Meet the Designer

H     ello and welcome to my workshop! I’m Marina, the pair of hands behind Pliers & String. I am a doodler, a hoarder of antique shiny things and an animal lover (especially dogs!) – and I also carry on proudly the immigrant tradition of running a small business.

As a child in Bulgaria I would watch my babas – grandmas – guide needles and colors through fabric. I can still feel the wet crisp of snow on wooly pants they’d made for me, layered two pairs thick, their knobby homespun fabric a reminder of my babas’ hands.

My parents and I, however, left the mountains and shores of Bulgaria when I was nine. We couldn’t take much with us because . . . well, legally we weren’t allowed to leave. The Berlin Wall had just fallen, and the Eastern Bloc crumbled into a chaos of transitional power vacuums. I did manage to sneak away one toy, an old Barbie doll – my father had sent her to me while working the oil wells in Syria.

Everything else we left behind.

Well, other than the family jewelry hidden in our car door panels. We used necklaces and rings to bribe our way past western border guards; the remainder we pawned in Italy. This allowed us to afford progressively worse hotel rooms while my dad tried to arrange U.S. visas – until finally we slept in our car, a cramped Soviet-made Moskvitch. In the backseat before sleeping I would make clothes for my Barbie.

When we finally reached the States, Barbie's handkerchief smock evolved into a poofy, to-the-floor princess dress I hand sewed while still learning English. Later, as a sophomore in high school, I walked blazing Phoenix concrete, thinking of my first sewing machine – an old but steady 1968 Sears Kenmore zigzag table-style cabinet.

I took up macramé, sewed new curtains, drafted clothing patterns and made my own prom dress. Soon I attended the University of Arizona, making the dean’s list, which led me exactly where I needed to be next: The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, where I graduated magna cum laude.

But who doesn't love a good ol’ pair of comfy jeans? Over the next ten years, I created hundreds of pairs for the world’s leading retail denim manufacture; as a lead designer at GUESS?, my doors opened to global fashion: the glitz and grime of Hollywood, the long streets of Hong Kong and Tokyo’s Shibuya District.

So here we are now at my very own jewelry atelier! Since you’ve read this far I know you have an appreciation for love given by way of creation. The story of my life has informed my jewelry, and that which bought my family safe passage to freedom has become my art – made with my own two hands.


P.S. by MIV

Marina Ivanova