An interview with Amy Makkabi and Lauren Bupp Swanson of sheisme.
By Laurie Trueman.
When thinking of friendship bracelets, we think of unity and connection. Los Angeles-based duo Sheisme is the brand and female collective founded by Amy Makkabi & Lauren Bupp Swanson. Sheisme develop products around emotions, ideas and stories, with a product emphasis on friendship bracelets. The duo (and best of friends) intend to inspire a movement of female togetherness and empowerment, because they and we believe sheisme means = I'm with you. Female friendships are inspiring, earth moving and down right empowering. A friendship bracelet is a reminder that whether near or far, you can always be connected to your best friend.
Describe what you do, and how you manage the project She Is Me on a day to day basis?
We currently work out of Amy's apartment on most days, and every day is different... but it always starts with a cup of coffee (this week we've been sprinkling in some Spirit Dust from Moon juice, and we highly recommend it). We go over our to-do list and catch up on each other's personal lives, which usually takes more time than it should, but that's what happens when you work with your best friend. Then we turn on some tunes and get to work side by side. Lauren is usually creating or designing something and Amy is brainstorming the next project or feeding our social channels, all the while advising each other along the way. It's always about progress with us... whether it's bettering the business or ourselves. It's always about support, encouragement, analysis, and inspiration. Our minds work really well together. More often than not we head to Kismet in Silverlake for lunch, as it is so delicious. Sometimes we'll use up some of our Classpass, or attend an event after work - we spend a lot of time together.
What is your mission for the project?
Our mission is to empower and inspire women to be better to each other with beautiful reminders. We create pieces that remind us that we are not alone, that there's someone out there that sees us for who we are and loves us for all of it. There is something magical about wearing something with a message.
Where are you based and how does this inspire you?
We are based in Los Angeles and love it more every day. Los Angeles has beautiful weather, so we love taking walking breaks, which always lead to exploration and existential conversations. There is inspiration everywhere and we are constantly mesmerised by the sky and the clouds, our packaging was actually inspired by a beautiful sunset. It's amazing here. You can immerse yourself in nature whether it's the mountains or ocean, then head into the city to take in art or unwind in the suburbs. You really can make it what you want.
Can you describe your creative paths and what decisions led you to create She Is Me?
We met working the same corporate fashion job 11 years ago and quickly became work wives. Lauren was in design and Amy was in trend/colour. Our dynamic was amazing. We both worked very hard but also never took things seriously. We have always laughed at life. We are always laughing. Lauren ended up leaving a few years later to become a design director and Amy graduated to an art director position, but our relationship remained strong and we always dreamed of working together again. Amy ended up decided she needed something new and resigned and as luck would have it, the company Lauren was working for folded. We were so happy, we both cried and screamed and immediately started brainstorming. As we dug around in our minds the two things that stood out were our bond and our shared appreciation for creation and beauty, so sheisme was born. A line that celebrates connection with things you want to wear.
You communicate stories of friendship to your readers and wearers, what is so important about female friendships?
Females need each other, always, and now more than ever. When we attended the Women's March we were extremely moved by how peaceful, kind and smiley everyone was. It was proof that women across the globe have each other’s backs. It filled us up. We need more of that in our day-to-day lives. We provide each other strength and replenishment. Life is so much better when you have good people to move through it with. We also think that when women get together, magical things happen. Trust, empathy, support, confidence are all flowing to you and it helps you to be a better you.
How do you promote and communicate female togetherness?
Social channels give us a great platform to extend our message. We've really learned that each channel receives information in a different way and it's been eye-opening learning to navigate and connect differently for each platform—and of course, through our product. The whole act of splitting and sharing something with someone you connect with. It's a beautiful thing and something we are so proud to be a part of. The things we wear can have an impact on the way we feel. We also like to think of the name Sheisme as an adjective. It means, “I'd do this for you because you'd do it for me. I've got your back.” Like, I'll get a cup of tea and I'll know Amy will want one. I'll bring it to her and she'll say, "Thanks!" And I'll say, "Sheisme, dude." To teach people how to use the word would be the coolest thing for us. It's interchangeable with, "I've got your back." We've actually talked about it. Success for us would be to overhear someone use "sheisme" in that context.
How do women empower each other – that you find most inspiring?
Support is very important. We feel as though holding each other emotionally is such a precious act. Helping each other see past our insecurities, having each other's backs, rooting for each other, compassion… Having the support of someone who understands you is empowering. These are acts of sheer love that help us be the best versions of ourselves.
You develop your products around emotions, ideas and stories. What emotions, ideas and stories can you tell me about – that is communicated through your products?
The story of how sheisme started is our favorite. I'd forgotten my wallet one day and I was about to call my husband when Amy paid for some vases I needed. I texted my husband to say, "don't worry about it. Amy paid. She is me." It meant something immediately. I got you. Which is why our first product was about connections, bonds and celebrating that. We were inspired by our own friendship and want what we have for more women. That pure un-catty love where you treat others as you would like to be treated. That is sheisme.
Tell me about your friendship bracelets and how you have recently upgraded them?
A lot of thought and love went into creating these. We built an empathy map and outlined every detail... Who is our customer and what does she want and need? We also needed a symbol that would be the carrier for this powerful message. The circle of friendship was crucial, it represents strength, femininity, and a continuous bond. So, it started there. Then we thought what if it was broken in half... to share. We revised the packaging multiple times. It was important for us that the bracelets looked elevated and could work effortlessly with any look.
What do friendship bracelets tell the world about female connection?
It tells the world that we stand together, complementing - not competing. It also reminds you that you have a connection and a support system. It makes all the difference when you're reminded that you are not alone, it’s empowering to know someone is by your side. We hope Sheisme stands for that.
"We also made the decision to manufacture everything locally in Los Angeles, which means we know the names, faces, and personalities of the amazing craftspeople we work with. Human hands touch everything in our manufacturing process."
How do you ensure quality within your bracelets?
When we started we wanted to make pieces that felt as valuable as the relationships they represent. We wanted to respect our customer and really show her "sheisme" by using pure metals. We would want that, so you should get it too.We wear everything. We wouldn't make it if we didn’t. We really want the user experience to be as flawless as possible. That's why we have the adjustable closure that we developed especially for these bracelets, it's stronger and prettier than a sliding knot, and making it fit everyone just so was a huge priority. We also made the decision to manufacture everything locally in Los Angeles, which means we know the names, faces, and personalities of the amazing craftspeople we work with. Human hands touch everything in our manufacturing process.
Do you want to expand your line further?
Absolutely. We already have some new pieces in the works that we are extremely excited about. It's about combining beautiful pieces with a beautiful message.
Talk to me about your friendship? What do you gain from each other? What is it about your magical bond that made you want to work together?
We just move through life with such ease. We celebrate our differences and understand that that's what keeps our friendship balanced. Traveling together is a testament to that. We move and groove so well. Amy will pick a place and Lauren will find the way. Our shopping stamina is incredible, but our approach is different. Lauren takes her time looking at every detail, while Amy speeds through, then when we find each other again we both have a pile for ourselves and a pile for the other. All good things but all different. We really compliment each other because we share the same taste- but our skill sets are so different. Two heads are better than one for sure when it comes to us. Moments before Lauren was about to walk down the aisle for her wedding she was taping me into my dress. This was one of the biggest moments of her life and she wanted to make sure I looked as good as she did because sheisme.
How do you build on friendship?
It’s about creating a safe space where you can peel your layers away and really be who you are without judgment. Empathy and constant compassion allow for understanding. It’s also about knowing when to hold space “I don't want you to save me, I want you to stand by my side while I save myself”. Trusting each other enough to know that setting boundaries and having continuous respect for the other, keeps it real and authentic. Plus it helps if you laugh at really dumb things together.
What is togetherness to you?
Essentially it’s connection, feeling seen and understood by others. It doesn't always mean you have to share the same physical space. Trusting that you are supported, and belong. It’s about knowing that you're together, even when you're not.
Meet besties, Amy Makkabi & Lauren Bupp Swanson. They're the founders and creative minds behind LA-based jewelry label Sheisme, which is giving the friendship bracelet a much-needed style upgrade. Inspiring a movement of female togetherness and empowerment; Amy and Lauren have combined their love of minimalism with an emphasis on detail and quality, to create a friendship bracelet that you and your soul sister can wear eternally. Reminding you that you're together, even when you're not.
Straying far from the love heart charm bracelet you may have shared with your bestie at 12-years-old (who didn't?!), Sheisme's meaningful yet versatile collection of friendship bracelets show that great style and good hearts can coexist.
I caught up with Amy and Lauren to talk all things Sheisme and their own friendship. Like the best of friendships, they totally didn't see it coming...
You know your friendship is strong when you create a company inspired by it! So how long have you been friends for?
Lauren: We have been friends for... jeez.. 11 years? Basically, as long as I have been working in the [fashion] industry.
Amy: Going strong for over a decade.
How did you meet?
L: We met working together at the Forever 21 corporate office. I was in Design and Amy was in color and trend development. I remember spying on her, thinking she had really cute style and wondering if she knew how cool I thought she was - slash - intimidated AF! We quickly realized we were brain twins, though. I would use any excuse to go into her office and we would talk about everything - fashion, boys, food... why we hated a particular shade of pink with the same malevolent passion... ya know. I even took a hungover nap under the lightbox on all her color swatches one time...
A: We were coworkers who quickly became work wives (everyone needs a work wife). We laughed at everything. I taught her Farsi, we hid together, worked late together, traveled together, binged on food together, created together. She made my life better. Still does!
What inspired you to focus on the friendship bracelet?
L: When we decided to start something together, we weren't sure what it was going to be. We just knew that the bond we shared was super strong and that it had to relate to that bond. We had many brainstorming sessions and landed on this after Amy reminded me her Dad was a jeweler. We thought: If two people like us wore a friendship bracelet, what would it look like? After an exhaustive search finding nothing but hearts and hemp, we decided there was a hole in the market.
A: We are always looking for something that both symbolizes our connection and something we love to wear. When the opportunity presented itself for us to start something together (a dream come true), this is what felt right. If we were struggling with finding a friendship bracelet we identify with, there must be others like us out there.
What do you look for when shopping for jewelry?
L: I look for aesthetic first - I have to be wowed. THEN it needs to be made of nice materials. I've got to a place in my life where I can't bring myself to buy mass-produced fast fashion jewelry. That's why we make everything in Downtown Los Angeles. We wanted Sheisme to be uniquely sourced. Then the price needs to be tolerable, but not super cheap cause you get what you pay for.
A: Currently, I'm drawn to dainty pieces with an edge. My heart races when I go to Esqueleto in Echo Park, LA... I want to live in that store!
What is the meaning behind Sheisme?
L: Sheisme is a literal word for "doing unto others as you would yourself" but in a ride or die/I got chu girl kinda way.
A: She is me, but we made it one word because we would like to see it used as an adjective. Meaning you care about someone and look out for them as much as you do yourself. It's living compassionately, kindly, softly, holding space. All that fun stuff.
Do you have a muse for the collection?
L: It has always been our friendship. That feeling of someone getting you, having your back... we want to extend that feeling to our customers.
A: Honestly, we are. Or, I guess all the ladies out there like us. The one's that have next level connections and want to make it official with something meaningful and beautiful.
What's the best part about your friendship?
L: For me, it's the amazement I have, when we hang out or work, that we really want to do the same thing sooooo consistently. Eating, to chilling, to shopping... Oh yeah, she is the only person on the PLANET that has the same shopping stamina as me. We can go for 9 hours straight! She is also incredibly caring, courteous, and a respectful friend. She is aware of my quirks and just... gets me. She is a super hard worker too, I think that is what made our friendship so strong in the beginning and also what drew us to start this business together.
A: Getting in our bubble. We really do have our own world... Sometimes we forget other people can see us. Also, we care deeply about each other and truly want what's best for each other. She-is-me.