Friends who made fortune from friendship bands
SUZANNE S BROWN
LIKE many kids, Stacy Herzog learned to make friendship bracelets at summer camp when she was growing up in Colorado. And as an adult, she forgot all about them until she and best friend Sarah Reid took a trip to Ecuador three years ago. They saw people everywhere wearing the bracelets, and it rekindled their interest in the colourful, woven designs.
So they started making their own. But Herzog, now 26, and Reid wanted a little more bling on their wrists and necks than they did as children. They experimented and began mixing the bracelets with vintage jewellery from the collections that had been handed down from their grandmothers.
Both were working in the fashion industry in New York, and it wasn’t long before their creations caught notice. In February 2010, a photographer for Women’s Wear Daily stopped the pair on the street to praise their bracelet designs, snapped a photo of them and it was published in the trade journal. Their phones started ringing, and two days later, “we quit our jobs and started doing this full time,’’ Herzog said on a recent trip to Denver.
They’ve built a cult following in Japan, where they recently visited for the second time. J Crew partnered with them on a limited-edition collection, and stores such as Barneys and Henri Bendel in New York carry their Frieda & Nellie collection, which is named for their grandmothers.
Whippet-thin and fast-talking, Herzog recounted her whirlwind journey.
She apologised for being “a little shambly.’’ Between making plans for her July wedding in Colorado and keeping the jewellery business growing, she’s got a lot on her plate. And it’s evident that her personal and professional lives are as entwined as the threads in her bracelets.
Herzog’s maid of honour – not surprisingly – will be her business partner, Reid. The wedding gown and nine bridesmaids dresses were designed by another of Herzog’s friends, Katie Ermilio.
When they started, it was just Stacy and Sarah creating one-ofa- kind designs in Herzog’s apartment. As they grew and started selling to stores, Herzog admits to being overwhelmed. “I was wearing so many hats,’’ she said.
Her background was solid, but you don’t learn to juggle until forced to. She studied business at the University of Texas at Austin, earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and worked in accessories design at Betsey Johnson. Reid worked as a designer at Natori for six years.
They sought advice from their families and people along the way and feel fortunate to have gotten mentions in many publications. “We got a lot of love from blogs,’’ Herzog said, and the editorial credits continue. (Carrie Underwood wore a Frieda & Nellie necklace on the cover of last month’s Self magazine.) The company now has a 2,000-square foot showroom and eight employees. They’re adding new categories, such as hand-painted bangle bracelets. But one-of-a-kind creations continue to be their signature, and prices range from $40 to more than $200 for the highly decorated pieces.
Herzog hasn’t tired of embellishing jewelled bracelets, necklaces and earrings with bits of knotted cotton, silk or wool. She calls the more showy pieces “wowsers.’’ Cindy Ollig, who owns the store Posh in downtown Denver, says she plans to begin carrying Frieda & Nellie designs soon. “I love the colour and texture, the fusion of the heirloom jewellery-box stones with the worldtraveller bracelets,’’ Ollig says.
Customers for Frieda & Nellie pieces range from teenagers to women in their 50s and 60s. The pieces take people back to their youth via the vintage jewellery and friendship bracelet idea but also connect them to the present, Herzog says. ‘’It’s jewellery with a history, but it also has sophistication and whimsy.’’