Stephanie Kantis is a bona fide St. Louis success story. After making a name for herself in luxury furniture and accessories, the Ladue High School grad has branched out her brand to include handmade artisan jewelry—created from bronze and dipped in 24k gold, with semi-precious stones. LN recently spoke with Kantis about her Ladue roots, advice for fellow entrepreneurs and her most sought-after venture to-date: a high-end jewelry line that can be found locally at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue in Plaza Frontenac.
Tell us about growing up in Ladue.
While attending Ladue Horton Watkins High School, I grew up loving theater, drama and music. I loved the creative part of art, so I decided to get a degree in design at Florida University in Miami. I’m from a large ethnic minority—a big, fat Greek family—and we always went to the Greek Orthodox Church. All my family is still in Ladue, or working with me. My aunt is a fashion style executive on my team; my cousin is a graphic designer, who also went to Ladue High School; and my husband is also part of the company now.
How did you transition from designing luxury furniture to creating high-end jewelry?
I’ve traveled all over world since I left St. Louis. I studied in London for a year to do a thesis in interior design. I always was very inspired by different cultures and their history—especially gems, jewels, crests, castles and royalty. As an interior designer, I designed grand homes for high-end clients out of my Stephanie Anne company in Dallas. While designing children’s luxury furniture and accessories, I became known as the queen of the baby world. But after a decade I was still getting a little bored, so I started designing adult furniture and home accessories. Then, about three-and-a-half years ago, I really needed a break. So my husband and I and our two fat cats hightailed off to Mexico, and that’s where my creativity really came back. I was doing sculpture, and I realized I could make art for fashion and I could wear these pieces.
When did you know your artisan jewelry line would take off?
One day at my interior design store, I was showing my staff how I could sell a client this sofa. But she kept asking me about the jewelry that I had made and was wearing. Instead of the $3,800 couch, she said she would give me $3,800 for all the jewelry I was wearing. In two-and-half years, my jewelry is now in 20 Neiman Marcus stores and 20 Saks Fifth Avenue stores across the country.
How would you describe your jewelry?
It is handmade, bronze and dipped in 24k gold, with all semi-precious stones. They are statement pieces that are artistic and unique. The patina of the gold looks like that of the islands of Greece or Italy. The style is definitely bold, but it also has a historical element—like the European family jewels, but with a modern twist. It’s Queen Elizabeth meets Chanel.
What is the most exciting part of the jewelry-making process?
When I finally get and idea just right in my sketch, that’s when it’s most exciting. And I already imagine seeing it in different stones for different seasons—baby rose for summer and smoky topaz during the winter. It’s also really exciting at a trunk show when the lady puts on a piece and her face lights up. At that moment, I think to myself, This is why I do this.
Tell us about your new jewelry line.
For fall, the line is all bold, gold and regal, with three basic pieces that you can wear 15 different ways. Pick your favorite pendant, bracelet and chain, and you can hook the bracelet to the chain as a belt, wear the chain long, or double-up the chain and add a pendant. It is trademarked the Versital collection, so it’s the perfect travel piece for the holidays.
What is your advice to fellow entrepreneurs?
To all the gals and guys in Ladue, the world is at your fingertips—you can do anything you want. And it’s okay to change careers—it’s never too late. Life is short, and this is not a dress rehearsal. Bring what you love to life.