Handmade and Natural: Jewelry Designer Amanda Sterett’s Ingredients for Success

November 3, 2011  

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By Logan May
ljmay@mail.smu.edu

The dark purple doors of the studio on Cedar Springs Road are propped open as the first cool morning breeze of fall seeps into the room. A mulled-cider-scented candle burns in the corner and the flame flickers to the rhythm of the wind patterns that hit its wick. The light melody of Hall and Oats plays in the background.

A brunette with her hair in a messy bun bobs her head to the beat and her small hoop earrings start to jingle. Her hands work in unison as they precisely measure strands of beads on a chain. She bites her lip as she focuses in on her piece of work. Brown, burnt orange, and turquoise stones of different sizes and shapes lie next to one another. On the cluttered wooden table sits a large picture of a young child. Her smile is perfectly placed between two small dimples on her cheeks, and her mousey brown hair falls gently on the outline of her youthful face.

She may look like she’s just having fun, but Amanda Sterett, a Dallas jewelry designer, is no amateur. As a 1999 graduate from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s degree in merchandising, Sterett was recruited by the Ralph Lauren straight out of college.

“Personality, Not Grades, Got Me Where I Am”

Sterett, now 35, grew up in a strict household in Texas. “My dad wanted me to make straight A’s,” she says. Against her father’s wishes, Sterett focused on the things a normal college student would – having fun and experiencing life. She credits her personality and strength to nabbing a regional sales representative’s job at Ralph Lauren. “Grades are fine, but its experience that gets you places,” she says. Ralph Lauren and his staff came to Texas Tech, interviewed Sterett, and immediately offered her a job. “I had a lot of personality, and I really believe that is what got me the job,” she says. From May 1999 to January 2005, she worked in menswear and learned more in those six years than she ever learned in the classroom at Tech.

In an oversized black leather chair in her studio, Sterett explains her newest collection and what she has coming up. She wipes the fly-a-ways from her face and takes a deep breath. “I just have so much to do, and going through a divorce doesn’t help!” she says.

Olivia by Amanda Sterett

The young girl in the picture is Olivia Sterett, the 4-year-old mini-me of Sterett. She can often be found at her miniature pink desk with color-coordinated cups of pencils and stacks of drawings under a pink iPad. (She likes pink.) “She turns five in November. It’s crazy how time flies,” Sterett says. After nine years of marriage, Sterett is now going through a rocky divorce. Nevertheless, she maintains her composure and keeps her focus on her bubbly daughter, dedicating a jewelry line in her honor. The line’s name? Olivia by Amanda Sterett. The line will feature lower end pieces for discount stores and websites. “The logo is complete, and I’m really excited about it,” she says.

Sterett’s line is all handmade and natural. In a side room of her studio, a small group of women sit around a table covered with stones and yards of chains and materials. Each piece is designed by these women and distributed to stores around Dallas and the country. “Most of the jewelry makers have been with us for a few years,” Andrea Glanzer, whose official title at Sterett’s company is “Manager Extraordinaire. The women come from the Catholic Charities of Dallas, an organization that takes in refugees and provides job placement. Sterett then teaches each one how to make her jewelry. “We really are a family, and we want these women to succeed,” she explains.

If You’re A Dallas Fashionista, You’ve Seen Sterett

The walls of the Amanda Sterett’s studio are lined with magazine covers and articles that feature her jewelry– InStyle, Us Magazine, Cosmopolitan. Speaking of magazines, Sterett has won D Magazine’s “Best of the Big D Reader’s Choice” Best Jewelry Designer of Dallas, two years in a row. The Shak, a trendy store in the heart of Dallas, doesn’t skimp on Amanda Sterett jewelry. “Everyone from college girls to mothers of the bride come in to buy her pieces,” Shak employee Pam Lal says. “Everything is bigger in Texas, and Amanda’s statement jewelry is a big hit.” Jamie Johnson is a young, fresh-faced college graduate who has an eye for good jewelry. “Rather than going to Forever 21 to buy an $8 pair of earrings, I buy from Amanda because I know it will go with everything and last forever,” she says. If you look close enough, you will see her collections all around the DFW metroplex.

Not only does she sell jewelry like a madwoman these days, but she is also doing philanthropic work. As October begins, and the start of Breast Cancer Awareness month is underway, Sterett wanted to give back in any way that she could. As a result, she created a small gold heart necklace and bracelet filled with dark orange cornelia beads. She will partner with the Child Cancer Fund and donate a percentage from each piece sold to the foundation. “I can’t wait for people to see the finished product,” she says.

What’s Next in Jewelry…and Motherhood

Sterett turns up the volume on her computer and continues to work on her upcoming spring 2012 collection. “Everything is due at the end of October, so I’m a busy girl right now,” she says. Despite running a booming business, taking care of a rambunctious 4-year-old, divorcing, and hitting the road for trunk shows, Sterett maintains her effortlessly chic style and composure. “Throughout it all, I remember how far I’ve come and how much strength I have…and that keeps me grounded,” she says.

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