15 Minutes with Joan Hornig

By Baruch Shemtov

Designer and philanthropist Joan Hornig is a true New York force. Her eponymous line of jewelry was founded in 2003, and is sold on JoanHornig.com as well as stores around the country including Bergdorf Goodman. Hornig’s designs have been worn by a long list of boldfaced names, from Jennifer Lopez to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, but it’s the brand’s tagline that sums up the designer’s vision: “Philanthropy is Beautiful”.

Describe the ethos of your brand. It’s about giving back. It’s about being noticed. It’s about the power of the purse. It’s a celebration of women caring.

You certainly have a unique business model. How does every purchase of Joan Hornig jewelry give back?
Whenever someone makes a purchase, I donate one hundred percent of my profits to the charity of the purchaser’s choice. So I become an agnostic donor, and the buyer becomes the lynchpin in making something good happen for a non-profit.

Why was it so important for you to create this model?
I thought that it would get enough attention to make people stop and ask and think about it—and think what they could do. Everyone can do something. I also thought that social enterprise was critical and was crucial for the succeeding generations.

What kind of impact has your line made?
The impact can be measured in many ways. One way is in dollars. Millions of dollars have been given away. Another way is in the range of organizations, so we’ve given to over nine hundred different organizations, some more than once. The third way is an inspiration to others to think of ways to give back. And finally, it’s changed the way some people look at retail and the way some people look at jewelry and luxury item purchases.

What role does New York play in your brand?
New York is the core of my brand because everything is made in New York. Everything is created by people who come from all different religions and backgrounds.

How do your designs reflect your mission?
The mission is about being noticed and caring, so the designs tend to be somewhat bold even if they’re small.

What is the unique aesthetic of a Joan Hornig piece?
Architectural, whether it’s feminine or hard-edged. Many of the designs reference buildings and gardens in New York. Almost everything has a combination of matte combined with something that sparkles. The idea is that it catches the light—and it moves.

You’ve have had so many famous names wear your designs. Who were you most proud to see modeling a Joan Hornig piece?
To me, everyone is equally important. Of course, it’s very exciting to me when a presidential candidate or a major celebrity wears my piece. But it’s not that much more important than when the person walking into a store says “This is so beautiful… and I want to think about the charity.”


A Coffee…
Dunkin Donuts. It’s delicious, and I like donuts!

The Perfect Gift…
The Shop at The Museum of Art and Design. It has the broadest range in price and aesthetic, from jewelry, glassworks, books, and card. And it’s ever-changing.

Milos. I think it’s delicious. And, when I’m there, I’m going to the theater.

Some Time Along… The Metropolitan Museum of Art. You can pick a room, and I can isolate myself in it. People are quiet.

A Celebration…
Central Park. You see gorgeous landscaping; it breathes. You can have any celebration you want. There are just so many places you can go and explore.