I recently connected with designer Anthony Camargo, formerly of Anthony Nak, who, after a several year hiatus in Asia, has returned to Austin, TX, reopened a studio and launched a brand new line – Anthony Camargo Designs.
We’re all in a sense reinventing ourselves these days because of the transformative coronavirus, which has profoundly disrupted our society, leading us to re-evaluate our lives and businesses as we forge forward into the emerging landscape. We’re moving in uncharted waters, which can be unsettling. But it also opens the possibility for us to take stock of our life and career trajectory and shift course into new and better opportunities.
Anthony’s taking full advantage of the current situation to relaunch his career. He’s had a highly successful designer line, Anthony Nak, in partnership with Nak Armstrong. Their company had millions of dollars in annual sales, was featured by top retailers including Neiman Marcus, Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue and stores around the globe, and was a favorite of Hollywood celebrities.
Anthony shared his story: “I started out in retail in Los Angeles decades ago. Fred Segal was a great mentor. Through him I learned about couture, design and working with celebrities. I actually launched my career as a furniture designer in San Francisco in the 1980s, transforming old furniture into art. Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue and another mentor, told me, ‘Good designers can create art out of anything.’
“During the 1990s, I had a gallery, the Russian Hill, in a very up-and-coming area in San Francisco. After three years I wanted to take advantage of the energy and transformation of Miami. South Beach Lincoln Road was the new hip place to be for innovation and art.
“Next, it was time to conquer Manhattan! I moved to New York city and formed the partnership Anthony Nak with Nak Armstrong, backed by our studio in Austin TX. We branched into accessories, such as hand painted textiles. Neiman Marcus sold out our initial offering of hand painted scarves! As we branched into jewelry, we began exhibiting at JA New York. Janet Goldman from Fragments became our exclusive rep and showroom. We were picked up by Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys.
“At this point we started offerings in 18 karat gold, including gems in tension settings, to guild jewelers. With our flagship store in Austin, we were exhibiting at Couture and won the prestigious CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) award, the first jewelers to be nominated for the accessories designer of the year.
“By 2006 I felt it was time for a change. I started selling a sterling silver line on QVC. Shortly after I felt it was time to re-evaluate and travelled to Asia. I ended up spending several years, exploring my other interests including Buddhism. But eventually I heard the call to come home. I missed being famous! I knew that I did not want to do it the way I had in the past. I had already achieved ‘traditional success’ with the Anthony Nak brand. This time around I wanted to create something more than just another luxury brand that made pretty jewelry. I wanted a new voice, a new way to communicate with my customers. I studied and became a personal trainer. Through this I learned how to speak a different language. I was able to approach women clients focusing on what was important to them, rather than me.
“All along I’ve operated with three guiding principles: Whatever you do, go to the top. There’s no need to be a starving artist. And make a difference; be a part of history.
“My newest collection is based on the energetic principles of gems. Through personal jewelry there can be an energetic transfer from designer to client. I have a great global customer base and prefer these days to interact with my customers directly or through social media. The one-on-one interaction creates a trust and a bond of lifetime customers, amazing relationships and forever friends. My clients today are not just buying a piece of jewelry because it’s eye-catching or flattering. They’re also buying my life story and the story of how each piece, each collection, is a journey.”
What does Anthony see as the emerging directions in the near future? “Women don’t want to be pretentious. They want good design that’s affordable. Our current line ranges from MSRP $700-$2000. They want jewelry with a story, to be connected with the designer. Social media, especially Instagram, is central. Business is all being conducted on social media. What can’t be sold online?” he says with a laugh.
We can all draw inspiration from someone who’s taking full advantage of the current shifts in society to re-launch his career anew. We’re sure he’ll be very successful and can’t wait to see what he does next!