—Camille Codorniu has long left the corporate world behind, but her experiences working with licensed brands came with her. Today, she runs her Edgewater-based company, Camille Jewelry, with a focus on modern fashion and adaptability.
Camille Codorniu, owner of Camille Jewelry, is a passionate perfectionist. You can sense it in her chic Edgewater studio where inspiration photos are pinned purposefully to the wall, her papers are properly filed, and minimalist decor is tucked neatly away on the shelves. The only area with any clutter at all is her work table. Covered in multiple sets of pliers, loose pieces of chain, and an unfurled measuring tape—this is where Codorniu’s designs take shape. Her laid-back personality could almost fool you into overlooking her years of experience and expertise, but the masterful touches of her modern New Jersey-based brand certainly won’t.
Ironically, Codorniu had no intention of going into the jewelry industry after graduating from FIT with a degree in fashion design. She was working as a stylist and designer when the team at Kenneth Cole’s licensed jewelry brand, owned by Liz Claiborne, came across her portfolio. They quickly recognized her unique style and offered her a chance to make the leap from garments to jewelry. Codorniu recognized how rare this chance was for her, and made the absolute most of it.
“They gave me this opportunity, which I was extremely grateful for. At the time I was like, you know what, I’m gonna just keep my mouth shut, listen, and learn anything I possibly can from all of these experienced people in this industry.” After only a year, Codorniu was promoted to head designer. This is no small feat for a newcomer to jewelry, and it certainly speaks to Codorniu’s grit and adaptability.
Kenneth Cole wasn’t the only brand that recognized Codorniu’s talents. She moved on to Giorgio Armani, where she helped launch their jewelry line. Codorniu later worked for Michael Kors, which she described as an amazing, successful period in her career. During that time, Codorniu became pregnant with her second son. She had worked throughout her first pregnancy, which she expressed as being extremely demanding. Once baby number two came into the mix, Codorniu knew that she was at a turning point in her career.
“Honestly, I loved corporate. I didn’t really envision myself leaving. I was so in it but when I had my second son, I had to make the decision to leave,” she explained. “It was really difficult for me to do that, but I already knew what it was going to demand from me so I had to make a choice for my kids. As you get further along in your career, your priorities change, and at that point I felt like I had to focus on family.”
Codorniu’s story echoes those of many women who face the decision of family versus career, and although she enjoyed the time off with her family, she knew something was missing from her life. “After having my son, as much as I loved having that opportunity to have two years off, part of me was craving creativity. To a point where I was thinking about it constantly, and I needed to make a decision. I love my family, but this is part of who I am. I’m a creative person and I have to have a creative outlet in some sense.”
Upon turning her gaze toward her potential business, concepts for a children’s jewelry line, a fashion brand, a fine jewelry brand and a thousand other ideas were bouncing around in Codorniu’s mind. After thinking through all of her options, she landed on the concept for Camille Jewelry.
“I wanted to build a brand that was full of everyday, go-to pieces. They’re modern, classic, feminine—but with a very subtle edginess to them. Just a hint of something unexpected.” Codorniu cultivates this combination of timeless, yet edgy, pieces with pops of emerald, trillion shape, and beak designs that are featured prominently throughout her work.
Camille Jewelry is also meant to work as a cohesive line, allowing customers a variety of mix and match possibilities. “The brand is designed so that you can seamlessly buy the line and everything goes together,” Codorniu explained. “There’s this common thread that makes them easy to layer. In fashion, women will purchase a Louis Vuitton handbag or a Chanel belt, but wear an H&M T-shirt, and I wanted people to be able to mix and match. You can buy a $40 ring and you can pair it with your $3,000 jewelry, there are no rules. You can wear different metals together, different stones, who’s going to tell you not to?”
Codorniu’s mix and match philosophy lends well to the variety of jewelry that her shop offers. Between demi-fine jewelry, fashion jewelry, fine jewelry, and custom pieces, the brand provides a range of captivating options that all maintain the same core style. Codorniu’s most recent endeavor is much more practical than some of her other creations. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit New Jersey in March 2020, Codorniu knew that to keep her business afloat, she had to sink or swim. So, she swam.
In April 2020, Camille Jewelry began selling convertible necklaces that attach to your facemask. Codorniu explained, “You can convert it in five different ways: you can wear it with a face mask on, you can turn it into a long necklace, you can double wrap it and make it a short necklace, and then the newest feature we added in November was an eyeglass attachment. We added it for free with the necklace so customers can hook their eyewear to that.”
Codorniu admitted that she actually made the piece for herself, and she credits her customers for the idea of selling convertible necklaces on her site. “I got on Instagram and asked my customers what they thought. I said ‘I made this because I couldn’t take losing my face masks anymore, what do you think of this?’ and they went bananas. And then the orders started coming in like crazy. My business survived because of that.”
Camille Jewelry’s mask-holding necklace isn’t just for women. Though many of Codorniu’s other lines are targeted to a mainly female audience, the convertible necklace has been adapted for men and children as well. She explained, “I saw a lot of parents buying it for their kids, so we have a corded version for men and kids too. I had it lab tested, and they’re nickel and lead-free, so they’re super safe for kids to wear. My husband is terrible with his face mask, but once he started wearing the corded version, I didn’t have to remind him all the time. I have my kids and my whole block wearing them. They don’t leave the house without their cords because it just makes it so convenient.”
One of the most brilliant features of the convertible necklace is its adaptability for many different styles and situations. Codorniu added, “It’s a game-changer. You’re gonna live in it. And after COVID, you still have a great necklace that you can wear with your eyeglasses or you can layer with other pieces from the line.” Being able to keep the convertible necklace in your go-tos, even post-pandemic makes this piece practical and long-lasting.
Codorniu has made her ingenuity work for her. Her convertible face mask, mix and match options and local manufacturing represent the trends of modern brands and consumers. She also represents the broad swath of business owners who have had to adapt their most basic functions due to the pandemic. For Codorniu, this meant turning to social media to maintain her clientele, but this pivot doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
“Most people who know me know that I’m not a shy person, but I do tend to get shy on camera, and I was a little bit reluctant to put my face out there pre-COVID. Now that I’ve had to get creative and be more visible, I’ve had to challenge myself.” Codorniu explains, “It could be hot topics or it could be walking people through this new concept and asking what they think. I’m trying to have that dialogue with my audience.”
While Codorniu never imagined adapting her business this way, she’s been astoundingly successful despite the constant shifts and roadblocks of the pandemic. Pushing herself to create and be visible in ways that would never have occurred to her before has become the backbone of Camille Jewelry over the past year.
It turns out that being forced outside of your comfort zone doesn’t mean falling flat on your back. It can just as easily mark a new way forward that you didn’t see before, or a new product that meets the needs of our changing world. If the pandemic has taught Codorniu anything, it’s that mastering the art of adaptability will always pay off down the road.
Photography by Derek L. Reed