Trading life in New York City for the West Coast, David Perry found his way to Los Angeles with purpose. He bet that he could build his brand Perry Jewelry, inspired by running. So far, it’s been a good idea.
David Perry is up before sunrise in his Hollywood apartment sipping coffee and listening to John Coltrane as he prepares for the day. Mornings are curated like this — an iPhone alarm to poke him awake, then pour over, always black and made to the soundtrack of jazz spinning on vinyl.
Only afterward does Perry dig into his schedule: a run up to 10 miles, lifting or yoga before heading into his office in Hollywood. “It’s necessary,” says the 30-year-old designer turned jeweler, referring to his a.m. affairs and also the separate workspace he maintains for his brand, Perry Jewelry.
“I have to be frank with myself,” Perry says. “I’m selling people oftentimes large diamonds or precious metals. So I want them to step into a different world that feels really professional. Also, having the extra cost and overhead, I need to cover these expenses. So it motivates me.”
An Unexpected Pivot
The idea to create a jewelry brand wasn’t part of his master plan growing up in Boulder, Colorado. Though being raised by an Italian mother who was fond of 18 karat yellow-gold, rubies and diamonds had left an impression on the young Perry about elegant accessories. And as a kid, he frequented antique shops with his parents, further developing an eye for aesthetics. Later, in his early adulthood, Perry began collecting luxury pieces — a Rolex Datejust, a Cartier Tank, and various gold rings and bands.
Perry had always envisioned a career in fashion. In fact, he was bent on studying at one of the country’s top programs, the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Instead, the avid and talented runner accepted an athletic scholarship to the University of Portland and competed for the school’s track and cross country programs while earning a Bachelor of Business Administration in entrepreneurship.
Perry went on to pursue a Master’s in Business and also entertained the idea of running professionally. Ultimately, he shelved the idea and opted to join his twin sister in New York City while chasing a career in the fashion industry. Perry arrived in New York in 2016 intent on building up his label BLK RBN, a premium menswear brand of running staples and lifestyle apparel, which he started during his final year as an undergrad.
“I wanted to be in the thick of it,” he says of migrating to the country’s fashion capital. “The bar is so high.”
Performance and Design
BLK RBN was in addition to landing a job working for The 88, a digital design agency. After a few months, he began working for luxury fashion brand Thom Browne. All the while, Perry was rediscovering running through a different lens. He was hired as a captain for adidas Runners New York and segued to what he described as a humbling distance: the marathon. Perry sought coaching from two of his former college teammates as he aimed to qualify for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials.
He described the lofty goal as going to his edge, which took him to a personal best of 2 hours and 25 minutes for his third marathon. The time was six minutes away from the B standard qualifying mark. After each marathon, Perry would reward himself with a gold chain. While some of his running friends would celebrate post-race by partying or indulging in a nice meal, Perry would wander on Canal Street in Chinatown discovering jewelry vendors and shops.
Runners took notice of his chains, which he wore during training and races. They wanted one, too. “I think people kind of assumed that I knew how to make it or it was a brand. That sparked a lightbulb,” Perry says. “At some point I thought this could be a business. I can figure out how to make this.”
And he did. He ventured to New York’s world renowned Diamond District, near Rockefeller Center, home to more than 4,000 jewelers and wholesalers. As he tells it, he walked around inspecting and evaluating options as research for his first commission. Not long after, Perry opted to retire his clothing label BLK RBN to focus on building the jewelry brand. He softly launched Perry Jewelry in New York in 2019.
When commissions began to pour in, “I just knew it was what I was going to do for the rest of my life,” Perry says. Wanting a major change, he left New York for Los Angeles in the summer of 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moving to the West Coast was an all around reset. “This is how I can bet on myself,” Perry says, in reference to taking the risk of leaving behind his fashion career to focus on building a jewelry company across the country in a city that he had yet to get to know. He applied his New York drive in his West Coast life though and quickly found a rhythm and an inner circle to support his initiative.
Perry set up an office, hired a new team and regroomed his style. Suits or pleated pants and loafers complement the two-toned Datejust Rolex, inherited from his grandfather, all of which he wears on the reg.
These days, Perry’s schedule remains plugged with client and vendor meetings and managing the production of new pieces. He says approximately 70 percent of his business is from custom orders, and runners are his number one consumer.
While Perry has always wanted to tell the story of jewelry through his eyes, he insists his offerings are for everyone. In fact, at least 40 percent of his clients are women. In the past, that included professional runner Cory McGee, who commissioned Perry to make a version of her Olympic ring, which he crafted in a flat gold band with interlaced Olympic rings made of diamonds.
Perry also designed a ring for Australian Olympic middle distance runner Ollie Hoare, featuring two bands in rose gold, one laced with black diamonds and the other encrusted with white diamonds. Other international pro runners, including Julie-Anne Staehli of Canada, have collaborated with Perry for bespoke items.
“I’ve always wanted some sort of artistry, and I finally found that within jewelry,” Perry says.
He likes experimenting, not just with pieces for clients, but also on himself for future collections. Perry laughs when he talks about being his own guinea pig. “I’ve had chains that were too heavy that bruised my collarbone after a 10-mile run,” Perry says. What works in running? What tangles? What doesn’t feel right? Questions he considers when he designs a new piece for a collection. All of Perry Jewelry is made entirely in Los Angeles using conflict-free natural metals and stones. His design process often starts with a sketch using a gold Cartier pen and thick white letterhead. “It just feels proper, and it feels like I can execute more,” he says.
Sketches often find their way into his pockets or else are littered around his office and apartment. He is keeping up with the demand and best sellers, like the Paul band — an 18 karat gold ring with two .10ct princess cut diamonds — dedicated to Perry’s grandfather. “I think every man should have a signet ring,” Perry says. “It’s a really amazing men’s staple.” It’s a favorite of his as well, along with a chain or two — Perry’s preferred staples.
Three years into the brand, Perry is still a calculated risk-taker. “I’m just doing everything that feels right in my gut,” he says. In the future, he intends to have a showroom in New York and ideally open at least one store.
So far, “things are going amazing,” Perry says. “There’s more coming.”
Bandit Running is proud to collaborate with David Perry to rethink what a finisher medal could be. Together we have designed chains exclusively for the champions of our inaugural Bandit HQ race and our upcoming Bandit Relays race.