Abby Dubois, a Pratt Institute Alumna and entrepreneur, leads us through her journey that began while she was working with accessories and handbags during her Junior year. She discovered her love for jewelry design while working for Juicy Couture. Although she graduated with a Fashion Design degree and participated in the department’s show, most of her jobs have been in jewelry. She talks about how one's major doesn’t define a career path and the launch of her new company.
Could you tell us what you’re working on now?
I recently launched my own company, EACH Jewels (www.eachjewels.com) , which focuses on minimalist design and maximum function. EACH is best known for its Channel Stud earrings that hold earbuds in for working out, traveling, and day-to-day activities. These earrings are at the intersection of athleisure, activewear, and tech, which are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in fashion. The Channel Stud has a pending utility patent, so they can only be purchased from EACH, which has given us complete market share in a major growth category within fashion. As of right now, I am working on expanding our assortment of earrings and branching out into other related products.
How would you describe your average day?
There isn't necessarily an average day when you run your own company. I do all of the design and build all of the models myself in Rhino (3D modeling software), so I spend a good portion of my day working on that. Research and development is also important as all of our earrings must withstand the rigors of exercise and daily wear. Some days I go into Manhattan to visit my caster and polisher. All of our product is Made in America, which is incredibly important to me. Additionally, I spend time doing direct outreach to our customers through social media.
How did you get your first clients/customers?
Our first customers have been family and friends, as well as people who have found us through social media and on our e-commerce site.
There is a theme in your work. How would you describe your design aesthetic?
My aesthetic is very geometry/shape driven. The function has to be built into the design of every piece. As EACH expands into new earring styles and other categories, this will continue to be a huge part of my work. For the Channel Studs, my biggest priority after functionality, is that the earrings have to look as good with the headphones in as they do without. By taking this into account it allows me to apply functionality to versatile shapes in a unique and modern way.
How was the idea of the Channel Stud born?
I was running at the gym after work one night and I was really stressed out. I was blowing off steam, and I saw a girl a couple treadmills over wearing pyramid studs, which were big a couple years ago. I thought they were a pair that I designed, because every jewelry designer has designed a pair of pyramid studs at some point. I kept looking over and it looked like her earbuds were covered by her pyramid studs. From the angle I was looking at them, I thought they were clipped into her earrings. I thought to myself “that’s such a cool idea, I want her earrings.” After a few more seconds, I could tell her earbuds where not attached to her earrings. It was just in that quick moment that I thought I saw something that wasn't actually there. I realized that the earrings that I wanted did not actually exist, but what if I could create them? I did not know what to do with the idea at first, so I asked my dad (who is also a runner). He loved the idea and suggested applying for a patent. He came up with lots of new ideas to make the concept even better and we built 3D models. After a month of me iterating and revising technical drawings, and him drafting claims and coming up with alternative solutions and broader applications, we filed a provisional patent.
How do you think your experience at Pratt helped shape you to be the artist you are today?
It made me think more out of the box within a technical framework, because from a fashion perspective Pratt is a lot of sewing, draping and flat pattern making. That translated into me thinking three dimensionally, by starting with something flat and making it into something 3D. This process also made an easy transition from apparel to jewelry. As a fashion design major thinking about how people wear things is intuitive to me. Most jewelry designers think about the object; which is just as important, but I think my background allows me to understand what people are going to wear, as opposed to what people are going to look at.
Can you tell us a little about your internships?
My first internship was the summer after my Freshman year at threeASFOUR, which is a conceptual fashion house. I learned a lot about draping and pattern making, which gave me a leg up before my sophomore year. After sophomore year I interned at Catherine Malandrino, which I loved. I started off working on embellishments for apparel, which then turned into jewelry. This was the inception of her first jewelry launch so my timing was perfect. The following summer, I interned at Juicy Couture where I really immersed myself in learning Adobe Illustrator for jewelry. When I learned Illustrator for apparel I learned one very specific portion of the program, whereas with jewelry I learned a completely different application for the program, allowing me to think more three-dimensionally in a technical way. This new approach to my design process and creativity really resonated with me, and has directly determined my career path ever since.
Right after graduation I freelanced for a month and a half; then I worked at Coach. Jewelry was not the focus there, so then I switched to Eddie Borgo, which was a bit more creative. Afterwards I worked at Miriam Haskell, then BaubleBar followed by BCBG. I moved around a lot, which was crucial to my growth and development as a designer. All of my experiences and exposure at these companies helped lay the foundation to starting my own company. If I started a company right after Pratt, it would have been a steep learning curve. After over half a decade of experience, I now know my next steps and can strategically plan and execute each step of the process – it is far more than sitting in front of a computer and drawing all day! No designer can go into starting their own company being fully prepared, but I truly feel that my experiences have contributed tremendously to my comfort level in splitting off on my own.
What are your future goals for the company?
Steady growth and financial stability while still maintaining a steady stream of new development and ethical production in America. One thing that I learned while working in other companies is that you do not know what goes on in overseas factories. With local production I can see every facility, and better understand and impact each step of the process. I can make sure there is proper ventilation and working conditions for everyone who has a hand in my product. This is important to me, because I believe my fabricators are a direct extension of my company. At Pratt I was used to being the maker, so when I got out into the industry, it felt counter intuitive not seeing where things were made and being part of the process.
Do you have any advice for current students?
I would advise every student to not be afraid to intern in fields outside of their major if it is a company they are really excited about. I loved Juicy Couture as a consumer, so I was so excited to work there regardless of what department it was in. There are plenty of successful designers that have grown from their initial major in school into a completely different area in the industry just by being open to new opportunities. Sometimes, even if you don't intend to go into a specific area of a company, it can happen naturally and often be the best fit. Don't always choose to do what you are best at. Choose to do what you enjoy the most and what you are the most passionate about because the skills will come through experience and practice.
“Don't always choose to do what you are best at. Choose to do what you enjoy the most and what you are the most passionate about because the skills will come through experience and practice.”
Be sure to check out EACH for some very cool jewelry pieces!
Written by: Jazz Seijii