New York–Nadine Ghosn has garnered quite a few fans of her signature burger ring, and, it turns out, McDonald’s is one of them.
The fast-food chain approached the designer, whose line of cheeky and luxurious jewels has just turned two years old, and asked her to collaborate on a project in honor of the Big Mac’s 50th anniversary this year.
Ghosn designed a new hamburger ring, the one-of-a-kind “Bling Mac,” which replicates the actual burger.
“They were very adamant about having every burger ingredient represented in the ring,” Ghosn explained.
That meant changing the sesame seeds on the bun to even-sized white diamonds, rather than the original style’s champagne diamonds, eliminating the ketchup, adding an extra middle bun and the Big Mac’s “special sauce,” and even adding white princess-cut diamonds to the meat patty layers to represent the onions.
The ring’s retail value is $12,500, but one consumer will receive it for free; McDonald’s is giving away the “Bling Mac” to the customer who writes the funniest tweet, demonstrating their love for the Big Mac.
Going for fun and humorous, the competition is meant to be a play on the traditional ads about love and jewelry.
“I think it’s a really cool collaboration because it’s a mass fast-food chain working with fun fine jewelry, and it’s not often that you see that. This is exactly what I wanted, disruptive but very much aligned (in humor).”
Her jewelry itself is wildly different from the majority of the fine market, interpreting accessible objects like food, ear buds and phrases into luxury items; her original hamburger ring won Ghosn a Couture Design Award when she debuted at the show last year.
While a small group of contemporary fine jewelry designers occupy this tongue-in-cheek aesthetic space, none have applied the same kind of irreverent attitude to the way they operate their business.
“Because I’m not from the jewelry industry, it’s helped me have a different approach,” Ghosn said, “and because I’m my own boss, it’s allowed me to have my own rules while building my company.”
Being an outsider has ultimately been to Ghosn’s advantage, freeing her of any presupposed limitations in design or business.
She works by, “Aiming for what I want and figuring out how to get there without even looking at what other people have done in the past and how people have gone about things in the past, but really thinking about what is my end goal and intuitively how would I get there, then going from there.”
The New York-based designer only just celebrated her brand’s second birthday, but in that short amount of time she’s established her company as one that breaks branding boundaries.
Her creative collaborations and endeavors have grown organically, but she does adhere to certain principles when choosing them.
“As far as strategy, I want any partnership to be aligned in the sense that it has the same brand ethos as me, which is not taking itself too seriously, elevating (mass items) and this concept of generosity. I love the idea that anyone can win the McDonald’s ‘Bling Mac,’ anyone can be humorous, be creative, be funny and have the chance of winning this ring.”
Choosing to work with McDonald’s was an easy choice for Ghosn. She explained, “I’ve been approached by different companies and, for me, I had no hesitation. I thought the concept was great. Because I’ve become so linked to the burger, I thought if I’m going to collaborate with anyone it might as well be the best.”
Like most young designers, she’s handled all aspects of her business herself since she launched, only recently making her first hire. Juggling her company’s different roles led to her almost missing the McDonald’s opportunity.
“Funny enough, as I’m a one woman show, their PR team had sent me an email and I never responded to it. They continued to send me emails, but I never got back to it because I was dealing with other things.”
As the New Year approached, she began to get organized, getting back to emails she hadn’t had time to address.
“We finally got on a call and before we even had the conversation I prefaced it by saying, ‘there’s a large chance it’s not going to happen because I’m overwhelmed.’ Once they told me about the project I knew I couldn’t not do this, but it was a collaboration I almost missed because I was overwhelmed running this company completely alone.”
“Because I’ve become so linked to the burger, I thought if I’m going to collaborate with anyone it might as well be the best.”–Nadine Ghosn
Ghosn sharing this story is a good example of the transparency with which she operates her brand. She wants other young designers and business owners to know that playing by your own rules is possible.
“You create your own luck, to an extent, but I’ve been very lucky. McDonald’s has opened a lot of doors. One of the key things I want to establish is that I want to help support other brands and young designers also open those doors. I would be happy to collaborate with other brands in order to help elevate their brand or brand awareness.”
Making good on this desire, Ghosn is set to collaborate next with CJW, a line of silk pajamas and accessories, on a hamburger pajama set.
“It’s something much more affordable and giftable and linked to a brand that has amazing potential,” she said. “For me, the more success I have and the bigger the platform is, it makes me feel empowered to help other brands because I know how difficult it is to break into an industry. I think people who do it have a lot of courage.”
Ghosn is working on a new collection to present this year, but doesn’t feel obligated to adhere to the biannual fashion calendar as more and more independent brands are.
“Jewelry takes time. The burger was launched two years ago, and when it first launched no one really paid attention. People save up for jewelry. I’m going to take my time to do the next collection and whenever it’s ready and I feel good about it, then I’m going to launch it.”
She said that, looking forward, she’d love to work with a retailer like Net-a-Porter, and company-wise, she wants to build a larger team this year so she’s not at risk of missing an opportunity like McDonald’s.
She hopes having more employees will allow her more time to brainstorm innovative branding opportunities like the recent project in which she left a graffiti tag of a hamburger and her Instagram handle on various sidewalks in downtown New York City.
It was another example of Ghosn’s love of a high-and-low mix of tastes, taking its inspiration from street art. “The worst thing that could happen was a $100 fine,” she said.
Ghosn wasn’t caught, but even if she had been she explained that, “For me, that marketing budget was totally worth it.”
She continued, “I’ve had a lot of people send me images when they see it and that level of engagement is really interesting and important. The whole role of my brand is to show the behind-the-scenes of creating it. I don’t want to only be known for the burger.”
While she has plenty to work on for the time being, the designer doesn’t have all of her next moves mapped out.
“A lot of it is organic,” she said, “so I’m quite excited to see what is next.”