Made in America with Love: that’s the inscription found on every piece of jewelry made by Alex and Ani Inc., a vertically integrated jewelry manufacturer, wholesaler, and retailer based in Cranston, Rhode Island.
Since 2004, owner and lead designer Carolyn Rafaelian has driven the ever increasing popularity of Alex and Ani by designing unique, expandable wire bangles embellished with beads, crystals, and symbolic charms. These bracelets have an international following. Whether worn alone or stacked together they create a personal and meaningful statement for all who wear them. As one Alex and Ani fan put it, “it’s like I wear my heart on my sleeve.”
In 2010 Giovanni Feroce joined Rafaelian at Alex and Ani. He is now the CEO. Feroce’s vision for retail growth and wholesale distribution put the company on track for rapid expansion and record profits. Now, what began as a small operation inspired by Rafaelian’s interest in creating unique pieces to promote positive energy, has turned into a major player in the economy for both the city of Cranston and the state of Rhode Island.
Rhode Island was once the jewelry capital of the world. In the late 1970’s jewelry manufacturing was one of the main drivers of the state’s economy, employing over 32,500 workers. By 2009 that number had dwindled to just over 5,000. Rafaelian and Feroce are on track to reverse that trend. Growth at Alex and Ani has been so strong that in the last eighteen months, they have hired over 200 employees, and despite the economy, struggle to fill their manufacturing jobs. “We focus on the triple bottom line: economic, social, and environmental, and we’re also making a profit at the end of the day, which we reinvest back into the company by hiring more workers and helping more suppliers grow,” said Feroce.
Many Alex and Ani pieces are made out of recycled scrap metals from local mills or vintage components of surplus jewelry found in local warehouses. For Rafaelian, having control over where the manufacturing materials come from and the environment in which they’re created is integral to the positive energy that is her life’s work to promote.
“Jewelry has an energy; it’s conductive. So for any piece, who it’s created by, where it’s created, and the synergies achieved in that process wind up in the DNA of that piece: it creates an energy. If you don’t know who is making what you wear, what kind of labor conditions it was produced in, or what kinds of toxins are in the metals, it does nothing to elevate your vibration, but it does everything to keep it low. In contrast, if you’re aware of these things, what the piece was born into, its intention, you increase your own energy through its integrity. Everything that I am as a light being — a person with a highly developed consciousness — is in my product. It’s coming from a sacrosanct place that I hold as my personal truth. By controlling my production I know who’s making my product, and how it’s made, and in doing that, I set positive energy into motion.”
Alex and Ani and setting positive energy into motion for local residents as well as customers. In addition to employing a full staff to run the manufacturing, wholesale and retail operations, the company employs people to work in their retail stores. There are currently 9 freestanding boutiques across the Eastern Seaboard, with many more slated to open in the next 2 years. Additionally, Alex and Ani recently acquired Mediapeel, a full service media company that will create co-op programs to assist independent Alex and Ani retailers in their marketing and media buying programs. The Mediapeel venture is one more way that Alex and Ani stays focused on investing in the development of a multidimensional and workforce.
Rafaelian and Feroce are proud of the fact that the entire production of Alex and Ani pieces, from design, to materials sourcing and manufacturing, happens in the United States — and mostly right in Rhode Island. As Rafaelian said, “The actual thrill for me is to produce something, to make something. If you’re not making anything, you’re just selling an idea, selling somebody else’s wares. I want to sell my own, and how can I sell my own ideas if I’m not producing them?”
Post and photos by Cyd McKenna. Learn more about modern urban manufacturing.