the hang of it. We just were figuring it out as we went.”
Sahakian, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, slowly started making her charm jewelry last September, along with her boyfriend, largely creating custom orders for customers. She would post pieces she made on Instagram and sell them via the app.
Eventually, her designs landed on the radar of Post Malone’s stylist, though the rapper never ended up wearing the piece she made for him. But Ian Charms caught the eye of another prominent name in Lorenzo Posocco, who styles Dua Lipa. So Sahakian ended up creating not one custom necklace for the British singer, but multiple, including one with a pendant of her dog.
“I worked with her stylist to make her all these customs and she just wore them every few days and posted a story thanking me,” Sahakian said. “So that was what really made it take off. She does that with so many small businesses. I have so much respect for an artist who knows what she’s doing and that she’s helping. So she was so major. Even now when she wears one, I’m just as excited.”
After Dua Lipa wore her necklace, more and more celebrities started to don Sahakian’s necklaces and bracelets. Her jewelry has been seen on celebrities like Pete Davidson, Justin and Hailey Bieber, Emma Chamberlain, Madison Beer, Joe Jonas, Sophie Turner, Lorde and, most recently, Olivia Rodrigo in her music video for “Brutal.”
Sahakian’s jewelry boasts color and fun, unique charms reminiscent of the early 2000s, as well as pendants with figures well-known in pop culture. Some of these include Kris Jenner, Robert Pattinson, Lil Nas X and even Judge Judy. Her main source of inspiration is based on what she would personally wear and “what is going on in pop culture that [they] find really funny.”
“Having a sense of irony and humor is super important. So those little pendants that we do, I think those definitely made us stand apart,” Sahakian said. “Anything that we found funny…even the neutral pieces, I feel like I had to almost make up for it being neutral by being a lot crazier and having very strange beads on it, like teeth or whatever.”
In February, Sahakian eventually quit her job as a development assistant in the entertainment industry to work on Ian Charms full time. So far, the company’s two full-time employees have been herself and her boyfriend, though they have a few part-time workers as well.
In March, she also closed down her inquiries for custom jewelry since they began to pile up and she had to catch up on three months worth of orders, which was one of the bigger challenges they faced as a business.
“I can’t make customs for everyone, so we had to shut them down,” Sahakian said. “But it is kind of special, because everything is limited edition, essentially. When it sells out, it doesn’t typically restock and if you want it, get it when it’s available.”
Sahakian is still trying to navigate the logistics of managing Ian Charms, especially when working with others to ensure they don’t take advantage of a small business.
Ian Charms still drops new pieces every Friday at noon PT, but they tend to sell out within hours. Next month, Sahakian is setting her sights on working on apparel.
“I think that the good thing about having no idea what you’re doing is that we don’t really put limits on it. So we’re still figuring out a brand voice and everything,” Sahakian said. “We’ve talked about doing homeware or collaborating with artists or brands that we think are really cool and fit the aesthetic. We’re really open to anything, but I do think clothing will be a really big part of it and jewelry will always stay a huge part of it, for sure.”
Looking ahead, Sahakian hopes to continue making fun “kooky” jewelry and stay true to making designs that are humorous and relevant to pop culture.
“I always want people to feel like they’re in on the joke. I feel like there’s a lot of people that wouldn’t get the sense of humor and that’s OK, it’s not for everyone,” Sahakian said. “We want to keep it super curated and always limited edition. We never really want to make it for the masses. I think it’s always going to be our guiding light.”
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