A Q&A with Vera Balyura of East Village Staple Jewelry Store Verameat

A Q&A with Vera Balyura of East Village Staple Jewelry Store Verameat

The ex-model turned business owner is set to conquer the jewelry world.

The ex-model turned business owner is set to conquer the jewelry world.

Text: Carolyn Hanson

Walk anywhere around downtown New York, and you'll inevitably bump into someone wearing the pseudo-sculptural jewelry handcrafted by Vera Balyura and her team, who run the celeb-favorite brand Verameat. With two stores in New York City (one in the heart of the East Village, and one in Williamsburg) as well as an LA location, the brand has made it onto some of your favorite celebrities and influencers, and probably some of your best friends as well. We sat down with Vera to talk about how she got her start, and where she's headed.

Your youth was very transitory; you did a lot of moving around. Can you take me through your childhood and how you ended up settling in New York?

My family moved from Europe to New York when I was 8, then we moved to Utah, and of course I had to get back to New York immediately. Luckily, I was discovered as a model in my early teens by Nathalie's in Paris, so I headed there. Then DNA in New York took me on, which allowed me to stay in NY. I really wanted to start my own business, though, as models get taken advantage of financially, physically and otherwise...so that wasn't for me. There should be much more reform in that industry. Luckily my parents always had businesses growing up, and I'd been reading the Wall Street Journal since age 8, so I was all set. I started learning to make jewelry and had customers immediately through using sites like Etsy. Then I started verameat.com and the rest is history!

What came into the decision to start your own jewelry line and shop, and what was the process in manifesting that from just an idea to a full-fledged business with two locations?

I really wanted certain styles that were like Rodin sculptures to wear daily. So I made them for myself at first, but then had friends and stylists asking where they could get the items. And since I'd always wanted to have a business–I’d be writing business plans and asking my Mom to send them to David Letterman as for some reason I was convinced he’d want to be my investor. My family wanted me to be creative, but I think business is creative and there's a market for wearable art. So I started Verameat as soon as I had the means to make my own money.

You have an incredible list of clientele, and your pieces have been worn in a ton of campaigns and projects. What are the most exciting places you have seen your jewelry?

This is a hard question, as I really am lucky to have some insane celebs wear my stuff. I loved when Elle and Dakota Fanning both sent me hand written letters saying they loved their Verameat. Also Miranda July wearing my Dino Eating a bone necklace... Honestly when anyone on Instagram tags Verameat it brings a kitty emoji tear to my eye.

Walk us through your design process. Where does your inspiration come from, particularly for pieces like the famous dinosaur eating a chicken wing?

For the Dino Eating Fried Chicken–which Zach Galifianakis actually wears, kitten tear!–I made it because I was sculpting a T-rex face in wax while wanting to eat fried chicken so I thought "Hey, I bet this Dino would like a drumstick too." Then I thought about how many dinosaurs evolved into birds, so the Dino eating a chicken is like eating yourself millions of years later. So my mind was blown, and I thought others may enjoy that idea too, so I made a mold, shot some silver into it and put the ring on my website.

A lot of your designs are spiritually influenced–what is important to you in spirituality, and how do you practice it within your own life?

I’m related to the Yakut tribe in Siberia genetically and they are shamans. Sometimes I have strange dreams about birds coming out of my reindeer horns so I think it’s very important to honor your ancestors and be inspired by the magic that is birth and rebirth. I’m going to try and get into it a bit more through some novels I’m working on.

Where do you see your future, both personally and professionally? 

Well, I see myself finishing at least 3 novels next year and working on a feature film based on those novels. Then for Verameat, I see it growing first in New York maybe with another store, and then all over the US then the world. I look forward to hiring more women to work with me as well, women are inspiring, and the reason for my success. Though men who support women's rights are cool too.

What can you tell us about the books you're working on?

One is based on my life. I’ve had a lot of struggle; nothing was handed to me, and yet I persevered, so hopefully [people will] be inspired to do the same. Fans have asked me for this book, though I think I’m mostly going to be a fiction writer as the other two books are fiction. One is a fucked up friendship love story, based on a roadtrip to Big Sur California. The other is a magical coming of age tale that has more twists and turns then a hurricane.

Empowerment of others seems to be such an important part of both your business practice and your life: what advice would you give to young adults in New York City?

I’d say find people who believe in you. Never ever listen or be around those who don’t believe in your dreams. But really, you’re the only one who has to believe. Do whatever it is you want to do in your future today; right now, this second, don’t wait! There is no tomorrow. There's only today!

Follow Vera and her brand on Instagram @Verameat.

Credits: Cover photo by Joshua Allen

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