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Relaxing Into Success

Jeweler keeps community at the heart of expanded space.

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ADORNMENT + THEORY, Chicago

OWNER: Viviana Langhoff; URL: Adornment + Theory; FOUNDED: 2017; Opened featured location: 2021; AREA: 1,100 square-foot showroom; 1,750 square feet total; TOP BRANDS: Viviana Langhoff Fine Jewelry, Jennie Dowie, Jules Kim, Alicia Goodwin, Laura Wood ; EMPLOYEES: 3; ONLINE PRESENCE: 4.9 Stars on Google


A LOT OF UPHEAVAL has happened in the five years since Viviana Langhoff launched Adornment + Theory, but it’s good vibes only these days for this energetic entrepreneur and her community-centered, mission-oriented fine jewelry and creative design business.

Corona blues? Not for Langhoff, who forged ahead with the expansion and makeover of her shop in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood in the spring of 2021, singing a song of hope in a time of uncertainty. Unrest and political strife? Not in this universe. In fact, maybe the world is finally catching up with the way Adornment + Theory has positioned itself from the start as a company proudly powered by (and for) women and people of color.

Adornment + Theory Makes Room for Creativity in Chicago

Adornment + Theory Makes Room for Creativity in ChicagoAdornment + Theory Makes Room for Creativity in Chicago
Adornment + Theory Makes Room for Creativity in ChicagoAdornment + Theory Makes Room for Creativity in Chicago

Langhoff has seen her star steadily rise within the industry; she was one of 13 designers featured at the 2022 Las Vegas Couture show through capsule collections created for the De Beers Code of Origin Radiance project, the culmination of a two-year mentorship. Amid the massive change of the past few years, this repeat Cool Store winner seems to be hitting her stride and relaxing into success.

Viviana Langhoff has a strong sense of purpose.

Viviana Langhoff has a strong sense of purpose.

“I’ve loosened up a lot,” reports Langhoff. “When I started my business, I was a little more uptight and felt there was no margin for error. I was a lot less playful because I put a lot of pressure on myself as a minority woman” who didn’t take a traditional path into the jewelry industry. Now, she adds, “I feel a lot more relaxed and confident in the business and everything else.”

Adornment + Theory’s new incarnation opened in May 2021, basically doubling in size to make more room for creativity and collaboration. “I was thinking about expansion in 2019, before the world shut down,” says Langhoff. With just 550 feet of showroom space, “we would host events and people would be out in the street because there just wasn’t enough room,” she recalls.

A devoted client base and growth in bridal were spurring momentum as well. “We came out of 2020 really strong,” she says, so when the space next door became available, Langhoff decided to go for it. “I’m very big on projections and numbers and mitigating risk, and it felt right.”

Morocco meets Miami in this eclectically designed Chicago store.

Morocco meets Miami in this eclectically designed Chicago store.

During the three-week buildout, Adornment + Theory teamed with OutCold, a Chicago experiential marketing company, to rent a tricked-out Airstream trailer as its temporary quarters. The Instagram-cute pop-up got the neighborhood excited for the shop’s expansion while preserving sales and netting plenty of social media attention.

Langhoff designed every inch of the store’s rebuild, working with Chicago Common Construction on the project. Supply chain issues were a factor, of course. For example, she’d pick out a tile she liked, only to learn that it wasn’t available — and that her second choice wasn’t either.

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But Langhoff’s background meant she was able to make the most of what was available. The Art Institute of Chicago graduate drew from a broad palette of influences, hand-painting murals, selecting plants, hanging sumptuous velvet curtains and adding a library where guests can relax and read about the history of jewelry and body adornment of all kinds.

A library nook, where guests can relax and read about the history of jewelry and body adornment of all kinds, demonstrates Langhoff’s dedication to education and the “theory” component of jewelry.

A library nook, where guests can relax and read about the history of jewelry and body adornment of all kinds, demonstrates Langhoff’s dedication to education and the “theory” component of jewelry.

The redesigned space is true to Adornment + Theory’s roots, yet it shows signs of evolution, too. “I had created a pretty strong brand voice from the beginning, from our color selection to our messaging,” Langhoff says. The first version of the space “felt like an art gallery but a little edgy and cool.” With more room, Langhoff says she is better able to honor her Latina culture and its emphasis on unpretentious hospitality.

“I want people to feel comfortable and loved, like they’re home” and can hang out, Langhoff says. The relaxed yet refined vibe “feels like an art gallery made love to Miami and Morocco,” she adds. “Any day of the week, you can come into our warm beautiful space while we listen to everything from Afrobeats to David Bowie, Bad Bunny and Julie London.”

And you can also do it while enjoying a Hazy IPA, getting a tattoo or perusing local art. “I really want to highlight and elevate Chicago creatives. Those are my friends,” Langhoff says. (Go to the INSTORE archives online to read a January 2019 feature about how Adornment + Theory has collaborated with its Logan Square neighbors on a range of cool events.)

Owner Viviana Langhoff designed every inch of her expanded showroom.

Owner Viviana Langhoff designed every inch of her expanded showroom.

Adornment + Theory showcases the work of dozens of designers — most of them women, many of them people of color — who make wearable statements of passion, pride and beauty. Diversity, equity and inclusion are Langhoff’s way of being.

“I have a really strong sense of my ‘why’ and my purpose, so that is really the foundation of what’s brought us through these incredibly turbulent, difficult times,” she says. “I am grateful that we did not have to switch marketing plans or fill our feed with black and brown faces. We didn’t have to change our pronoun language.”

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As she becomes better known in the wider fine jewelry world, Langhoff envisions maybe opening a store in another city. “I definitely would be excited to open in a different market and serve another community,” she says. She continues to grow her own line of fine jewelry, adding, “I have three collections cooking and in the works for the next year or two, and I’m really excited to bring my designs to a more national audience.”

She’s also modeling sustainable business practices within the industry. “The question we ask is how do we make a more loving, beautiful environment every single day?” she explains. “I believe if your foundation and your integrity are in place, money will flow from there … We’re in a beautiful business, and I believe that we bring joy to people and meaning to special occasions in creating gorgeous objects.”

Adornment + Theory Makes Room for Creativity in Chicago

Five Cool Things About ADORNMENT + THEORY

1. MIX IT UP. Adornment + Theory’s social feeds are a glorious, sometimes hilarious mix of product photos, jewelry history and education, tips and tricks — even Drunk Jewelry History videos. Episode 1 featured the shop’s staff and friends explaining how the late Mexican actress Maria Felix actually brought a live baby crocodile into Cartier as inspiration for a necklace so fabulous it could double as a centerpiece for dinner parties. (Check it out on Facebook.)

2. MEET CUTE. Everyone loves a good love story. The Adornment + Theory blog regularly features the back stories behind “Adornment Weddings,” where readers can learn, for example, how Katie and Josiah met in a high school theater production of Dracula, and Melanie and Shaun connected via their kids.

3. ACT GLOBALLY. In addition to its strong local ties to Chicago, Adornment + Theory has extended its reach via virtual consultations. “This has allowed us to take on clients from all over the U.S. as well as internationally,” says Langhoff.

Langhoff chooses models from various ethnic and racial backgrounds, who also represent a range of ages. “It’s important our clients see themselves represented,” she says.

Langhoff chooses models from various ethnic and racial backgrounds, who also represent a range of ages. “It’s important our clients see themselves represented,” she says.

4. MODEL BEHAVIOR. “Instead of traditional models, we have teamed up with local activists who share our passion for equity work,” says Langhoff. “The models we select are also from various ethnic, racial, and age backgrounds. It’s important for us that our clients see themselves represented.” Models include dancer, athlete and Healthy Hood co-founder Tanya Lazano; restorative justice advocate Mashaun Ali Hendricks; and Muslim fashion blogger and community organizer Hoda Katebi.

5. POP STARS. From Black Panther-inspired jewelry to annual birthday celebrations for Beyoncé and Rihanna to who wore what on the red carpet, Adornment + Theory stays on top of trends and pop culture.

PHOTO GALLERY (21 IMAGES)

JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • amanda eddy:Such a fun idea to deck out an Airstream while the shop was under construction. Pulls in new customers and spreads the word of the expansion. Store feels lux and on-brand. The seed grant program is a great way to support the community and young artists. Wonderful collaborations all around with local breweries and activists that share the brand’s vision.
  • gabrielle grazi:Viviana has created a 360-degree, seamlessly integrated brand. The narrative is clear, purposeful and evident across all touchpoints. She supports emerging designers, empowers women and believes in collaboration and community. The store exudes a hip global vibe, yet still conveys a local sense of intimacy.
  • shane o’neill: The store has a nice gallery feel to it. Modern and hip. Music and even “language” show the store isn’t remotely close to a “typical” jewelry store, which hopefully is the trend for all jewelry stores in the future.
  • joanne slawitsky:I loved everything about this store. It shows great creativity from the mixing of metals and mural paintings to the welcoming feel.
  • larry johnson: A very unique shop, designed in a unique style and well promoted in a unique manner. Congratulations on creating something new!

 

Try This: Plant Some Seeds

The jewelry industry needs nurturing to grow and diversify, so Adornment + Theory is digging into that goal. “The mission behind our seed grant program is to support BIPOC artists who are pursuing continuing education or courses to support their craft,” says Langhoff, adding that the first round of funding allowed the business to financially support three emerging artists. The shop collaborated with a neighborhood craft brewery, Hopewell, on a limited-edition Hazy IPA can design to fund another round of grants, with 10 percent of the beer’s proceeds going to benefit the cause.

Julie Fanselow is a writer, editor, coach, and dot-connector. She was the founding editor of SmartWork Media's magazine for eyecare professionals, INVISION.

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Celebrate Your Retirement with Wilkerson

For nearly three decades, Suzanne and Tom Arnold ran a successful business at Facets Fine Jewelry in Arlington, Va. But the time came when the Arnolds wanted to do some of the things you put off while you’ve got a business to run. “We decided it was time to retire,” says Suzanne, who claims the couple knew how to open a store, how to run a store but “didn’t know how to close a store.” So, they hired Wilkerson to do it for them. When she called, Suzanne says Wilkerson offered every option for the sale she could have hoped for. Better still, “the sale exceeded our financial goals like crazy,” she says. And customers came, not only to take advantage of the going-out-of-business buys and mark-downs, but to wish a bon voyage to the beloved proprietors of a neighborhood institution. “People were celebrating our retirement, and that was so special,” says says.

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