Name: Erica Bianchini
Job title: Co-founder and creative director, Ecksand Jewellery
Currently lives in: Montreal
Education: BA in political science and finance, McGill University
First job out of school: Sales management at American Apparel
When she founded Ecksand Jewellery in 2010, Erica Bianchini was thinking very long term. After working for other brands in the fashion industry, such as American Apparel, she knew that she wanted to make the right decisions when she started her own company and, being an environmentalist, it was important that her product offer longevity. “Jewellery is one thing that people are never going to throw out,” Bianchini explains of her decision to get into wedding rings. Sustainability has become a major buzzword in fashion, but nine years ago, it took Bianchini a lot of convincing to find investors who understood and believed in her vision. “There were a lot of skeptics,” she says. “Getting financing was near impossible because we were really pioneers.”
Today, Ecksand is renowned for its ethical wedding and engagement rings made of 100% sustainable recycled gold and conflict-free gemstones at a low-emission atelier in Montreal. Ecksand has also expanded into fine jewellery of the everyday sort, including entry-level pieces priced under $500. Running a direct-to-consumer company—meaning that Ecksand pieces can only be purchased directly from its website or store—Bianchini says that the decision to become completely vertically integrated, a business model that saw Ecksand ditch subcontractors to have more control over its entire operations, led to a major growth spurt, including an expanded headquarters and the brand’s first retail store in Montreal.
While there are many new female-run jewellery brands joining the accessories category, Bianchini says that there aren’t very many women in leadership roles in fine jewellery specifically. “It’s very rare to see women at the head of the company, mostly because there haven’t been a lot of new players,” she says.
For Bianchini, “making it” isn’t about commercial success but, rather, about making a point, something she has clearly accomplished. “Now people actually care where something is made and what goes into it, and not just the value of a piece but the values [behind it] too,” she says. “I’m going to leave behind something that’s a little bit stronger, a little bit better.”