Meet Junting Wei and the first thing I have to say is don’t you dare let her name put her in a box. The Chinese native is much more than just her name but yet, as an oxymoron, her name completely embodies who she is. The jewelry designer and fashion entrepreneur has one impressive CV and her designs… Well, you’ve never seen anything like it before.
If you know Times Square, or seen it in television, or visited New York, you know that place is one hot, busy, tourist attraction–tourists love it, New Yorkers loathe it; but still one of the biggest symbols of New York City. Now imagine your jewelry showroom overlooking Times Square. Sick gig right? Junting now runs her brand J Way New York right in that showroom; and if the stellar views don’t reel you in, her talent and personality sure will.
Junting’s brand is titled J Way New York and it really stands for more than what it sounds like. The J is first and her foremost for her name. It also stands for jewelry, from which her fashion business starts. The Way means exactly what the literal definition means, Junting want to do things her way, create a business in the way she wants, and live her life her own way (I told you not to put her in a box). The New York ending is why anyone else loves New York, it is the place where her dreams started to come true and her love for New York is apparent. She is adamant about her love for this city, the different people, and cultures. She states “I feel like in Times Square and Manhattan, I am in the middle of the world.”
When it comes down to her brand identity, J WAY New York is really about 3 things: spirituality, harmony, and uniqueness. My conversation with her says all you want to hear before you’re jumping on her website to grab one of these unbelievable pieces.
FL: So how did you start getting into jewelry design and starting J Way New York?
JW: Around 2000, after I graduated high school in China I started to travel and study in different parts of the world including Malaysia, Canada, and New York. After exploring the non-profit sector and serving several renowned international non-profit agencies including a Canadian International humanitarian organization in Toronto and the UN in New York, I found myself at a crossroads in 2010 of what I really wanted to do, so I went back to China to work for a NGO in Beijing while I was doing a little soul-searching. All my experience with the non-profit sector helped me gain such a strong appreciation for different cultures and their jewelry and fashion that I became an active jewelry collector. So I started taking jewelry-making classes at FIT and then took an apprenticeship with a Brooklyn-based jewelry designer in 2012. Around that time, I also made the decision to get my MBA in Fashion Management from LIM College in Manhattan, which helped me tremendously in later developing an effective business model. For more than three years while I was pursuing an MBA and after my graduation, I was working as a fashion journalist while making jewelries on the side. As a fashion journalist and editor, I had the honor to interview and gain insights from some of the biggest names in fashion like Donna Karen, Michael Kors, Max Azria, Joseph Altuzarra, and the design director of Tiffany & Co. amongst others on behalf of several reputable fashion magazines and media companies including Harper’s Bazaar China and Observer Media. In late 2015, I started my jewelry and fashion consulting company after receiving funding from two investors. Now I can confidently say I am grateful for all the opportunities and feel so blessed to be able to do what I truly love and what I went to school for.
FL: Was it hard to make the decision to leave your full-time job?
JW: No, it wasn’t too bad at all, especially because I was lucky enough to get the backing of my investors. Also, after interviewing so many influential people in fashion and having a hand in many different sectors, I knew for sure that starting my own jewelry and fashion company was something I really wanted to do. I knew jewelry was my true passion and I just feel so blessed to have found my calling in fashion. But don’t be surprised if I make an appearance back in the fashion media world since it’ll definitely help my own jewelry and fashion business!
FL: J Way sells gorgeous jewelry but what else does your company do that the public may not know about?
JW: We have two focus niches. One is to sell one-of-a-kind, handcrafted couture jewelry mainly targeting high-end clients, which requires me to build a design team, a sales team, and using my own inspiration to create pieces that really reflect who I am.
Secondly, my company also does international fashion consulting. For instance, we aim to bridge China and the U.S. through fashion and business by connecting Chinese fashion-related companies with talented designers in NYC to help Chinese companies internationalize their designs and strengthen their competitive advantage. We also organize fashion education tours to NYC for fashion major students in China to help them open their eyes to a holistic view of fashion all over the world, especially that of New York.
FL: What do you think is your competitive advantage?
JW: I am Chinese living in Manhattan, the strategic location of the fashion capital of the world, I am bilingual, with strong business acumen and an MBA in Fashion Management and Entrepreneurship. With my previous background in fashion media and international non-profit sector, together with my life experience of living in so many parts of the world, I have genuine appreciation for various cultures, with a truly global view to present my clients with something that is truly unique and international. My unique combination of design ability and business acumen allows me to start a fashion business effectively and do things creatively.
My collection is exotic and takes international accents then interprets them to create culturally conscious designs. You can easily find some of my pieces that combine Chinese jade beads with bold cross pendants, or African beads with Thai Buddha pendants. You can also find pieces that combine European or American cameos with Chinese zodiac elements, or Tibetan turquoise beads with African masks. You can also see pieces where I combine an old Asian Buddhist statue with a coin showing the Pope. It is all about taking these global influences and promoting harmony, acceptance, unity and beauty.
FL: What are some words you would use to describe yourself?
JW: I consider myself a “global citizen and free-spirit.” I am completely open to new life experiences and new opportunities. I also consider myself an adventurous gambler, risk taker and rebel, I am determined to follow my true passion and stick to my own unique life path regardless of the costs or what other people say.
FL: How would you describe your aesthetic?
JW: My designs are bold, original raw but sophisticated. They are spontaneous and emotionally charged. I don’t draw and I don’t plan. Whenever I see a stone or coin or collectible that I like and I’ll then in that moment spontaneously put the pieces together. My inspiration comes from whatever materials I have on hand, I don’t even measure the lengths of the lanyard, I use whatever I have. I am an artist and I see all my jewelry creations as pieces of art and I hate to duplicate my designs.
For example, my latest collection “Nature Heals” are made from only natural materials with strong healing energy. Raw materials were collected from all over the world, but every jewelry piece was handcrafted here in New York.
FL: What do you miss most about China?
JW: I miss my family the most. I am very close to my parents and my brother so it gets difficult to be far away from them. But I keep in contact with them very often, and of course, the homemade food. My mother is a great cook.
FL: What are your favorite restaurants in NYC? (In classic Cesca fashion)
JW: Legend 72 on Upper West Side –they have great spicy fish!
FL: Lastly, what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve taken away from your experiences?
JW: I have a couple of favorite lessons.
“As long as you keep following your true passion, life will take you to the place you need to be.“
“Be grateful for all experiences in life (good or bad), because everything happens for a reason and no experience will be a waste.”
And last but not least, “Listen to your intuition and TAKE RISKS!
Junting is so unique it comes to no surprise her designs are as well. It is important to mention that her company also aspires to collaborate with reputable charitable organizations to highlight and combine her interest and prior background in the non-profit sector.
J Way’s mission is to use her role as a fashion entrepreneur with a Chinese heritage and a truly global background to connect China with the world through fashion and design, as well as to connect fashion with philanthropy, in order to find a higher purpose for the brand in the future.
Is there anyone you know who would love to be featured on Couture in the Suburbs? Feel free to email me at email@example.com with any suggestions. I’m all ears!
All Photos provided by Junting Wei
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