Through her Misahara jewelry line, founder Lepa Roskopp combines cultures to elegant effect. by Scott Kearnan // photos by Forrest Arakawa, Gary Perkins, Rogan Ward, and Milan Vukicevic
When Lepa Roskopp launched her luxury jewelry line, Misahara, she chose to include a certain symbol on every piece: a triangle. It’s a simple shape, but it stands for something complex and deeply meaningful to the designer and businesswoman. It represents unity and interconnectedness–between cultures, between beliefs, and between people. And in many ways, it reflects the process by which Roskopp creates each Misaraha piece. Through internationally inspired combinations–this gemstone, that shape, this arrangement–the final result is a work of fashion that is far greater and more glamorous than the sum of its parts.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Saratoga, CA-based Roskopp is so inspired by the ocean. Land, after all, can be divided by boundaries drawn by nature or by man. But the ocean goes wherever it flows, and its soft, lapping touch links every corner of our big blue planet.
“Water is the most tranquil thing to watch,” says Roskopp, who has ocean homes in Montenegro on the Adriatic Sea and in Zimbali on South Africa’s northern coast. It is in these serene locations where she often seizes the creative sparks for her collection. “I don’t think anyone cannot decompress by the ocean,” she says “It’s the perfect place to reflect and gather thoughts and inspiration.”
When Roskopp reflects on her own high-end-meets-bohemian designs, that aforementioned spirit of unity seems to be paramount. After all, she understood from an early age the kind of devastation that division and fragmentation can bring. It’s true that Roskopp has enjoyed a privileged life; born to a bicultural family in the diplomatic core, her childhood was defined by jet-setting travel that exposed her to an international community. Today she is married to a well-known athlete, former pro skateboarder Rob Roskopp, and runs successful companies that cater to affluent clientele. But she’ll never forget how her world changed in the early ’90s, when violent civil wars dissolved Yugoslavia into many independent countries and created permanent fissures for a once-united people.
“It tore me apart, seeing hatred among friends that I grew up with in the village,” says Roskopp, who grew up between the small Serbian villages of Klek and Cerovac, where her family compound is located. “And it hurt me, seeing how it aged my father. He believed in Yugoslavia and the unity of the people. I think that was my biggest inspiration behind the Misahara unity symbol.”
Unity is also reflected in the jewelry line’s different design elements. Roskopp has a longstanding passion for fashion and was first introduced by her mother to global style scenes in cities like Paris. But today she remains greatly influenced by her own extensive travels. Her designs and custom creations of 18-karat gold, pave diamonds, and precious gems all combine the inspiration Roskopp has culled from the colors and topographies of many far-flung locations.
The Adriatic Collection, Misahara’s summer launch, is actually a return home in many ways. Childhood memories of growing up by the Adriatic Sea and in Serbian villages results in rippled textures that recall rolling waves and the Balkan Mountains. Regal hues of orange, gold, and purple conjure associations with seaside sunsets. The ultimate result is a unique, feminine style that marries the authenticity of Balkan women with the flair of Mediterranean neighbors.
In addition, Roskopp has planned a lavish August launch for the collection in nearby Porto Montenegro, a former Yugoslav shipyard that is now home to a rapidly developing luxury yacht marina. The ultra-high-end community attracts the world’s wealthiest, and August’s event will be themed like a jewelry heist in a Bond film, says Roskopp. Expect a glittering list of VIPs–from professional athletes to European royalty–assembled among mega-yachts by the docks, fashion shows on jetties, and parties in penthouses. The result: a bona fide ocean of opulence.
Of course, luxury permeates every aspect of Roskopp’s business life. She is also co-founder of The True Collection (thetruecollection.com), a members-only private club (fee to join: $100,000) that curates one-of-a-kind experiences for wealthy clientele: think topnotch accommodations, handpicked personnel, and uniquely immersive adventures that range from African safaris to Alpine skiing and are enjoyed alongside esteemed athletes, artists, and moguls.
But Roskopp works hard to help others enjoy their play. A self-described perfectionist, she strives to balance her demanding professional schedule with family life. That can be hard, says the mother of three, especially when your spouse is your business partner; Roskopp works with her husband Rob on his company, Santa Cruz Bicycles (santacruzbicycles.com), and they are partners in The True Collection (thetruecollection.com), a members-only service providing exclusive travel experiences.
How does the duo make things work as a professional power couple? Roskopp says the key is maintaining an emotional division between home life and family life, something she learned from her father. “Working in the family business helped,” says Roskopp. “My father had multiple companies, and when we got to work, he was no longer our father – he was our boss. I learned early on to separate emotions there. That’s what you have to do in a marriage.”
As the couple raises three children in the privileged communities of Silicon Valley, Roskopp thinks it is important to keep her girls grounded. She does it in small ways: for instance, by making sure they do their own chores. The family has a maid, but “she is not allowed to make their beds or wash their clothes,” says Roskopp. “They are not accustomed to having people wait on them.” She also exposes her well-traveled children to very different lifestyles around the world. Every summer, Roskopp returns to Serbia, where her children get a glimpse at a modest community in which their family has roots. “It’s a very humble, simple life there,” says Roskopp. “They see the children playing in the town square. They see how little they have, and how content they are. They understand that material stuff is not going to make you happy.”
Perhaps the most dramatic reminder of that lesson is found near the Roskopps’ home in South Africa, which at points has been ravaged by apartheid that echoes the division experienced in the former Yugoslavia. Not far from Zimbali is a poor area where Roskopp discovered the Thimbini School, a place where children struggle for the most basic needs. Roskopp says her own children were shocked–and humbled. “My daughter had made a Christmas list. She had asked for a maid, because she was sick of cleaning her room,” recalls Roskopp. “Then she saw the lists of what those children at the Thimbini School were asking for: a mother, pencils. She realized it was kind of gross, the things she had been asking for.”
A portion of Misahara profits are donated to the Thimbini School, and Roskopp is working to broaden her business’s scope of philanthropy by incorporating the nonprofit True Cause Foundation (ultimateexperience.com/truecause). With the launch of the Adriatic Collection, she expects to move the charitable focus closer to that region, helping people in places like Kosovo. (In fact, she is already contributing by employing Serbian locals for the splashy launch event.)
It all goes back to that sense of unity, says Roskopp. Her life and business trade in luxury, but her heart is rooted in a desire to connect people and cultures. Above all else, that is what Misahara represents, says Roskopp.
“We want to see people accept each other, to accept different lifestyles, cultures, and ideas,” says Roskopp of the ethos of Misahara, which takes its name from a combination of her childrens’ names—Sara (sa), Harrison (ha), and Mara (ra)—and business partner and pro athlete Greg Minnaar’s (Mi). “The fusion of all these things is very important.”
Misahara’s symbol may be a triangle, but Roskopp brings its spirit of unity full circle.