House of Urban’s lead designer, Ilia McCormick swapped the crazy world of corporate high-end jewellery buying to follow her passion for fashion and become a designer. Having worked with some of the world’s most successful jewellers, Ilia has the knowledge for design and knows what people want.
Based in New York, Ilia is surrounded by the vibrant colours and creativity of the city. Inspired by architecture, fashion and art, Ilia creates jewellery with a point of view and New York City vibes. House of Urban creates captivating gold plated jewellery made from recycled metals. Ilia feels strongly about using certified and responsibly mined materials and is a member of various beneficial programmes, ensuring quality of materials and safeguarding around mining and workers rights.
Discover the story of House of Urban...
How did your brand begin?
I have always loved fashion and jewellery. After spending my career in corporate luxury jewellery buying, I wanted to try something completely different. My career started in Fashion Accessories at Bloomingdale's in NYC. I think that is where I developed a love and passion for fashion and specifically, trend jewellery.
When did you first fall in love with jewellery and knew you wanted to become a designer?
As a young girl, I loved playing dress up with my sister and wearing my mother’s jewellery. She had a coveted collection of vintage costume jewellery that was just irresistible to us as children! When I was a buyer, I loved working with designers as we collaborated on private label collections. That, I believe is when I realized that maybe I too could become the driving force behind my own brand.
Is there anyone in particular who has heavily influenced/guided you as a designer?
Having worked with many of the world’s most successful jewellers, it is hard to pinpoint one designer that truly affected me. I have been fortunate to judge many jewellery design competitions and love seeing emerging talent. There is so much of that out there today. Favourites? Lorenz Baumer, Scavia, Verdura, Antonini, James De Givenchy.
Values are really important to us at JewelStreet. What are your core brand values?
When I started House of Urban, I knew that everything had to be made by hand in NYC. I support a small local factory and am proud of our US production. I also feel very strongly about using certified, recycled materials. I have been a member of the Madison Dialogue, Earthworks and No Dirty Gold. I worked for AngloGold in South Africa where I learned about responsible mining and refining practices. I was also active in beneficial programs in South Africa and love to be able to provide work to artisans in underdeveloped countries. All our materials are certified and recycled, and our plater is ISO 90001 certified.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your designs?
Mostly architecture and art, followed by fashion. But my biggest inspiration? The never ending and lightning speed pulse of NYC.
Are there any celebrities you would love to see wearing your designs?
I would LOVE to see House of Urban on Rihanna, Beyonce and Lady Gaga. Fashion icons all.
How do you want someone to feel when they wear your jewellery?
I would like them to feel pretty, fashionable and confident.
What has been the highest and lowest point of your career so far?
I think that making the transition from the corporate world to launching a new design business was both scary, challenging and at times produced low points and fear - lots of unknown and unforeseeable obstacles.
If you could only wear one piece from your collection, what would it be and why?
I love the Soho Necklace hands down. Of course I love them all, but for me, this necklace makes the right statement for my lifestyle and the basic black I always find myself wearing. The Soho necklace has the look of fine metal and fun design.
If you hadn't become a jewellery designer, what would you be doing?
Most likely, I would still be in corporate, but my dream job is to become a yoga instructor – go figure!
Where do you see your brand in 5 years?
My 5 year plan is to open retail locations evocative of the distinctive House of Urban design point of view, in the jewellery and soon-to-be released lifestyle products.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
That’s simple: Never give up. I use it everyday.
If you could travel to one place in the world right now, where would it be and why?
I have my sights set on Bali these days. I would love to spend a month focused on yoga.
Where is your go-to meeting spot?
Our New York office but I prefer off-site meetings mostly at Starbucks. I am a coffee addict and I feed off the energy and activity there.
What music do you play in the studio whilst you’re working?
What is your favourite quote?
“It is important to expect nothing, to take every experience, including the negative ones, as merely steps on the path, and to proceed.” - Ram Dass
Which 3 current or historic figures would you have over for a dinner party and what would you cook as your signature dish?
Nelson Mandela, The Dalai Lama and Steve Jobs. I’d probably make some sort of salad. My salads are famous!
Which 3 books would you love to have on a desert island?
Sorry, I couldn’t pick just 3! Pride and Prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird, Anna Karenina, Harry Potter, The Great Gatsby and Eat, Pray, Love!
Winding down after a day in the studio is sometimes difficult for a designer. What do you do to help the process and how do you ensure you’ve got a good work/life balance?
I work from home a lot, so I am able to multitask and stay close to my family - it works for us. To wind down, I play with my dogs, light a candle, start cooking and pour a glass of wine!