As you may know, the idea for CollegeFashionista came to me while I was in my senior year in college. It was tough juggling being an entrepreneur and a college student all at once. But it was also totally worth it!
I get so excited to see and meet other college students who have ambition to start their own businesses and projects while still in undergrad. Two of our very own Style Gurus are amongst that group. Sarah Wasilak from New York University and Toby Milstein from Columbia University are each college students who also each recently started their own line of jewelry. We caught up with these two go-getters to see what inspired them to start their own lines, how they want to grown their business and more! Be sure to check out their collections and look out for more exciting things to come from each of them!
CF: What prompted you to start your jewelry line? Was there a moment when you knew this was definitely a project you wanted to take on?
Toby Milstein: I started my jewelry line after many days of crying in front of the T.V. I was deeply saddened by the shootings in Aurora, Colorado this past July and felt I needed to do whatever I could to help. Though it was difficult to keep hearing the same devastating story over and over again, I was glued to the screen and was intrigued by the dialogue surrounding the controversial Second Amendment. And then an idea popped into my head. I had seen guns on the canvasses of famous artwork and featured as jewelry charms and on T-shirts worn by Fashionistas and celebrities alike. I tried to make sense of the gun as an art symbol versus a gun as a mechanism for murder. I rationalized that it’s one thing to wear it (if that’s your thing), and it’s another thing to bear it. I sketched out my charm with the slogan: “Wear It Don’t Bear It,” and as they say, the rest is history.
Sarah Wasilak: I’ve been making jewelry since high school, when my best friend Sasha and I decided to start a beaded bracelet business. We sold our “Sassy Stonez” at a boutique in town and also ran booths at a couple of Bat Mitzvah parties. We loved going into the city to the various bead stores on 5th Ave and sorting through all sorts of baubles. We came up with some pretty awesome creations, but I never got around to using the silver and gold lobster clasps that I had bought. A few months ago, I was rummaging through my bead collection and strung the clasps on chains. Since then, I’ve worn the set everyday. One of my guy friends started calling me “2 Chainz” (like the rapper), so I knew I had to change my “name” to Hooked. The jewelry invites compliments everywhere I go, and it was at the Rebecca Minkoff x CollegeFashionista holiday pop-up that I decided I wanted to get into jewelry making again. My Etsy shop was born just a few weeks ago.
CF: If your collection has a story, what would it be? What makes this line significant to you?
SW: The story behind Hooked is pretty simple. It starts with my fascination for trends, specifically the use of hardware on bracelets, necklaces and rings. The toughness of a turn-locks on Marc Jacobs bands or chunky buckle fasteners on leather from Balenciaga adds edge to any look. I think my Hooked necklaces strike this really bold balance between the “ugly” and the “beautiful.” It’s unexpected. When your eyes track a pretty gold chain down to a hardware clasp, you’re kind of like, huh? But the necklaces are aesthetically appealing, especially if you juxtapose them with well-tailored dresses or your favorite vintage frocks. Somehow, the contrast just works.
CF: Where do you hope to take your jewelry line in the next few years?
TM: That’s a good question and people have been asking the very same! I will continue with this charm and adapting it to different styles and forms. Get ready for the bracelet, coming soon, ladies! Ultimately, what I care most about is that the product can be attractive to people of all walks of life since the key is to raise money. 100% profits go to families who are grieving the loss of a loved one. So I will keep up this initiative and make it a desirable for many people. Oh and maybe I’ll add a little diamond if there’s interest! Bling a ding ding.
SW: While Sasha and I couldn’t keep up our Sassy Stonez business after leaving for college, we always revisit our stash from time to time. We loved coming up with new patterns and mixing and matching gold and silver charms, but giving back was also really important to us. We donated 10% of our proceeds to Linda McCartney’s Women and Cancer fund, and I’d like to continue to support that cause. I hope to use my jewelry line to support charity first and foremost. My dream would be for Hooked to take off. I want girls to get excited about these necklaces, and if they do, I’d love to make more accessories. I have ideas for bracelets and rings, and with enough support, these plans can be realized.
CF: Are you working on any exciting projects or partnerships for the near future?
TM: I am looking to gain traction with organizations and people that have an interest in my gun control message and fashion for social activism approach. It would be really great begin partnerships with bloggers, and other trendy women who have strong political opinions about this gun violence epidemic in our country. It would be amazing to have politicians’ daughters, nieces, granddaughters on board. They could turn to their family members and make sure they and others at the White House are doing their job to stop this unabated gun-violence.
SW: Since I just opened my Etsy Shop a few weeks ago, I haven’t gotten many orders yet! I’m urging my family and friends to “get Hooked” and promote the chains as I’d love to work on new projects and partner with anyone who might have the right ideas for my line.
CF: Describe your collection in three words.
TM: Fashionable. Accessible. Powerful.
SW: Edgy. Unique. Striking.
CF: If you could partner with any designer for a jewelry collaboration, who would it be?
TM: My knee-jerk reaction to this question is the amazing, enviable Jennifer Fisher. In fact, it was her gold pistol cleavage necklace that helped inspire my initiative. I moderated a fashion-business panel for CollegeFashionista at Columbia University last spring that both you and Jennifer Fisher sat on and from that moment on, I was hooked by her jewelry and the edginess and intention behind her pieces.
SW: While I love the color and chunk-effect of Dannijo and the sleekness to a Marc Jacobs piece, I’m super excited about the Rebecca Minkoff jewelry and I LOVE her spring 2013 video featuring Leandra Medine of the Man Repeller. I think it would be great to work with any of these designers.
CF: What role did your CollegeFashionista internship play in starting your collection?
TM: Well beyond leading to my jewelry inspiration, I have CollegeFashionista to thank for exposing me to the diverse fashion styles out there on my campus and on those of others across the country and the world. I realized the power we have as a demographic and the statements we make in class or with our fashion choices will undeniably be listened to. If we have the power to express our political, religious or moral beliefs through every fiber of cloth or ounce of metal in our jewelry, well hot damn- we can do something meaningful.
SW: CollegeFashionista has without a doubt sharpened my eye for all things fashion. I know what’s attractive and what looks inspiring, so I think that’s what I aimed for when creating my Hooked design. I wanted people to feel the same way about my chains that I do about a killer “arm party” or a really intricate bib necklace. These are the things that motivate me to run and catch up with a great looking Fashionista on the street. Additionally, Amy (and the story of how she made it in the fashion industry) encourages all of the Style Gurus to set goals and to strive to achieve those goals. I knew that Hooked was more than an idea to add to my lengthy To-Do list. I didn’t want to wait to get around to creating something I think people will love.