How long must one wait for success? If you ask couture jewelry designer Michelle Pajak-Reynolds you’ll get the truth, and it may not be what many fashion designers want to hear. It’s taken 14 years for Michelle to learn the ropes of her industry and get enough steam to show during New York Fashion Week. One thing that was clear when interviewing her, was how determination, education, and networking were the key elements to her success and without attention to all three areas, getting to Fashion Week may never have happened.
Michelle always knew that she wanted to be a jewelry designer. Spending her childhood surrounded by creative grandparents, and fashioning her own “power bracelets” inspired by her favorite TV superhero, Wonder Woman, Michelle started on the path to become a designer early. But Michelle didn’t just collect beads and design pretty necklaces with only dreams of a career in fashion, she actually set out to get the education she needed to become a successful entrepreneur in the world of fashion.
Michelle has prepared herself for the uncertain business of fashion by getting an undergraduate degree in jewelry design and a masters degree in business. She started her career part-time as most fashion entrepreneurs do and focused on showing her designs in museums, art galleries, fashion shows, and gala events all over the world. She even had a necklace from her “Petal Collection” featured on the cover of LA Brides magazine, worn by actress Sophia Bush. Eventually she took stock of her career path and made a decision. “I decided that I really wanted to focus on New York Fashion Week, and so I put all my energy toward that goal” says Michelle.
When asked how she got her first big break into New York Fashion Week, she delightfully responds, “By asking the right person to meet for coffee”! While researching events in her home state of Ohio, she came across Britney Broker of BBG Couture who specializes in wedding and bridesmaids dresses. She reached out and the two quickly hit it off. Britney used her contacts to secure an opportunity for the two to be featured together during New York Fashion Week in 2012 and Pajak-Reynolds launched her own collection at Nolcha Fashion Week in 2013 and continues to showcase her work at leading fashion events. A true testament to the power of a cup of coffee.
Where do you draw inspiration for your pieces?
Every collection is inspired by something different. Nature, haute couture fashion, a line from a piece of literature, a song lyric, and even my raw materials, gems, metals etc can be the seed of inspiration for an entire collection.
What is your creative process?
Once I decide on the story for a collection I start sketching hundreds of rough ideas before editing the designs down to the dozen or so pieces that might make the final cut and become a collection. A collection gets refined once I’m working with the raw materials.
What advice would you give to an emerging jewelry designer?
Find your own voice as a designer. It’s easy and lazy to copy the work of designers you admire, but what the market needs is YOUR unique point of view and aesthetic. Investing the time and energy into developing your signature voice will not only make you a better designer but it will also make you a better entrepreneur.
As an entrepreneur in the fashion industry, Pajak-Reynolds has had to have the courage to take the next step to reach her goals. “I refuse to believe in failure” she says emphatically, “I truly believe that when you give something your all… you can’t fail. Things may not work out the way you planned, but that’s not the failure. Not trying is the failure”.
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