This month the Lebanese-American jewelry designer Vram Minassian of VRAM had planned to show new one-of-a-kind pieces at The Couture Show in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the exposition was canceled for the year.
So, while his Los Angeles shop remains closed, the time at home has offered a chance for Minassian to revisit unfinished designs—between making paninis for his family, dancing with his four kids, FaceTiming loved ones in Lebanon, and building new relationships with his neighbors.
Whitewall spoke with Minassian about how he’s staying creative and hopeful, and why he’s far from bored.
WHITEWALL: How are you doing?
VRAM MINASSIAN: The last several weeks have been all about family. My wife Sevane and I have been at home in Beverly Hills with four kids—ages 1.5, 5, 18, and 21—and Scarlett, our Pit Bull mix. It has been a really challenging time in a lot of ways, especially for the kids.
They’ve missed high school graduation, a university commencement, a prom, a trip to Europe, and more. So, they’re understandably frustrated. Our five-year-old knows more about the virus than Dr. Fauci (even though we don’t watch TV). Her brain is like a sponge. We say, “Where did she learn that?!” on a daily basis. By 7 a.m., our 18-month-old is buzzing around—dancing, laughing, screaming, etc. No time to be bored!
WW: What are you listening to, reading, watching, or listening to?
VM: Between our 21-year-old’s professional DJ setup and my Coltrane and Kissin, there’s always music in the house. I’ve created a diverse playlist of old favorites with The Beatles, Michel Jonasz, Aznavour, Steely Dan, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, as well as Armenian and Arabic music like Gomidas and Fairuz.
With everyone at home, it is a great way to expose the kids to the music I grew up with and to music from their ancestral cultures, so they feel it in their bones. We’ve had some outstanding family dance parties that would probably never have happened under normal circumstances.
We’ve been successful in abstaining from TV news and mainstream media in general. Luckily, we have smart friends who share the most relevant information without all of the sensationalism and politics. It is the best of both worlds and helps us remain level-headed, open-minded, and informed.
WW: Are you cooking anything of note?
VM: Sevane basically moved into the kitchen from day one. Her cooking is heavenly, and she has also been baking all kinds of cakes—delicious apricot Sablés, too. I’m in charge of the grill for steaks or paninis with cucumber and halloumi. If we need a break, the kids become our personal UberEats drivers who are only too glad for any excuse to leave the house.
WW: How are you staying connected?
VM: Since we decided to quarantine my mom, we’ve been FaceTimeing with her and with Sevane’s mom in Lebanon 5 to 6 times a day. We’re also spending a lot of time on the phone with friends from near and far.
Perhaps the most surprising thing is the interactions we’ve had with neighbors and strangers when we walk with Scarlett and the kids. There is a much stronger sense of community now than I’ve noticed in the past.
WW: How are you staying creative? Are you able to make work at this time?
VM: I haven’t had a lot of time to be creative in a professional sense. I get some work done between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. around three days per week, but that’s pretty much the only time that I have to myself.
There is a new collection in the works and some one-of-a-kind pieces that would have debuted at the now-canceled Couture Show in early June remain partially completed, so there will be plenty to do with those projects when the studio re-opens and the team reassembles.
WW: Where are you finding hope or inspiration?
VM: Inspiration and hope are everywhere if you’re open to them. My focus over the last couple of weeks, as we’ve moved closer to reopening, has been on the human interactions and connections that we’re forming both within the family and with friends and neighbors. When we go back to a more normal routine it is our responsibility to preserve the positives—dance parties and all!