Most of us are no strangers to loss, grief and even tragedy in our lives; the question is, what do we choose to do with it? One local jewelry designer walked away from a successful Wall Street career to launch the company that his younger brother had always dreamed of prior to his untime.ly passing. In doing so, he has not only breathed new life and success into a deteriorating family business, but has created a unique line of meaningful, handcrafted pieces to ensure his brother’s legacy lives on.
Cranston-based Luca + Stella is a success story birthed out of heartbreaking loss. Growing up, East Greenwich native Fred Magnanimi, 36, never thought to seriously become involved in his family’s struggling Cranston-based manufacturing company, Mag Jewelry. He moved to Manhattan after college in 2001, with no intentions of returning anytime soon. Fred’s younger brother, Danny, made a different choice: he wanted to stay in Rhode Island and try to revitalize the manufacturing plant their grandfather founded 65 years ago, which was still creating religious jewelry. Danny’s goal was to start a new, more fashionable American-made jewelry line, handcrafted “to inspire others through the journey of life.”
Tragically, Danny lost his longtime battle with Leukemia in 2013 at just 33 years old. Devastated, Fred came to the realization that he had a new purpose in life: carrying his brother’s vision into the future. He quit his banking job, returned to Rhode Island and got to work designing jewelry.
Fred chose the name Luca + Stella for the new line after his two young children. And although bangles and banking might seem like completely different worlds, perhaps the gift for jewelry design runs in the Magnanimi blood, because Fred himself constitutes most of the design team for Luca + Stella.
“I have a very specific idea of what I want the line to look like,” he says, “and a very talented graphics artist who provides the artwork. I’m like a hurricane – I’ll just develop a whole bunch of different styles and then show them to my wife, who’ll say ‘yay’ or ‘nay.’” The brand is now being sold through more than 600 retailers nationwide.
“A lot of it was blind luck,” Fred continues. “But I’ve got a fantastic team supporting me. We had an idea we really believed in, and we put a lot of work into creating products that are unique and also have a lot of meaning for us. It’s been great to see that customers like our bracelets and are buying them, and we are very receptive to feedback and advice from our retail partners on what the product should look like.”
One way in which Luca + Stella collaborates with its retailers is by allowing them to choose a special (usually local) charity to sponsor, which then has a special bracelet designed for it. The company has created specialized bracelets for about a dozen charities so far, including the Clean Ocean Project, the Providence Animal Rescue League, as well as a major partnership with a breast cancer awareness/research organization to be announced soon. A special series of bracelets will be sold at all 600+ retailers, and 20% of profits will go towards the organization.
The company, which started with 18 employees, has now grown to 35. Although thrilling, the fast-moving success is also bittersweet for Fred: “The end result is that I’ve got this incredible story that I wish I didn’t have. It could be the biggest business in the world, but I would trade all of it just to spend a few minutes with my brother again.”