PaperCity Magazine

October 2013 - Houston

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Emily Armenta wears an Alexander McQueen dress and Saint Laurent Paris heels, both from Tootsies. Hair Bryan Nguyen for Ceron Salon. Makeup Sergio Escalona for Ceron Salon. RAREGEM EMILY ARMENTA'S HESITANT RISE TO FAME F AS TOLD TO FRANCINE BALLARD. PORTRAIT BY JACK THOMPSON. eminine and exotic, equal parts savvy entrepreneur and creative artisan, citizen of the world and jewelry designer, Emily Armenta is the living embodiment of her work. As we sit for coffee at Tiny's No. 5, I take in a long, high pony and twinkly eyes, a slender frame in jeans and a sweater with flip-flops — the sweater because she's always cold, she says. But her smile and embrace say something different. Her jewelry collection is not for the faint of heart — rich, bold, crusty granulated gold with Byzantine, gothic and religious overtones. One would most likely not see Donna Reed sporting Armenta cuffs. Perhaps Rooney Mara, or '70s jet-setting bohemian Talitha Getty and perhaps even Soviet sybarite Rudolf Nureyev. Armenta is sold in 11 countries worldwide, in the greats such as Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Harrods in London. With the addition of jeweled handbags and her first store-in-store at Neiman Marcus Houston this fall, Armenta — the mom, artist and women's empowerment advocate — is gearing up to be a mega accessories designer, the likes of which has never transmogrified via Houston. Having grown the company from two to nearly 100 employees, she tentatively confesses her strategy to me: "I hired the cleaning lady." She is speaking of Lida, her first employee, who is now vice president of product development. As the enterprise has expanded, Armenta the company now runs an in-house training program for women to learn the jewelry-making trade and hires the OCTOBER | PAGE 26 | 2013 best of them to stay on. Armenta the person believes in the power of unseen human potential and thrives on discovering unrealized talent. She hires and fires, creates and inspires — basically lives her life by a unique philosophy adopted from her favorite Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca; it's called duende and, in her words, means "beauty through struggle." Armenta has had her own share of strife but is used to beating the odds. She's been doing it all of her life. ON SURMOUNTING THE ODDS. When I was younger, I had a lot of difficulty with school. I had doctors tell me I would never be able to learn or go to college. I had all sorts of learning disabilities. I was taken to the Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, and they said, "You'll never do sports and you'll never learn another language" and this and that. And I made it my mission in life to prove them wrong. I graduated top of my class [in college] and was one of the first persons to enter grad school at Rice as a disabled student. I've had a lot of opportunities to prove

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