What if the passion project you picked up during the downtime of the pandemic suddenly became your full-time job? Well, that’s exactly what happened to Lisa Sahakian, the founder of Ian Charms, the whimsical and captivating beaded jewelry line that’s taking the fashion world by storm. Since its inception in 2020, celebrities (Post Malone, the Kid LAROI, Justin Bieber, Doja Cat and Pete Davidson, to name a few) have been co-signing the brand that creates one-of-a-kind custom jewelry pieces based on their distinct personalities.
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With virtually no experience in creating jewelry, Sahakian has turned a humble line of bracelets, pendants and necklaces into a full-scale enterprise that’s growing by the day. Sahakian’s story is a testament to the fact that you can do anything you set your mind to, as long as you have the passion and dedication to follow your wildest dreams.
How did Ian Charms start?
It was a happy accident. I was working in entertainment as a reality TV development assistant. When COVID-19 hit, they cut all of the assistant’s overtime, which is basically all of your pay. It was a combination of that happening and me wanting to get my boyfriend a necklace that was affordable and cool. Nothing seemed super out there or had a sense of humor, so I bought beads to make him one. With the extras that I had, I made bracelets and necklaces that I sold where I donated 25% of the proceeds to BLM. I had never made jewelry before, so everything would bust open, but luckily it was just for my friends so I could repair it. I was literally YouTube-ing what materials to use, so it was really scrappy.
Within a few weeks, I had stylists reaching out, and the first one was Post Malone’s stylist since he loves beaded jewelry. That’s where it clicked for me, where I can reach these huge people while still only having 200 followers on Instagram. It started slowly, and I was still doing my other job, but once Dua Lipa started wearing it in December 2020, everything took off. My custom’s list was hundreds of people, months long, and people just kept reaching out from there. I was able to leave my job in early 2021, which is crazy.
That’s so wild. You essentially turned a passion project during quarantine into a full job.
I never thought it would be a job, and I had no experience in it, so it just shows that if you have a really interesting idea, it doesn’t matter at all if you do not have experience. I think that’s really encouraging for people to hear, too.
Something that I think is so compelling about Ian Charms is that the name “Ian” is an homage to your Armenian heritage. What do you want to share about your community through your company?
I think not many people know Armenians, even though I live in LA and there is a huge population here, especially in Glendale. I love when people can connect the dots once they learn about the “Ian” in the last name. Even with Kim Kardashian, it helps expose that. A lot of Armenians have reached out to me that I collaborate and work with. I am even meeting up with Armenian jewelers, so I think it’s so cool to have a small community that wants to help each other. I think that’s really common in ethnic communities. My dad is from Iran, but full Armenian, so he is super proud of all of it.
What’s the custom ordering process like? What is the most fulfilling and challenging part?
I think customs is what really sets us apart from other companies. To be able to select these beads makes it so personal and immensely valuable to people. It’s a cool process because I’m working with them directly. Pete Davidson, I love working with him because I can make him a surprise piece that I think is funny, and when I see him wearing it, it’s so fulfilling to me that I can have this joke with someone I don’t even know. It helps me connect with people and makes them feel a part of this really special brand. The hardest part is the balance of me wanting to make it my vision and an art piece without it getting so specific. With celebrity customs, the turnaround is immediate, so it’s definitely hard working with stylists sometimes, but it also keeps me on my toes.
What are some of your favorite pieces you have made?
Early on, our Frame Pendant pieces were really popular, and we are actually working on our own custom frame so no one can copy it. I did Justin Bieber’s mug shot, and that one was so popular. People are always asking for it to come back, but I don’t like bringing things back because it makes it this little capsule collection. He also follows us now, and I don’t want him to see his mugshot in a necklace. The first piece that I ever really sold is called the danili necklace, which is everyone in my family’s middle name. It’s just mushrooms and eight balls, but it’s weirdly our most popular piece. It’s the first piece I ever saw Dua Lipa wear, and now Justin Bieber and Joe Jonas have worn it. We actually have the necklace in a plaque at the office with the date that I designed it, which is kind of funny.
I love anything reality TV-related as well since that’s the world I came from. Even Charli D’Amelio ordered a custom pendant last week, and she got the generic Dunkin’ Donuts drink in it. I thought that was so funny since it’s such a weird thing to wear. It allows people to have this playful sense of humor when they pick their pendant, which is always super fun.
What music are you listening to lately?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Gorillaz lately. Now that Doja Cat wears our pieces, I am really getting into her music as well, which is really cool. I also love to listen to Johnny Cash when I’m just beading and mellowing out.
What’s next for Ian Charms?
So much is in the works right now. We are about to launch our first demi-fine jewelry line in the next two months, hopefully. We also have some more celebrity collaborations in the works. I can’t say them yet, but it’s exciting.