Nails of New York: Hart Hagerty
August 5, 2018
Our newest Nails of New York profiles Hart Hagerty, an ultra-cool jewelry designer and an entrepreneur in accessories from Charleston, South Carolina. After majoring in Chinese at Vanderbilt and living about six years in Shanghai, Hart was inspired to develop a line of timeless accessories, including her signature earrings - high-quality, statement tassels that are stunning enough to wear every day. Find out how she started her line and built her brand, why her Essie-inspired manicure makes her feel like a rockstar, and how she's inspired by Asian aesthetics mixed with the bohemian vibes of Charleston.
How did you pick your nail design?
I typically go for very neutral nudes for day-to-day, but when I had an opportunity for an artist like Anna to do her magic, I wanted to go big. So I went with this two-tone sage/jade gel art. We matched the color combo with my best selling earring, the Sage Topknot.
How does your manicure make you feel?
It makes me feel like a rockstar. The design has a 70s flair to it. I feel like I should be on tour with the Stones or Bowie.
When do you notice your nails the most?
I'm conscious of my nails when I do trunk shows, showing jewelry to customers. This may be Paintbox blasphemy, but I pick at my nails when I'm stressed. It's a bad habit I can't seem to kick, but I've gotten better over the years. I've learned that if my nails are polished and pretty, then I'll leave them alone.
Any nail nostalgia moments?
Totally. I've always loved language and wordplay. As a little girl, I wondered which lucky person had the incredible job of assigning those clever names to OPI polishes. Fast forward to today, and I have the pleasure of naming fun colors of my own earrings. My latest favorites are Blushroom, a nude hybrid of mushroom and blush, and Mermaid, a shimmery seafoam green.
How did you get the idea to start your line?
My line was born in 2013, whilst I was living in Shanghai for six years. As a fashion editor, I became obsessed with artisan textiles from Southwest China and made one-off, luxe jackets. Each jacket was a totally unique piece of art. I'd go to the textile markets weekly in search of trim, and stumbled upon a tassel vendor, Mr. Zhang (the same one I use today!). I fashioned some of the tassels (neon hot pink!) into earrings for myself, and soon got requests from friends for their own. A few years later, while working in brand strategy in NYC, I couldn't wear my earrings around the city without getting loads of compliments. I wore my designs a lot at work because they felt like pick-me-ups in a work environment where I was miserable. They reminded me who I was in a place where I felt totally lost. After work, I'd sit on my bed and make earrings to sell on my little website. I saw a huge gap in the market for well-made, simple, chic tassel earrings. So when I was unexpectedly fired from my job, the next day I booked a trip to China to set up serious production to mass produce the earrings. A few months later, I moved home to Charleston to open my studio. I've sold almost 15,000 pairs in the two years since.
What makes your tassel earrings so special?
Most tassel jewelry uses mass-produced tassels purchased from wholesale suppliers. My tassels are totally custom made for me, in small batches in Shanghai. Using my Chinese skills and artisan connections from Shanghai, I'm able to work directly with artisans in Shanghai to produce supremely high-quality and 100% unique tassels you won't see on other jewelry. I am proud of the quality of my earrings, and that they are made with love by a small group of people.
As for the design, they are simple "understated statement earrings." There's no unnecessary plastic bling or crystals on them. They are simply a beautiful tassel. Tassels are certainly having a moment right now, but I firmly say they are not a trend. Just like diamond studs or gold hoops, tassels are a timeless design, especially when done in an understated way.
Any trends in the jewelry and accessories space you are loving right now?
Gold pendant necklaces are trending hard right now. Like tassel earrings though, these are simple, timeless pieces you can wear in 40 years and still look chic. I'm launching a line of pendant necklaces in time for holiday partly inspired by Victorian-era jewelry.
What's your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is also the hardest part of my job. Independence. I have my own schedule and drive my own ship. I am fully responsible for my wins (which is so rewarding)...and my losses (I've learned some hard lessons about business...and my own weaknesses). I cherish the freedom my job rewards me. Now with two employees, I have a more flexible schedule that allows me to work anywhere around the world.
When do you get your best ideas?
On airplanes. I furiously journal and sketch. It pours out of me on planes. I think it has something to do with being in a transient space.
What inspires you?
Creatively: books on design and travel. Lately I've spent several afternoons in Charleston libraries sticking my nose in books on Egyptian and Victorian jewelry. This is cliche, but travel is massively inspirational - I get anxious if I don't have a flight booked somewhere. I'm lining up trips to Bangkok, Marrakech, and Rajasthan for 2019. And of course, Shanghai, my second home in my heart!
Business wise, I am inspired by my tight group of entrepreneurial girlfriends in Charleston. We'll go surfing or take walks on the beach and talk about work. I'm also a podcast NUT: How I Built This, How to Be Amazing, and Harvard Business Review podcasts are always teaching me something new.