The 24-Year-Old Powerhouse Behind BP Jewelry
In this exclusive interview, Berna Peci shares how she transformed her one person team brand into an Instagram empire
In this exclusive interview, Berna Peci shares how she transformed her one person team brand into an Instagram empire
Text: Michelle Diaz
If you’re like the rest of us that loves to keep tabs on what the celebrities are wearing and what are the hottest trends popping off on Instagram, then you have definitely come across BP Jewelry. Everyone from Beyonce, Megan Thee Stallion, Kehlani, Bella Hadid, and Kylie Jenner have worn and tagged BP Jewelry on their Instagram accounts. At any bar or dance club, you'll see the cool girls adorned in BP from funky shaped rings, swirl cuffs, body chains, cuban links, and colorful bangle bracelets. It's become the go-to brand for noteworthy pieces that incorporates a 90's flair with a modern twist.
The Albanian native behind one of the most Instagramable jewelry brands is 24 year-old Berna Peci. Taking pictures of her best friend in her apartment sporting the products and simply posting them on Instagram, led to BP Jewelry gaining over 212,000 followers in just one year. While celebrities are caught on the street repping the brand, the jewelry collections become sold out on Bernapeci.com. The organically grown brand has been featured in Harper's Bazaar, "11 Trends From The 1960s That Are Making A Comeback”, on Selena Gomez’s June 2021 Australian Vogue cover, Bella Hadid's "Life in Looks" for Vogue, and and in Beyonce’s Ivy Park X Adidas “Icy Park” campaign.
I caught up with the very busy CEO over the phone from her apartment in Rochester, NY and chatted about what it’s been like to maintain a successful brand during the pandemic, her reaction to seeing her jewelry on celebrities for the first time, and her plans to grow her business in different avenues within the fashion industry.
So, how did you get into designing jewelry? Did you go to school for it?
No, actually, I went to school for finance. So I wasn't even in any aspect of fashion. I just grew up with a foreign family and my mom and dad would always like to dress me up as a little kid. I was always like the outcast in school because my mom would dress me up in bright colors and things like that. So I was into fashion at a young age and my family actually sold jewelry in local malls where I live.
Were you born there, or were you born in the United States?
I was born there, I came here when I was two years old after the genocide that happened in my country, so we came and escaped to America.
Wow so how was it for you and your family escaping from such a tragedy like that?
I was still young so I don’t remember, but I do remember that I had to grow up super fast. So every bill that my parents had to pay or anything like that I had to handle. They knew some English, they were going to school, but I had to grow up really fast and I always had to speak for my parents if we ordered anything. Obviously now they speak fluent English, but I always felt like I had to be the parent, if that makes sense. Going off I always felt like I was living a double life kind of.
Did your business grow mainly off of Instagram?
So I started an Instagram and I started selling to my local, and I will do pop up shops, and one of the girls here that has a shop she would have me come in and sell my jewelry there so like literally I would have people waiting outside the door because I'm in a small city so the things that I was offering is something that they couldn’t buy elsewhere. So I started off with that and then I started off with social media then I lived in LA for two years after high school. My cousin owns a big brand out there so I had all the connections and made friends out in LA. I sent items to like every influencer and that's how it started.
That’s amazing how you grew the brand so organically. In Rochester, what kind of stores did you sell your products in?
It was just like a small boutique that was like a hair store. Every Friday after college like when I had class, plus I was working at a dermatologist’s office, I would go there at night.
You definitely know how to hussle. You said that you went to school for finance, so, what inspired you to transition from the finance world to the fashion industry?
I went to school in LA and one day when I was sitting in class it just hit me that I knew I had more to offer and I was just not focused in class. I would be there, but I wasn't really there mentally. I was always really into fashion like people always DM me to like make outfits for them or whatever the case may be. So jewelry was the easiest way for me to get out of that because my family sold jewelry, but obviously different from what I was doing. I kept seeing all these girls on social media, making friends, making so much money and creating something for themselves and their families. So I was like why can't I do the same, and it kind of was just like me growing out of bad relationships and it just came naturally.
How big is your team? Are you still running it by yourself or do you have other people working for you now?
No, my team is just me, I have a really hard time trusting people with my brand because I was always raised to be like, only family works for you. I live in a small city and people know who I am and it's not like the safest, if that makes sense. So I'm moving soon and I'm going to create a team then, but right now I am the only one that does everything.
Wow. You have a lot on your plate right now, do you feel comfortable running the business on your own, like you said, you don't trust too many people?
Yeah I mean I feel like I was built for this like I've learned to create a life where I can step away from work too because now I'm blessed to the point where I have a very good clientele. So, if I do something they support me, I don't have to work as hard. I still have to work hard, but I don't have to work as hard as I used to. Even though I'm not fully there yet, I feel like you have good and bad days so it's definitely a lot.
It definitely is, but that's still amazing that you were able to grow this brand to what it is today and in only a year, like that's incredible.
Yeah, I definitely think that it’s about bringing positive energy to people like I'm willing to give anyone free items or whatever the case may be, even if you're not an influencer just to make someone's day better. I feel like that always reflects on you as a person, your brand, and that will always reflect back into your life.
That's very true and the best way to live life. So, did you stop going to school at a certain point or are you still in school?
So I stopped going to school fully and then I was working at a dermatology office. I was working the front desk and I would be on my phone answering DMs and posting and they would say I really can't be on my phone. So it came to a point where I had to quit the job because I couldn't do orders. At that time I was writing out each order and taking orders off DM. So each person I would write the orders and talk to them personally, one by one.
So you went to school in Santa Monica for only two years, then you worked at the dermatologist’s office for a bit and then realized you couldn’t handle both so you committed full time to BP?
Yes, correct. I became financially stable enough that I was able to get my parents out of work and everything so I was blessed enough with BP.
Wow so just after one year of BP launching!
Yeah, after one year. So when covid hit, I didn't want my parents going to work anymore because you know, we didn't really know what covid was at the time and I didn't want them going to work. And so that's when I told them that they didn't have to go anymore and like I would take care of everything and that was after the year.
How did the pandemic affect your business? Were you still fulfilling a lot of orders?
The pandemic was actually the best year ever financially, I think that people were just bored or didn't know what they were doing and we had so much time on our hands to be more creative. I feel like we didn't have to go out or do anything, so for me covid was my best year.
What would you say are some milestones you and BP have hit so far?
Some milestones I think would be just having Ahniyah, my PR agent, on my team and helping me get all my products on to all these different celebrities and even just having an interview with a magazine is a milestone for me. Also having my collections like the clear collection and the chrome collection, that is something different and out of the box that’s not something that you might have seen before, you know.
I noticed a lot of your pieces are Y2K inspired. What else inspires you when you are creating a collection?
I think fashion inspires me, like different clothing from back in the day. Like an outfit or something that Kylie or Kim [Kardashian] recreate and then something that I've seen that’s old fashioned. The clear collection has already been done before like that was done in the 1990s, but I just recreate it into something that people can wear nowadays.
Who would you consider to be the BP girl?
That's a tough question. [laughs out loud]
Who was your dream celebrity to have worn BP or somebody that you really want to wear BP?
I really want Rihanna to have a piece on. Like the paparazzi shoots with her fits, I want to see BP on her.
What's been your day to day schedule like running BP?
Day to day work life consists of me getting up, answering DMs and emails. I usually have a late schedule, but I try to do at least three days worth of orders in one day. And then, after I'm done with that, I try to take pictures. All the pictures that I take are of my best friend in my apartment. So I'll have her come over and we'll do some different shots showcasing new pieces or anything like that. It also depends on the day, like sometimes I talk to the people that I buy from or that make my product, talking to them about what I need and what I don't need. So there's always something to do.
How did it feel when you saw Bella Hadid, Kylie Jenner, and Beyonce wearing your jewelry?
Honestly, it didn't really feel real just because I was doing everything in my one room so it didn't really feel like it was even mine or I was doing it, I don't know, it felt so unreal to be honest.
Are there any celebrities or brands that you want to collaborate with in the future?
Yeah, I do want to collaborate with more people like Zendaya or Naomi Campbell. I want to do more unique pieces and start creating custom pieces for different celebrities because I’m able to work with actual gold and diamonds. That's my goal is to be able to work with more vintage unique pieces when I get to that point.
Do you see yourself branching out into other categories within the fashion industry like clothing or shoes or do you just want to focus on jewelry?
I think my goal was to actually start doing clothing just because when I do post my jewelry, it does so well because I won't just post a jewelry shot like, I'll try to incorporate clothing with it. So it's more of a lifestyle and I feel like even when I post those clothing brands, they always end up selling out of that piece of clothing. So it would be in my benefit if I started my own clothing line paired with the jewelry.
Do you want to remain an independent designer that sells only through Instagram and your website or do you want to open a BP Jewelry store?
I want to be online more because I feel like now that the world is changing, everything is based online and you can reach the whole world with one post instead of having a retail store only reaching a certain number of people. So I think online and Instagram is the best for me.
What's been your best selling piece to date?
Weird because the most random items like little pendants or things sell out, but everyone has their own unique style so what we might like someone else might not, you know. But I feel like Cubans, like Cuban links are my top sellers.
So what's in store for BP’s future? What are the main goals you want to achieve?
I just want to get out more unique pieces just because jewelry is very saturated and most of everything is already out or will be out within seconds so I just want to be able to put out more unique pieces that people love and will make them feel beautiful and confident in. And just being able to continue to see these celebrities wearing my items and hopefully like we said incorporating a different brand with BP like clothing.