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Image: Grant Puckett via Fade To Black

This Jewelry Designer Is Making It A Mission To Remain Sustainable

We interviewed Tatiana Ikasovic of Fade to Black on running a jewelry brand in the middle of a pandemic, revamping her business, and her love of opals.

Tatiana Ikasovic is a force to be reckoned with. On top of having a successful career as an actress and a writer, she has also become a triple-threat by entering the world of jewelry. Tatiana knows opals like the back of her hand, as she grew up with it as her family business (her father cut and sold opals for 40 years). With her expertise, Tatiana founded Fade To Black as a modern opal jewelry company. All of the stones used in the collection are ethically and sustainably sourced from various parts of Australia directly from miners, where they are then cut and polished in house. Fade To Black is a dreamy, ethereal jewelry line that makes you feel like you’re in another world. With a promise to support sustainability, her success is also a precursor for the world’s move towards eco-friendly business.

We interviewed Tatiana Ikasovic about her business post-COVID, what her day to day looks like, and what she hopes happens after the world is done with the pandemic. Keep reading for more on Fade to Black and Tatiana.

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Image: Fade to Black

Fade To Black’s Dedication To Sustainable Jewelry

1) How did Fade To Black come to life?

Well, I created Fade To Black because I felt there was no classic, minimalist opal jewelry on the market for a reasonable price point. I grew up in the jewelry industry, and my Dad has had a very successful business cutting and selling opals for 40 years. I was seeing a lot of tiny, overpriced and low-quality opals being used by a lot of jewelry companies on Instagram — there seemed to be a lack of education around the types of opals and how rare and special they are. We thought I could design a considered collection of pieces that were simple and beautiful. Jewelry is part of me, so I also love the fact that I could specialize in something specific. Something that isn’t overly trend-driven, but still has a nod to the times and is chic.

2) What is different about Fade to Black’s products?

Fade To Black has always focused on sustainability — our business model is unique in the way that we have direct relationships with all the miners we buy from because I lived in the outback opal mining towns of Lightning Ridge and Coober Pedy as a child, so I’ve always been surrounded by the opal industry and it’s a really tight-knit community of people. The stones are then cut in house by my Dad, and then set by our jewelers — the entire process ensures that the stone doesn’t pass through too many hands and allows us to keep our prices lower than other companies on the market for the highest quality stones.

We really pride ourselves in designing around the stone, which minimizes waste by having fewer offcuts and doesn’t sacrifice parts of the precious material.

Fade to Black
Image: Fade to Black

3) Why do you like using the opal?

They’re incredibly magical and rare. Each stone takes around 5 to 6 million years to form in the earth and develops slowly after ancient rains. They have a rich history and are beloved by Kings and Queens, scholars, poets — there’s an ethereal and otherworldly quality to them that is so utterly unique. Once you have an opal, it becomes like an addiction, a lot of people email me after they purchase our jewelry and they become obsessed with the stone and can’t get enough.

4) How are you revamping your business model to fit with the current time?

It’s been an incredibly challenging time for businesses — and in some ways has forced us all to innovate and come up with creative solutions to issues that may be ongoing. I feel grateful that as a small business I was able to cope during this time by modifying our outgoings — mainly marketing costs and photoshoot expenses. I delayed launching our new collection and focused on trying to simplify everything. Despite it all, I have seen such an outpouring of support from customers and continued growth in sales. I’m so grateful for it. People respond to companies that are passionate about what they’re offering. Where they can have a connection and relationship with the business and the story behind it.

At the beginning of the pandemic, our jewelers in LA had to shut for two months because of the safer at home order. This made production delays, so it was a very stressful time. Things are back on track again, but I’m really slowing down and taking stock of what’s working and what isn’t. It’s easy to keep moving through and neglect certain aspects of the business when things are going well, so taking the time to evaluate is necessary and needs to happen frequently in order for things to be running smoothly.

We are designed for a range of price points, working on affordable alternative engagement rings, re-designing our website, implementing more made to order pieces so that we can minimize over-production and only make what is being sold, and finding ways to engage customers while being sensitive to the times. At the moment it doesn’t feel right to be pushing luxury items on people in the scheme of it all. At the same time, we need to be marketing our jewelry in meaningful ways.

Image: Fade to Black

5) How has being indoors changed your work/life balance?

When you own your own business it can be difficult to switch off. If you’re passionate about what you do it becomes consuming. You feel a need to be available at all hours of the day. However, there are certain non-negotiables that I’ve realized I need in order to thrive. Coming from my background in the arts I’ve always valued space and quiet time in order to let creativity and ideas flow. If I really need to get things done efficiently, I have a practice called “power hour” where I play rainfall sounds and turn my phone off for a full hour so I can concentrate.

The challenge has been communicating with the team who are working remotely while we follow social distancing protocols. Meeting in person is invaluable. From a business sense, I definitely have more opportunities and invaluable connections when I’m face to face. Initially, I was struggling over zoom, emails, and Slack channels to feel motivated, and everything can slowly slide into disarray. I’ve relaxed into this new normal now, and just make sure I’m being extra clear and specific with my team so that there aren’t miscommunications.

6) Give us a rundown of your current day-to-day.

Currently, I wake around 7.30, quickly check my email, Instagram, and the New York Times. Then, either go for a run or make myself a matcha latte with almond milk. I gave up coffee four months ago and switched to matcha because I wanted to balance my hormones. But, I’m starting to really miss coffee lately. Solidifying a strong morning routine has been something I’ve been working towards for years. When I don’t adhere to a schedule whether it be through movement or writing morning pages, I feel frantic.

Then I respond to emails, check website orders, communicate with our team regarding shipping. After that, I deal with any problems that may have arisen overnight. I usually head downtown to work with our jewelers and quality check orders before they ship out. The afternoons I like to spend designing, creating content, and taking care of the financial side of the business or working on other creative projects. At 5 pm I like to do a workout if I haven’t had time to do it in the morning – I’d usually go to yoga or Training mate which is a really fun Aussie HIIT workout, but everything has been closed so I’ve been loving doing pilates at home or just walking around my neighborhood.

After that, I unwind by cooking a healthy meal. I’ve been following a program called Keto Green by Dr. Anna Cabeca and feel great. It’s mostly focusing on eating plants, vegetables, and fats with small amounts of protein. Taking time for myself with grounding rituals throughout the day makes me feel energized and less drained.

Image: Fade to Black

7) What advice do you have to business owners about adjusting to life during COVID-19?

Just take it one day at a time. Try to find small moments of gratitude and positivity amidst the chaos. The challenges you face may seem insurmountable, but they will pass. Aim to scale back on certain expenses such as office space, Instagram, and Facebook marketing! Don’t hoard inventory that may not sell. Generally, trim the fat on anything that isn’t serving you.

Life is about being adaptable and resilient — we are all learning to be patient and weather this storm together, and there’s beauty in that notion. Being calm and not acting from a place of fear and panic when making crucial decisions is also key. I’ve definitely made silly mistakes when I’m rushing through the day or working on multiple things at once. Having a daily schedule and working through problems systematically makes a huge difference.

8) What do you hope the pandemic changes for the better?

My hope is that it will bring people together in their shared humanity. It will allow us all to reassess our values and simplify our lives. We have been living through a period of excess in many ways — this is a chance to come back to the center. I’m already seeing a change in the way customers are choosing to spend their money. Also, how they want to support transparent businesses that align with their values.

Right now it’s time for stoicism, innovation, and problem-solving. I do believe that the cyclical nature of history mirrors the natural world. There will always be ebbs and flows – we just need to embrace it.

9) What is next for Fade to Black?

Very excited to share that along with a new collection, we will be launching candles in the next couple of months — I’ve been working closely with the most divine French perfume house that’s based in LA on the dreamiest Fade To Black signature scent. I’ve been longing to expand our range. I would love to introduce some complementary items for the home, and this was a perfect time. My friends are all currently testing the samples and are loving it!

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