Horn, shagreen, wood, South Sea pearl and iron nail necklace, available at Elements
South Sea pearl, leather and gold-plate necklace, available at Elements
Horn, bone and leather necklace, available at Elements
Elizabeth Wimpress is the ultimate feminine dichotomy. She’s fierce with a refreshingly straightforward demeanor. But for all her rock ‘n’ roll sensibility, there is softness. She’s back in Dallas full-time, fresh from a faded marriage to a British aristocrat, title and all — but remarkably resilient and ready to dig into her new brainstorm of a jewelry collection.
Within minutes of meeting, I realize the name of her new line, Sweet Olive, makes perfect sense. Yes, Wimpress is sweet, but like an olive, she has kick. “I wanted it to be a little ironic,” says Wimpress of the name. “Because women can be sophisticated and confident, but we can also be demure.” She’s quick to add: “But I am no wallflower.”
The day we met to catch up about her new line, which launched exclusively at Elements late last month, Wimpress wore an effortless mix of all black and layers of leather-strung pearl necklaces from her collection. Her Goyard tote, monogrammed EW, was casually slung over her chair.
“I’m a creative person,” she says, reaching into her bag. “I’ll show you my sketchbook. I always have it with me. It’s right here.” She flips through pages of pencil drawings and jottings to one sketch she made of a cuff. The materials — crocodile skin, whip-stitched leather, South Sea pearls and a diamond skull — are indicated with notes and arrows in her own messy-pretty script. “This is how I piece it all together.”
For the last year and a half, Wimpress has been, quite literally, piecing it all together — not just her first collection, but also this renaissance stage of her life. In many ways, Sweet Olive is a long time coming. After moving from New York to Dallas with her first husband and their two children more than a decade ago, Wimpress launched her first jewelry line, Two Blonde Lizards. The collection was a runaway success — a “business baptism by fire,” as Wimpress calls it — and was quickly picked up by Neiman Marcus, then Saks Fifth Avenue, more than 30 boutiques across the country, and by stores worldwide.
Later, Wimpress even created a Two Blonde Lizards secondary line for QVC. After a divorce from her then husband, Wimpress shuttered the business in an effort to simplify her life. “Then,” says Wimpress, “I met a fabulous, amazing, wonderful person, and I was back and forth, to and from London.”
Life was about to change in a major way. “I married a British aristocrat,” she says. “He was a lord. I was a lady.”
If you Google Wimpress, the first article that appears involves her attending the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Suddenly, Wimpress became part of an elite world of titled Europeans. She was exposed to a culture and a way of life that would, unbeknownst to her at the time, inspire Sweet Olive. When asked about life as a lady, she will humbly respond. It is clearly not something that jaded or changed her. If anything, Wimpress says, it exposed her to an international network of lifelong friends and the kind of world travel that built on her already rampant wanderlust.
“I would never have thought, ‘Hey, let’s go to Botswana,’” she says. “Certain places just weren’t on my bucket list. I was a big traveler before, but that just added to it.”
A year and a half ago, Wimpress and her British husband divorced, and she moved back to Dallas full-time. “You find yourself in a transition in life,” says Wimpress. “You think, ‘What am I going to do now?’ And that’s when I realized I really missed the creative process.”
With her two kids grown and in college, Wimpress packed her bags and booked a flight, spending extensive time in Southeast Asia. “When I was traveling, I didn’t think I was going to gain inspiration. But I was a sponge. And when I came back, I designed. I began sketching, and all this stuff came out. I came back feeling strong, confident, empowered.”
The result of that rediscovered strength is clear in Sweet Olive. The collection of necklaces and cuffs is designed from an artistic, rather than commercial, approach. Each piece is produced in Dallas, and Wimpress isn’t creating jewelry for a particular customer or a specific season. It’s a personal project and an expression of self.
“Every single piece in the look book,” says Wimpress, “I made for myself. It wasn’t until friends saw what I was wearing and asked me to make one for them that I decided to start the business.” Her collection appears to be elegant armor. Each item is made with natural, authentic materials, many of which Wimpress discovered during her travels. Nothing is faux, she says, and nothing is dyed. One stunning piece is encrusted in beetle wings — a startling iridescent blue-green, first seen by Wimpress in Thailand.
“I noticed these details on a novelty item,” she says, “a beetle-wing keychain or something.” For Sweet Olive, those wings take on new life, an organic material made utterly chic.
Wimpress is the first to admit that she is all over the place, always looking for the next unexpected moment or object of beauty. It is, after all, her innate curiosity that moves her to travel and, in turn, inspires her designs. “The whole feeling behind Sweet Olive,” she says, “is because of my experiences — good and bad — and you can see that through what I find. Crocodile from Argentina. Bone from Africa. It’s all incorporated. I put it all together.”
For a moment, she pauses before our conversation suddenly comes full-circle: “That’s just part of what life is. Putting it all together.”
Elements, 4400 Lovers Lane, 214.987.0837.