Creativity and passion run through the veins of these two sisters. Always fans of fashion and art, Rena Leinov and Juliet Belkin set out to make their living via their loves in life, and along the way paved professions which inspire others through philanthropy and through giving individuals the tools to best express themselves dynamically and daily.
1. Who are you?
Rena: I am a diligent optimist in most eyes, and an innovative dreamer at heart. When I was four years old I took a stroll with my mom. My mom always dressed nicely and I loved playing with her clothes, shoes and jewelry at home. That morning, I begged her to let me try on her shoes and walk in the street. She took them off (3.5-inch heels!) and put them on me. I managed to walk perfectly in them for one block without paying attention to amused pedestrians passing by.
Juliet: A Co-Founder for jewelry line RJBIJOUX and a Creator of SHOPGIRL App. Mum. Dreamer. Believer. Achiever. I was born to love clothes, play dress up. If you ask my neighbors, they will tell you how many times a day I changed. Growing up as the youngest I’ve received a fair share of hand-me-downs, but I always managed to make them look good. I was a quiet, creative during my high school years- mixing up pants with skirts and wearing different color laces on my sneakers.
2. Describe your life’s work and the path that got you to where you are today.
R: My life’s work is what brought me to the place I am at today. I’ve always yearned to be someone appreciated for the work I’ve done. I’ve put my heart and soul into my work, which led me down a very arduous yet ultimately satisfying career path- one that defines me as the sui generis, buoyant person I am now.
J: The love for art /design / fashion comes from my father who is a stained glass artist and a painter. Designing jewelry together with my sister came as an idea to raise money in support of an organization dedicated to helping orphaned children and children with cerebral palsy.
Our family was and still is very close-knit, and we spent a lot of time growing up together in our beloved hometown. Both our parents are creative individuals with an artistic mind. We got a lot of hands-on experience with art and fashion as kids, but we are completely self-taught in what we do. We both prefer to take charge of a situation, but at the same time allow everyone’s opinions to be heard.
We had a peaceful and carefree childhood until the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan began. We had to leave our home, our school, our friends and travel as refugees to find a new place to live. After many travels, ups and downs, we finally settled in Moscow. Both our parents are hard working individuals. We didn’t grow up in a life of luxury, but we grew up in a close family environment where family always came first.
Our career in fashion began when we decided to create a few necklaces and sell them to help raise money for philanthropic purposes. Because of the great success, we decided to launch our own line. In early 2012, RJBIJOUX was born. Most of our friends and “friends’ thought we were crazy to launch a jewelry line because we weren’t influential enough. Let’s just say, the odds were largely against us. However with both of us working for big Silicon Valley companies, we were able to use some of our hard earned dollars to create a strong brand and marketing. There were tough times and despite the uphill battle, we fought harder and grew more passionate.
We were confident that our jewelry was unique to the market. And more importantly, as more “mature” creators (age 33 and 36) we brought a classy, open and fresh perspective to our work-one which would pave its own way to success. We wouldn’t take no for an answer. We worked and reworked our designs, we changed our plan- and then, we tried again. Our first big recognition came when Russian journalist and media maven Evelina Khromtchenko (one of the most influential fashion figures in Russia and the ex editor-in-chief of L’Officiel Russia) contacted us via Facebook and invited us to participate at her Grand Bijoux Bazaar in Moscow. We flew to Moscow for 3 days to be part of the show. It was at this show that we were approached by the organizers of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Moscow and invited to present our jewelry. Imagine the excitement!
3. Which charity do you most identify with?
R&J: Forliza founded in March, 2011 by Irina Belova-Nathe and Juliet V Belkin to provide educational and humanitarian support to orphans, children with disabilities and severely ill children.
|4. What is your personal measuring stick for success?
R: My greatest professional accomplishment would be earning a Master’s Degree and succeeding both at work and with my own business. The trick in life is to become the best possible human being you can. Then success will come to you in whatever form it is intended to be in.
J: Being recognized by industry professionals and having our work published in top fashion magazines. We see our success through the attainment of our goals- when we achieve something we set out to do, with no exceptions. There have been many down times, but just as many ups in our short and exciting career. Every step, every achievement has made us who we are today
5. Name a whiplash moment-something in life that has made you go 180 degrees.
R: Haven’t had one.
J: In school I was a very quiet child. I grew up to become a successful person. People find me inspiring and that is amazing. Success made me believe in myself and being recognized by industry professionals is definitely a whiplash moment.
|6. What is it about you that has made your dreams come true?
R: I believe in dreams. It may take some time, but eventually something that you really, really dream about happening can be achieved. You just need to visualize what you are dreaming about, and make this picture stay in your eyes often. Sooner or later, at a very unexpected moment, you’ll see that what you pictured eventually came true. It has happened to me so many times.
J: Confidence. I believe success means going from failure after failure without loss of enthusiasm, loss of confidence.
7. Who is your role model? And when have you been most inspired?
R: I don’t have a role model per se. Everyone is unique in their own way. There are many people that I find interesting and those I am trying to learn something from, but I cannot call them my role models. I believe a role model is someone you want to be like and look like, but my desires are constantly changing. I get inspired every day by exquisite people and things around me.
J: Sophia Amoruso, a Cinderella of tech. Always inspired by self-made women.
|8. How do you define love?
R: Where there is love there is life.” Mahatma Gandhi
J: A friendship set on fire.
9. When you became a mom, how did your business change? What is your take on work/ life balance?
R: I have created boundaries between motherhood and my business so I don’t blur the lines and create an unfair situation for my children and my company. Luckily, I get a huge amount of help from my family. I have a strong support system to aid me at times when it gets more difficult to balance the two.
J: My kids are my number one priority, always. And no matter how busy I am, I will always squeeze in the time to volunteer at their school. After all everything I do today, I do for myself and my children.
|10. What is the advice you would give for someone following in your footsteps?
R: Know yourself, know what you really want and stay confident no matter what.
J: Reach for the stars! Don’t let anyone to bring you down.
Last. What’s your current obsession?
R: I love to re-decorate. I am obsessed with cleaning (even my email) and getting rid of many things that I feel have served their purpose in my life. I do this in order to bring in the new. In this way, I am gaining more positive energy and attracting new, beautiful aspects into my life.
J: If we are speaking about fashion, then it’s definitely sweaters and sneakers!
To hear more on the girls and their latest in obsessions and Spring trendspotting, head over to Style Me Pretty Living.