It’s so refreshing when I am introduced to people who are great at what they do, passionate, and also have a heart to help others. Catherine Nicole is one of these people. As an Austin based designer who hand makes jewelry out of non-precious, reusable metals, Catherine is making a bold statement with her line of designer and bridal jewelry and the environmental and social consciousness behind it. Women’s Wear Daily called her “an emerging designer to look out for” and she was named the Best Designer by People’s Choice at the 2009 Austin Fashion Awards (the girl’s got it goin on). Her handmade jewels are stunning and the perfect addition to any outfit – casual or dressy.
As if that wasn’t enough already, she has a huge heart and has made it a core value of her business to help out others. Catherine Nicole jewelry has teamed up with The Girl Effect and BRAC (Building Resources Across Countries) to help impoverished adolescent girls receive an education, stay healthy, and a have a chance to choose their own path in life. With every purchase, $5 will go towards supporting these joint efforts to help prevent young girls from becoming child brides. Check out this video of Shumi below! I am so inspired by young women like her who can make really incredible lemonade out of half of a lemon and not much else ($37 to start her business.. wow!).
I picked out some of my favorite treasures from her site to highlight. All three of these pieces immediately caught my eye and could be everyday staples in my jewelry montage or that perfect statement piece to add a little punch to an outfit. Some of these pieces are made with vintage 14K gold or brass and have a really classic but also fun look. My favorite touch is the pop of blue in each piece. Right now everyone is going brighter and bolder, especially with jewelry. You’re seeing women with arms full of colorful bracelets and bangles or layered necklaces to create a more intriguing focal point at the neckline. Anything on her site would be an exquisite addition to your jewelry collection, and remember, they’re all handmade and support incredible causes.
I picked Catherine’s brain a little bit in a Q&A so read on to find out more about this incredible designer and the inspiration behind her line!
1. What first inspired you to begin Catherine Nicole jewelry?
I originally went to the Parsons School of Design because I wanted to be a costume designer. I liked the idea that you can tell a story about someone by the clothes you put her/him in. A year after fashion school, though (March 2004), I found myself in a bead shop with my first necklace. I was moved by the materials, the colors, and the process of interpreting the ethnic dress of indigenous cultures to create a worldly looking piece. So, using what I learned from Parsons and moving forward under a silversmith, I began the road to Catherine Nicole.
2. Tell us a little bit about how your travels inspire your designs. You have lived in Spain and have travelled all over the world. What opportunities opened up the
ability for you to travel on an international scale and live abroad?
In a lot of societies, the ornamentation of the people is more telling than the garments they wear. The jewelry is obviously less utilitarian and often more expressive than the apparel. That’s what inspired me to do statement jewelry. I also love the textiles, colors, tiles, architecture, etc.. that I’ve seen in my travels, and often draw inspiration form there.
I was able to live abroad by working as an ESL teacher, and I was able to travel because I have always prioritized my life to allow it. I’ve learned more about culture, people and design from traveling than I could have from anything else.
3. What is the most memorable piece of jewelry that you own and why?
Before fashion school there were two necklaces. These necklaces were out-of-my budget at the time when I purchased them and served no purpose to me, other than making me feel original and inspired by the stones. I bought the first in 2001 from a little shop in Girona, Spain that sold all hand-beaded necklaces. I wanted everything in the store and was delighted to have walked out with one. I love the idea of inspiring people like that, and I have that necklace hanging on a hook in my bedroom where I can see it every day.
4. Are there any jewelry designers that inspire you? Do you have any personal favorites?
I like Jeanine Payer’s designs a lot. Generally, though, I don’t know the designers behind the jewelry that inspires me, as most of it is ancient or indigenous artisan work.
5. How would you describe your personal style?
Openminded. No one would ever accuse me of being label-conscious. The most fun part of fashion to me is the creation, so I’m more likely to pull together a mix of designer (established or emerging), vintage, and low-end pieces than show up in a Gucci dress and shoes. I’m big into wearing my mom’s old clothes too (she grew up in Rome in the 60’s).
6. You are involved in several charitable initiatives – tell us about your projects with the Girl Effect and BRAC and why these are important to you and your brand.
I was moved to chills and tears the first time I saw the original Girl Effect video and knew I wanted to get involved. Since many of my customers are brides, it seemed a natural connection to take on the plight of the child bride. BRAC’s Girl Centers really educate these kids about entrepreneurship, independence, and provide them a safe place to learn and get their businesses started.
Because I don’t have the kind of job that inherently gives back (like a doctor, councilor, teacher, etc..), it’s important to me that my company creates a way to benefit the world. So this is not a temporary project for me, but rather a core component of the business that the company will always run on.
7. Being based out of Austin, what are your favorite places to shop and find hidden treasures in the city?
The Austin Antique Mall & Tesoros are my two favorite shops. I’m obsessed with the Antique Mall and am a little glad it’s not near my house.
8. Austin is also known for great music and great food, so I have to ask – what are you currently listening to and what’s your favorite restaurant in Austin?
I’m a huge fan of old soul (Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Etta James, etc..) In Austin, a predilection for old soul & rock often translates into rockabilly shows (the soul scene exists but is a little less prevalent). So, you’ll probably find me at the Continental Club. My favorite restaurant is Karibu (an Ethiopian restaurant). I love any place that has flavorful plates of vegetables mushed together. My favorite thing about Austin is that I always feel like I’m on vacation, and this is especially true when I’m drinking margaritas on some restaurant’s patio. With that in mind, I’ll also throw Polvos on the table for fave restaurants.
To my fellow Austinites – I look forward to hearing reviews from you on her favorite haunts (you’ll have to check them out for me or we can meet up this summer and adventure around ATX together) and for everybody else, leave me a comment and let me know what your favorite piece is and definitely let me know if you make a purchase. I hope you all enjoyed getting to know another incredible designer! The countdown to the 4th of July weekend has ensued (1 down, 4 to go) and I cannot wait! What are your plans for the holiday?