Just off the commercial strip of Roncesvalles, you’ll find a neighbourhood spot on the corner of Soruaren Avenue and Fern Avenue. The Michelle Ross Jewelry showroom and studio is new to the area but definitely not new to the artisan and jewelry enthusiast community in Toronto. Timeless, feminine, and fluid is how I would describe Michelle’s jewelry pieces which are owed in part to her background in textile design.
I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with her and it was like we had been friends for years. In fact, we got stuck inside her beautiful studio together and effortlessly chatted away while a thunderstorm raged on outside.
Michelle Ross started creating jewelry pieces from a young age but she didn’t sell her first piece until she was in grade 12. She teamed up with another local jewelry designer and began selling at house parties in the neighbourhood. Remember, this was before the time we had social media and online shopping so people relied a lot on face-to-face interactions to grow their brands.
During this time and throughout university, jewelry was always a side project for Michelle. She studied textile design at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University and went on to study fashion design at London College of Fashion. It wasn’t until she returned back to Toronto in 2010 to launch Michelle Ross Jewelry.
Not being a trained jewelry designer hasn’t held her back; if anything, her background in textile design is what has allowed her to be creative with materials and give something as solid as brass a fluid feel.
I treat my material more like a textile rather than metal. I’m always manipulating the metal, seeing what it will do, seeing how the chains will fall. I’m constantly trying stuff on as I’m making it, to make sure I still have the drape.
Her style as with any designer has evolved over the years. From being more intricate to basic. However, Michelle has never been one to follow trends. She is true to her style and it’s what sets her apart.
While her pieces can look intimidating at first, Michelle doesn’t necessarily see her pieces as being too bold or challenging to wear. She believes you can wear her pieces for any occasion or not even an occasion at all. People in more professional work environments, love her pieces because they offer the right amount of character and personality to an otherwise plain outfit.
Michelle often does Instagram Lives showing people how to style pieces and every time she herself is wearing a seemingly casual outfit. I think that’s what really makes her jewelry universal is that it can be worn with anything. It can be the focal point of an outfit or it can seamlessly blend in.
If you love the piece, but don’t want to make as bold of a statement, wear an outfit the same colour as the piece because then it just adds texture.
One of the most profound things from our discussion was wearing jewelry on a black outfit actually makes it pop out more and it can seem like the piece is wearing you. Means we’ll see the piece first before we see you. This is why Michelle encourages people to wear her pieces with coloured clothing and patterns to make the jewelry a part of you.
Scroll to know more about Michelle Ross Jewelry from the designer herself…
What’s the best part of your day?
My leisurely 15-minute walk through the neighbourhood to my studio. I get to see people rather than be by myself in a car or on my bike. I didn’t realize how much that was going to change my day but it sets it off in such a nice way. There are also some fun installations to admire on my walk like this box full of dandelions with the phrase, “I thought you were solid, but really you were just fluff.” It’s these moments that make me pause, and maybe take a photo.
What are your favourite types of jewelry or styles to make?
Definitely the bigger, bolder pieces. I’m making a necklace right now called the Frankie necklace. It’s a ton of beads that look like they’ve been wrapped around you and thrown everywhere and happened to fall in the perfect asymmetrical, organized mess.
Who is your jewelry meant for?
I’ll often get a comment like, “Oh, is it somebody older that wears your pieces?” Or “If I was younger, I’d wear something like that.” I would say that we do not have an age for our customers. We have had 18-year-olds with their grandmother buying the same piece of jewelry. They both love it and wear it in their own way. Anyone and everyone can wear the pieces. There are definitely some, that feel a little bit more mature. Some feel a little bit more playful, but as long as somebody’s comfortable in it, they wear it really well.
How do you maintain a “bold” presence in a “minimal” world?
I don’t follow trends. The people who appreciate my jewelry want something unique, that’s not seen everywhere. They appreciate the texture of the materials, the handmade quality and are confident in their fashion choices.
What do you hope this new space will bring to the community?
I find it really important to have a place where customers can come, shop, and see where everything is made.
This would be my fifth studio and the most retail-like of the spaces. I find people value being able to come and see that it’s all made here and see the textures that I’ve brought into the space. It helps in telling the brand story.
I always wanted a space that was off the beaten path. I’ve lived in London for a number of years and when I’m back there material sourcing or visiting, I stumble across these little gems nestled in a neighbourhood. I found those spots are more noticeable because they are a little unusual or out of place, which I think fits with the jewelry. So, yeah, this space really is perfect.
I lean more towards gold coloured jewelry, but the Cocquin choker is stunning even in a rhodium plated finish. I think this piece is really elegant for a night out but it would look just as great with a crew neck t-shirt. It would pair so well with the Poe ring because they both have this coiled metal effect.
What I love most about Michelle’s pieces is their versatility. Necklaces, chokers, and bangles can easily be layered. You can mix metals and longer wrap necklaces like Larissa can be looped around your neck like a scarf.
The pieces from the new Calla collection still emulate Michelle’s statement style but they have an added handmade touch by being hand-formed. You can also see the imprint of fingerprints on the metal, which adds a wonderful textural element. Check out the Selene earrings to see what I’m talking about!