By Katie Eng
With her stunningly elegant and modern pieces, Brooklyn-based designer and CEO of Everett, Alexandra Nelson, has quickly become one of the rising stars of the independent jewelry industry.
We caught up with Nelson to get some insight into the inspiration and motivation behind her brand, understand more about her journey as an entrepreneur, and discuss the impact social media has had on her business.
// BIRTH OF A BRAND
Nelson studied fashion at the renowned Parsons School of Design. After experience with a number of fashion internships and even receiving job offers from some large, well established brands, she came to the realization that it wasn’t for her. It was an internship with fine jewelry designer, Gillian Conroy, that set her on the path to jewelry and entrepreneurship. Nelson said, “I respected how much work and dedication she had put in to get her business off the ground from scratch, and I immediately knew I wanted to learn the ropes from her to start my own business someday.”
Nelson created Everett one year later, in August 2015, while she was still working for Conroy. In parallel, she took gold smithing classes to continue honing her skills. Nelson eventually got to the point where she needed to commit to her brand and put her heart and soul into Everett full time.
When it comes to the inspiration and motivation behind her brand, family remains at the forefront for the designer. Everett’s first collection, which launched in November 2015, was named Dawn after her mother. The brand itself pays homage to her late grandfather, Everett “Ozzie” Nelson who was also a significant force behind her creative journey. Nelson described,
“I spent most of my life as a creative rather than an analytical person but never really knowing what I was meant to do. My grandpa Ozzie, and the rest of my family, always pushed me to pursue my dreams and do what made me happy. Everything I do, I do with my family in mind, they have always been the best support system and the ones I want to make proud.”
There is an honesty that is reflected in Nelson’s designs and even her more complex pieces are beautiful without being overdone. Her down-to-earth personality and enduring gratitude to her family and other designers she has learned from along the way seem to be part of the authenticity that is demonstrated in her work.
While Nelson’s design aesthetic is classic and elegant, there is a unique quality that resonates through each piece, capturing Everett’s distinct style. Nelson describes her collection as being “delicate and feminine mixed with timeless silhouettes.” Her designs often include one-of-a-kind stones that celebrate natural inclusions juxtaposed with dainty bands and low profile settings. Nelson says that she designs for the woman “who is ahead of trends and doesn’t try to be anyone but themselves.”
Her recent success has allowed her to have more freedom and control over her work, but staying true to her own aesthetic was initially a struggle. Nelson says that she would take jobs just to keep herself afloat. Now that her business is more established, customers are much more interested in her unique style and prefer for her flare to come through in the design. However, for her bespoke pieces, Nelson is a firm believer in the importance of collaboration with her clients. She said,
“Ultimately I want the piece to be something they cherish, and I want as much of their input in the design process as possible. In the end, it really feels like a team effort with the customer and what they love.”
As for her design process, Nelson is a self described “stickler for accuracy”. She used to only hand sketch her designs but now meticulously maps out her pieces using Illustrator. She focuses her efforts on getting proportions, stone placement and prongs exact.
Once she’s designed what she envisions, Nelson moves forward with making the model. She then makes a mold and casts it in gold. This is followed by hand setting and polishing the pieces. When creating a new collection, Nelson spends weeks creating designs and editing them until she has the ones she loves most.
// SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE JEWELRY INDUSTRY
The rise of social media has had a significant impact on today’s entrepreneurs and on the jewelry industry. These days, consumers are far more comfortable with the idea of e-commerce, even when purchasing fine jewelry. According to Shopify, the global jewelry market is growing at a rate of 5-6% annually. With the online fine jewelry market currently comprising only 4-5% of total jewelry sales, it is expected to capture 10-15% by 2020. Entrepreneurs like Nelson have built entire businesses off of online platforms, making an already competitive industry even more fierce.
While Nelson has the utmost respect for business owners who were able to get their businesses off the ground prior to the development of social media, she credits much of her early and ongoing success to these online platforms. She described, “it has been a complete godsend for me.”
In particular, Instagram has been the most beneficial social media outlet for her brand. Everett has reached a substantial amount of recognition with over 42.7K Instagram followers since the company’s inception just under three years ago. Nelson said:
“I really don’t think I would have gotten to where I am today without Instagram. It’s the best way to get yourself out there. I have people constantly sending me direct messages asking me for pricing and details, and I’ve made countless sales through Instagram. It’s nice to have a website where people can look through all of the designs you have to offer, but I think people are so much more interested in seeing how to wear or style a piece than a basic product shot. Instagram really helps personify a brand and make people realize there are dedicated people running their small business.”
// WHAT SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE
According to Nelson, her definition of success for Everett changes with each passing milestone. Her first step towards success was gaining the courage to quit talking about wanting to start a brand, and actually following through with it. The second milestone was when she made her first sale. At the start, she was only selling pieces to friends or friends of friends. When she began having complete strangers show interest in her work, that was the moment she felt she had made it.
However, Nelson is not one to slow down based on past achievements. She believes that when things get too comfortable, it means she probably is not doing enough and it’s time to shake things up.
For entrepreneurs looking to start their business in jewelry or other areas, Nelson has this piece of advice:
“Just get yourself out there and keep moving forward. At the beginning, all you see are obstacles and it seems like you’ll never get to a place where you feel comfortable, but you’ll quickly realize the things that scare you the most are the things that you will soon excel at.”
// ON THE HORIZON
What’s next for the designer? Nelson has her sights set on growing Everett over the next 5 years. She is currently a one woman show but has plans to hire a full staff including assistants and full-time stone setters. Ultimately, she would like to open a fine jewelry boutique where her entire collection can be featured alongside a range of pieces from fellow indie designers.
Customers who would like to see Everett pieces in person can email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a meeting. Private appointments are currently being held in NYC, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles. Future appointment dates are expected to be added in Chicago, Nashville and Portland in the coming months.
// ADVICE ON UPCOMING TRENDS
With engagement and wedding season upon us, we wanted Nelson’s take on what the upcoming trends will be for brides-to-be this year. She anticipates that the three stone engagement ring will be very popular. This has been spurred by the recent royal wedding, referencing Meghan Markle’s engagement ring.
Nelson is also seeing many more of her clients interested in adding a pop of color to cluster engagement rings. Additionally, wedding stacks are still a huge trend at the moment.
Beyond engagement rings and wedding bands, Nelson foresees a lot of intricate floral and fruit motifs with juicy colored gemstones in fine jewelry this season.