Independents

Jewelry Loses Its Kindest Voice, Alex Woo

IndependentsApr 05, 2021

Jewelry Loses Its Kindest Voice, Alex Woo

The designer died of cancer, age 47.

Designer Alex Woo, who made a name for herself with her sculptural charms and grew her business by always staying a step ahead, died of cancer March 30. She was 47.
New York—When interacting with Alex Woo, her kindness and humility might make one temporarily forget her business acumen or her contribution to shaping the independent jewelry design landscape.

But Alex Woo was both things: warmhearted and a professional powerhouse.

The designer died of cancer on March 30 at her home in New York City. She was 47.

Born Jan. 13, 1974, Woo was raised in New York City and chose jewelry as a career because of family ties—her father was also a jeweler. 

With a career spanning more than two decades, Woo was a trailblazer in the independently branded fine jewelry arena, specializing in everyday styles that were both wearable and sentimental.

She leaned into, and is best known for, concepts that are more relevant than ever—personalization and charms.

Since Woo launched the company, her jewelry has been stocked in hundreds of boutiques and department stores, becoming a household name among jewelry and accessory fans.

Woo’s charms are tokens of people and things her clients hold most dear: an initial for a loved one, a spiritual symbol for one’s faith, a palm tree to commemorate a favorite location, or a specific dog breed for one’s pet.

Alex Woo, far right, with National Jeweler Senior Editor Ashley Davis (far left) and PR and brand strategist Jen Cullen Williams at the 2020 Gem Awards in New York. (Photo credit: BFA.com/Benjamin Lozovsky)

Representing love, luck, or faith, Woo’s charms are timeless but evolve to stay on-trend, today dangling from huggie hoop earrings or easily lending themselves to a layered look.

Woo’s brand has proved so popular that she’s become known for her plethora of partnerships, joining forces with powerhouses like Disney for charms representing popular cartoon characters, or Major League Baseball on logo jewelry representing each team.

One of the brand’s most recent partnerships was with candymaker Sugarfina.

Through all of her successful endeavors, Woo always showed up for causes that mattered to her too.

She once co-designed a pendant with breast cancer survivor and actress Christina Applegate to benefit the nonprofit foundation Applegate founded to educate women about the disease.

More recently, she launched a category of charms called “Little Activist,” with jewels raising awareness or benefitting different causes.

A previous bee charm benefited honey bee research, for example. A panda pendant, made in collaboration with a Disney documentary, donated a portion of proceeds to the World Wildlife Fund.

Currently, three charms on the Alex Woo website represent causes like global warming, with one, the “Little Activist Love Monkey,” made in collaboration with Disney, benefiting Conservation International. 

This time last year, Woo launched a collection of empowering message charms, called “Mini X Words,” featuring charms and stud earrings spelling, “Feminist,” “Love,” “Survivor,” “Wifey,” “Sister,” “Mama,” “Nana,” “Namaste,” “Blessed,” and “Boss.”

Styles from Alex Woo’s empowering “Mini X Words” collection, launched in March 2020 in honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day

Woo told National Jeweler at the time that the collection embodied self-love and female empowerment. 

The designer was passionate about using her charms to spread a positive message. 

She said, “As a small women-owned and -run company, I think it’s so important to support other women and each other.”

 “When I was a teenager, I lost my mom to cancer, and it really put life into perspective for me. Since then, I’ve always tried to enjoy life to its fullest, and I am very appreciative of all the blessings that I have.” 

At the time, Woo noted that the “Blessed” charm was resonating the most with her.

In a previously unpublished quote she said, “It’s very meaningful to me as I am extremely grateful of my life, my family, and friends. I also feel so blessed to be doing something that I love every day and working with wonderful and talented people all the time. I know it’s a true blessing and I am very lucky.”

In the portion of the quote that was published in the article, she continued, “When I was a teenager, I lost my mom to cancer, and it really put life into perspective for me. Since then, I’ve always tried to enjoy life to its fullest, and I am very appreciative of all the blessings that I have.”

News of the young designer’s passing, which her company shared April 2 on social media, shocked the industry, with  many commenting on the heartbreaking loss of such a kind and talented individual.   

In a quote shared with National Jeweler, Amanda Gizzi, Jewelers of America’s director of PR and events, called Woo a “remarkable person, a fierce and loyal friend, a trailblazing jewelry designer, a savvy businesswoman and a wonderful mom.” 

“I have been blessed to know Alex for so many years and to see her business explode. She was one of my oldest friends and she was my constant. I knew I would see her at the industry’s events. She went to support the events and to connect with her friends. For Gem Awards, I knew that she was there to support me. That was who she was. The industry lost one of our brightest souls and talents. I will miss her dearly.”

Woo is survived by her husband, Ed Huang, and son, Alexander. 

A private memorial was held April 2 on Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota, Florida.

Ashley Davisis the senior editor, fashion at National Jeweler, covering all things related to design, style and trends.

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