Fort Worth fashion entrepreneur Lauren Blake debuts a new jewelry line that blends high style and mixed metals with affordable luxe
By Jenny B. Davis
Photos by Carmen Wilson
In September, on the fourth day of New York Fashion Week, Lauren Blake gathered her team in a SoHo hotel conference room to finally present a new project that has been years in the making. She carefully placed each item on the conference table and then stood back, nervously awaiting their opinion on her new endeavor: an accessible luxe jewelry collection called Petite Soeur.
“I had been keeping the designs a secret from my Fort Worth and New York teams,” Blake recalls. Luckily, it was a hit. “Everyone was excited about it, and when I saw their enthusiasm, it was the first time I knew for certain that I was on the right track — that we’d succeeded in creating something really special.”
Petite Soeur speaks to a variety of women, Blake says, because each of the lines has its own inspiration. For example, the shell collection was inspired by Blake’s relationship with her mother. Available only in gold, that collection, she says, is for the lover of quiet luxury. The helium heart collection reminds Blake of her husband and sons, and the cube collection speaks to a “funky fashion-forward woman” — and to Blake herself. “I feel like a cool chick when I wear the cubes,” she says with a laugh.
But every piece across the entire line is infused with inspiration from her frequent trips to Paris, her favorite city (after Fort Worth), starting with the name of the line, which is the French expression for “little sister.”
Each Petite Soeur piece is made from sterling silver. All golden elements are gold vermeil, which stays gilded longer than gold plate, and finishes include rhodium gray and rhodium black. Pieces from the circle collection feature a special touch: a small emerald accent. Prices start at $38 for a single stud earring and rise to $875 for hero pieces.
Blake, who debuted Petite Soeur Nov. 8 in a boutique inside the Fort Works Art gallery on Montgomery Street in Fort Worth, didn’t start out in fashion. A Fort Worth native (and Arlington Heights High School graduate), she earned a studio art degree from TCU and for years worked as a freelance graphic designer. Five years ago, however, everything changed in an instant.
A freak accident left Blake with severe injuries to her back and spine. Although she required a series of surgeries, she knew it could have been much worse. From that moment on, she leaned into gratitude. And she recognized how much she missed the challenge and the satisfaction of being immersed in hands-on, three-dimensional art.
“I always had an inkling that I would go into fashion in some way at some point,” she recalls. “I’d taken a lot of architecture and sculpture classes, so I knew I wanted to do something three-dimensional that united form and function with beauty.”
The accident simply accelerated the inevitable, she says. “From there, I got really dedicated to pursuing some kind of project, and I felt so motivated about it that I think it helped me heal.”
As it turns out, she didn’t have to go far to find the inspiration that launched her first business. The inspiration was as close as her closet.
“I collect vintage handbags, and I had a vintage exotic skin bag that I bought years ago, and looking at its shape, color and texture — it was a combination that you usually see in architecture,” she says. This special vintage bag, along with others in her collection, sparked the idea to create a luxury exotic skin handbag line called Wyld Empyre.
She launched the line in 2018. What started as a solo endeavor grew so quickly that she soon added several women to help her manage sales, production and client service. “The ‘Wyld’ part of the name references the materials we use, and ‘Empyre’ represents the camaraderie — the sisterhood – that we had,” Blake explains. “We were amazing women trying to build something that would last and grow — and we did.”
Blake initially sold the line via trunk shows across the country and in Europe. “Our bags have a playfulness that really helped to kick-start the business,” Blake says. Rich, traditional skins paired with bold, bright liners became a Wyld Empyre specialty, even down to the trademarked phrase Blake felt explained the unconventional pairings: “Tongue in chic.”
Eventually, Blake decided it was time to expand. “Handbags were a natural place to start, but I always knew that fine jewelry would be next,” she says. In 2021, she launched a collection of bespoke gold and gemstone jewelry with the same sense of exuberant luxury that characterize her brand’s bags.
“It was only natural for me to take some very standard, beautiful fine jewelry and turn it on its head, making them creative and colorful but still really elevated,” she says. “I think of my pieces as fine jewelry candy — they’re little truffles of goodness that you’re going to be in love with forever.”
Last year, she and her new team moved into a dedicated retail space inside Fort Works Art. The space was the perfect jewel box to showcase Wyld Empyre’s luxe bags and fine jewelry, but this year, Blake decided to give it a new look to complement Wyld Empyre’s new little sister, Petite Soeur. Ultimately, the reimagined interior design provided more space for clients to experience and experiment with all of the pieces.
“This line has a cool factor because it’s chic and layerable,” Blake says. She hopes women will want to mix and match pieces and find the combination that speaks to them as individuals.
“We really do have a mission to encourage women to find their personal style,” she says. “Whether you love fashion, you’re a jeans-and-T-shirt girl or you live in sweats, these pieces will make you feel elevated.”