Broomall native Steven Lagos has been relentlessly building his eponymous brand for more than 30 years—and he’s not about to slow down now.
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It’s a Saturday afternoon in mid-December, and the crowd at Neiman Marcus in King of Prussia is surprisingly sparse. An exception is the jewelry department, with its steady stream of well-heeled women—and a few brave men—all lured here by a trunk show featuring pieces from iconic Philadelphia-based jeweler Steven Lagos. One saleswoman helps a customer choose between a vibrant blue topaz and a smoky quartz gemstone—both part of Lagos’ Passion cocktail ring collection. (She opts for the former.) Nearby, another models bracelets for a guy who looks overwhelmed—perhaps by the prospect of satisfying a picky wife for Christmas.
Alas, fans holding out hope that Lagos himself would make an appearance at the event were out of luck. The designer was halfway around the world in Asia, finishing a two-week buying trip for gemstones for his upcoming collections. “I’m always a year ahead in designing,” says Lagos, just a few days before leaving for Asia.
Lagos has set aside some time for a conversation in the conference room of his noticeably unglamorous headquarters in Old City. Most of the day-to-day operations—designing, manufacturing, shipping—take place in this 40,000-square-foot warehouse space, which employs more than 40. “Some have been with me for more than 25 years,” he says.
A never-ending cycle of reinvention has defined Lagos’ life for the past 33 years. “As I’m completing one collection, I’m simultaneously thinking about and designing the next collection—and the collection after that,” says the 52-year-old Broomall native. “I’ve always been super-committed. If you rest on your laurels for two seasons, you’re out in this business. And now, in this economy, it’s even more that way.”
With his long-sleeve, black T-shirt and black jeans, Lagos dresses as he comes across: relaxed and unassuming. “I do love color,” he says. “You just wouldn’t know it by how I’m dressed.”
Lagos’ enormous success might be best described in raw numbers. He’s sold more than a million pieces of jewelry, presenting new collections five times annually. Designing about 300 new pieces a year, he estimates he’s made 9,000 throughout his career.
His work is sold in over 300 stores nationwide, including Neiman’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor and Bloomingdales, along with his own place on Rittenhouse Square. He visits about 20 stores a year and travels to Asia at least four times annually, logging roughly 200,000 air miles.