What would you do if you woke up one day and found out one of the most famous women in the world had worn one of your designs?
Yukon-based designer Shelley MacDonald knows exactly how she’d answer that. Why? Well, because it happened to her.
The Duchess of Cambridge was photographed last year wearing a pair of MacDonald’s earrings — and overnight, she became a global brand.
MacDonald chatted with Postmedia News about the experience, her designs and whether or not the so-called Kate Effect is a real thing.
Q. When and why did you first start your collection?
A. I started my boreal collection about five years ago when I first moved to the Yukon. I moved to a small village of 400 people and during the long winter months I learned to sew and make other crafts. I remember wondering what other crafters did with the scraps of fur after they finished their projects and discovered they were thrown out because the pieces were too small to use. From there, I decided I wanted to make a collection incorporating all recycled fur and metal.
Q. Did you have a formal background in jewelry design? Or was it more of a passion project?
A. I started making jewelry with my dad’s fishing line and various natural objects at an early age. When I was 14, I began selling my jewelry at the local farmers market in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. After graduating high school, I went to NSCAD University in Halifax, Nova Scotia and received a BFA in jewelry design and metalsmithing.
Q. For those who aren’t familiar, what do you sell?
A. I sell handmade, one-of-a-kind jewelry. I make rings, necklaces, earrings and I also make custom jewelry, such as wedding and engagement rings.
Q. Who is your target customer?
A. I would say I target a wide range of customers from 18-65 years old. I try to make pieces that everyone can enjoy.
Q. The Duchess of Cambridge was spotted wearing your earrings while she was in Canada. What was it like when you found out?
A. On Sept. 28 I was in Iceland with my now fiancé. I remember calling him to tell him the news and we where both in shock. It was a very busy and exciting time. Because of the time change from Iceland to Canada I was doing interviews at 1 a.m.
Q. How, if at all, has that changed your business?
A. My business has grown rapidly and I now have international customers. I’m now working seven days a week with a wait-list for custom orders, and I’ve had to hire a few employees to help me keep up with orders. I’m so happy that I was chosen to have the Duchess wear my jewelry.
Q. How did they make it to her in the first place?
A. I was in my micro boutique in Carcross, Yukon on Aug. 5. We were told the Royals’ officials were coming through and were asked to have our shops open. I sold a pair of the Modern Ulu earrings and a pair of my Gold Nugget Dangles. At the time I though it was for a British tourist, but later found out through the media that it was the Duchess’ personal stylist, Natasha Archer. She was the one who purchased them from my store in Carcross and I later got confirmation from the Yukon Government.
Q. Are the earrings she wore now being referred to as “The Kate” or are you happy to stick with the design’s original name?
A. Some people call them the Kate earrings or the princess earrings, but I still call them the original name, which is the Modern Ulu earrings. It’s funny how people have started to refer to me as the Kate Middleton girl!
Q. Where can people check out your creations?
A. My collections can be shopped online at my website shelleymacdonaldjewellery.com and at my Etsy shop etsy.com/ca/people/shelleysilversmith.
Q. What is the price point of your collection?
A. My fur necklace starts at $295.00 and the other pieces can go up to $1,500, depending on the design and fur that is included.
Q. And, lastly, what’s next?
A. I will be attending the MAKEIT Show in Vancouver on Dec. 7 at the PNE. This will be my first big show outside of the Yukon. I would also like to find a shop in Vancouver to sell my collections.