This week, WeTravel is featuring Travel Influencer and Designer, Diana Ho. Diana Ho is a well-known self-made jewelry designer based in Southern California, who is passionate about art, fashion, and travel. With the release of her first collection in 2012 after the passing of her mother, Kimberly, who shared a love for jewelry, Diana’s jewelry is inspired by her own incredible life experiences. Diana uses her work as a way to keep her mother’s spirit alive by allowing her creativity to run free. Her pieces are intricately created to fit the classy, sophisticated and edgy young women with statement jewelry that is suitable for any occasion. We sat down with Diana and talked to her about her jewelry, her designs, and her travel experiences.
Q. What led you to start your own jewelry design?
A. I’ve always, without a doubt, held a passion for art, fashion, and the idea of being able to build your passion into a career. I’ve been experimenting with different types of art/fashion entrepreneurial ventures since I was young, but I really got into jewelry design during my last year in college. My mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2013 and during my fall semester at CSUF that year, she was going into hospice care. I took only 2 classes on campus so that I could be at home to help out. This time in my life revolved around making the most out of the time I had left with my mom, helping her through her declining health, working my job on the weekends, and passing my classes to stay on track to graduate at the end of that year. Since I was spending most of my time at home, I had some downtime. My older brother’s then-girlfriend was over all the time to help us out. One day, she came over after making a pit-stop at the craft store, Jo-Ann’s, where she bought novelty jewelry-making supplies. She told me that I could mess around with her stuff whenever I wanted to, since she was leaving everything at our place. My first-ever designs were bohemian hand-pieces made from stretch cord and various types of beads. I became obsessed! The true “light-bulb” moment arrived when one of my mom’s wonderful nurses came by to check up on her. She noticed what I was doing and asked if I was selling these hand-pieces. With my business mindset strongly in place from school, I answered, “Yes.” So she placed an order for 9 hand-pieces selling at $10/each. I made and finished her order by the end of the day. Soon, many of the other nurses placed orders.
Was there a particular event in your life that encouraged you to travel?
Growing up, we rarely went on family vacations mainly due to the fact that my parents worked long, hard jobs and didn’t really have the extra money or time to spend on family trips. I would always hear or see travel stories from family, friends, and the media and I felt like I was missing out on something special. Traveling to new places sounded so exotic and intoxicating to me that I told myself that I would explore new and exciting places as often as possible when I was older.
What are your favorite destination(s)? Any tips that you’d like to share with us from these experiences?
This is a hard question because it is so difficult to choose! Every place is special in their own way and differs in culture and experience. However, if I had to choose, I would say that my favorite destination is Firenze, Italy. I studied abroad there during the summer of 2011. I lived in Florence for over a month and had the opportunity to travel and explore all across Italy. We visited Cinque Terra, Sienna, Venice, Pisa, Verona, and Rome to name a few. It was my favorite experience because not only was it my first independent trip to another country, but it was also everything that I had imagined and hoped Europe would look and feel like. Plus it was a trip that allowed me to mature as a person. It changed my entire perception of the world and the people inhabiting it, and I also made such great friends along the way.
How has travel inspired your collection(s)?
Every time I travel to a new place, whether it is within the U.S. or outside of the country, I am inspired. It is the exciting little details in the people, the buildings, the nature, and the culture that inspires my future collections. It is hard to pin-point exactly where my inspiration manifests. It is the accumulation of everything that I’m taking in; the feelings, sights, smells, and other heightened senses that are on overload when I travel. Each little detail changes me and my perception, and, in turn, my designs evolve, but they also always maintain a signature aesthetic.
What do you enjoy when group traveling?
I enjoy being submerged into the new community that I am in. I love walking through the streets, visiting all the touristy places, and linking up with locals or other travelers to find places to hang out. A few of my favorite memories were the times where I stayed in hostels sharing a room with 10+ other bunkers. You really meet the most amazing people when you’re traveling.
How do you go about organizing your trips?
I’m very 50/50 when I organize trips; half of it is planned out while the other half is left to spontaneity. I definitely always plan out my flight and lodging ahead of time with a list of the top places I would want to visit from researching the destination.
How do you decide on your destinations?
I would say that it varies depending on the situation and time. A lot of times, I end up going with a friend, who wants to travel together already.
Your most recent trip to San Francisco was lead by trip organizer, Tiffany D. Describe your group travel experience. What were your top destinations, food places and event activities?
- Friday: Dolores Park, Bi-Rite Creamery, Zachary’s, & Snakehips at 1015 Folsom
- Saturday: Lake Merritt Music Festival & Downtown Berkeley
- Sunday: La Note, Anthony’s Impromptu BBQ
- Monday: Pepples Donut Farm, Philz, Ike’s Sandwiches & Sutro Baths
It was such an amazing experience being led around San Francisco by Tiffany. It was a great balance between food, places with a great view, walking, and lounging. In addition to this, she also brought us to see the Fresh Kiwi Juice and Snakehips show at 1015 Folsom, where we got to see FKJ perform his first show in the US. Snakehips also dropped some old school groove.
I also ate such an intense amount of food during my trip… or at least that’s what it felt like! I would say my favorite food spot that we visited was La Note. It was such a lovely and quaint restaurant that truly did have a French feel to it. They even had sugar cubes at the table! Ike’s Sandwiches is definitely a close runner up. Their sandwiches are delicious.
My favorite destination was a hiking spot in San Francisco, Sutro Baths. I am a huge hiking fan when I’m home and it was cool to check out the trails here. The view of Golden Gate Bridge was incredible. At one point, there was even a zen circle built from various sized rocks on the path.
Where do you plan to travel next?
I have a few exciting travel plans coming up this year! I plan on spending a day zip lining through the Redwoods in California and a road trip out to Arizona to catch a tour through Antelope Canyon. Then, I hope to travel to either the Philippines or Europe at the end of the year with a few of my best girlfriends.
What are your plans for Diana Ho Designs this coming year?
I plan to continue building awareness of my brand and to keep designing new and exciting pieces of jewelry. I also definitely plan to go on many trips and to be inspired by each one!