Never underestimate the power of a barrette. Neophyte Jewels is an Instagram-phenomenon that has built an accessories empire from selling pearls clips to the fashion elite. What began as a passion project to distract from a rejected law school application has now escalated into a coveted celebrity brand, thanks to clever branding and a personal touch. At the helm of it all? 23-year-old Anna J. Stainsby, an effortlessly cool multihyphenate who’s on a mission to take over the fashion world with a blend of timeless classics and camp irony.

Neophyte Jewels only launched last fall but has quickly become one of the go-to accessories brands for stylists and influencers. Their global customer-base includes Chiara Ferragani, Whitney Port, Marianne Theodorsen, and Chriselle Lim. They even decked out Carly Rae Jepson in their signature pearl party barette for her 2019 hit single’s, Too Much, music video. Even Vogue US’s beauty editor, Jenna Rennert, was sporting Neophyte’s hair candy throughout her glamourous Greek honeymoon.

While Stainsby has built her brand on simple handmade barrettes, she envisions Neophyte as a high-quality jewelry line. This is what motivated her first collection that launched today (July 23rd). A mix of delicate earrings, chunky rings, and silver galore introduces an elevated elegance to the brand’s offerings. Stainsby’s partnership with local Toronto jeweler Meg Degraaf ensures high-quality, handmade items and maintains the female-led focus that is central to the brand’s ethos.

The collection’s launch campaign was developed by the new Chimera Co.Lab, a freshly minted content division of Toronto and New York-based PR agency, Chimera Collective. The digitally-savvy team assisted in bringing Stainsby’s vision to life, supporting her with editorial, lookbook, e-commerce, and social assets. Their investment in the young entrepreneur worked – images of girls in tie dye and models with glued pearls on foreheads percolated global timelines, sparking instant success.

DTK sat down with Neophyte’s founder to discuss the new collection, and the journey of starting a small business in a big industry.

 

What inspired you to start neophyte?

I had just graduated school and wanted to fill my year with something creative – something that would teach me something. I was worried that because I wasn’t in school, I wouldn’t be learning. I thought “I’m 22, my brain is so sharp right now, I need to be a sponge and absorb all that I can.” I wanted to find something creative and turn that into a learning experience. I started taking jewelry making classes and decided to make some barrettes.

 

You transitioned from wanting to be a lawyer to start your own business – can you talk about that transition?

I have always wanted to go into the creative field – I’ve always been really interested in fashion, really interested in writing. I was afraid of what the industry was like in Toronto. It was something I was always warned about: it’s really tricky, there’s no money in it, there’s no jobs, journalism is a dying field, etc. In third year, I decided I was a little too afraid of what that might look like, so I decided to approach fashion from a different angle. I thought I would go to law school and become a lawyer, dealing with all the copyright and legal aspects of the industry. At least that way, I would be guaranteed a job. I didn’t get into law school the first time, so I took my LSAT again and tried to reapply. At the same time, I re-applied to a Master’s program in Creative Writing at the University of Toronto. They take a small pool of students, so I thought it would be a long shot, but I ended up getting in. Simultaneously, Neophyte took off and I decided to go the creative route.

 

Did you have any fear or doubts when starting your own business? How did you overcome them? 

Oh yeah. Even before launching, I was almost embarrassed. I am someone who takes on a lot of projects, and none of them panned out. I thought this would be another one of those projects that I would make my friends all follow and drop it off after a while. Then it just worked!

My boyfriend also was reassuring. He told me I wasn’t going to be an overnight success, so I need to just do it, work at it, and know that I won’t have 1000 followers in the first day. He told me to think of it as a hobby and not so much a business and just see where it takes me – there didn’t need to be all this pressure. I try to see it like that.

But I have lots of moments of doubt all the time. The more and more money I invest into it just amplifies the stress. I try to think of all those little moments of victories that boost me back up and are reassure things will work out.

 

Let’s talk about the new collection. What inspired it? How does it differentiate from your normal offerings?

Silver jewelry has been the number one request from our customers from the get-go. We introduced gold in December, just a few months after launching – it did ok, but a lot of people wanted a more accessible price point. It’s always been in the back of my mind, but because I was still taking jewelry lessons, I couldn’t execute what I wanted, so I put it on the backburner. After a few months, I realized it was going to take a long time for me to get better at making jewelry. I realized that I was getting better at the business side, getting better at the marketing side, and I was getting better at sketching and design. I sought out a jeweler on Indeed. I found this amazing jeweler named Meg, and her aesthetic was similar to mine. We could just talk about a design and not have to make different renditions of it; she just understood what I wanted.

I looked at what pieces I was missing – I looked at my hands and thought what do I want? What shapes? Where do I want them? What kind of contrasts can I play with? For my earrings, I did the same. I have a lot of piercing, so I have a lot of space to work with. I wanted them to be fun, to make noise, to have movement. Basically, I created it for me, and for the people who told me what they wanted from a jewelry collection.

What I wanted to do with the collection was also to keep with the brand ethos of supporting women. Each piece is named after influential women, who have opened doors for people like me and others. Neophyte is all about supporting women, uplifting women, and recognizing what they’ve done.

 

Neophyte has a distinct voice and aesthetic. How did you curate your branding and convey that to your customers?

I think at the beginning, we had posted a lot of inspiration photos on Instagram, so people started to understand what the brand was. We aren’t self-serious, but we are also elevated. I wanted this for the collection too – I didn’t want to do a line of completely fine jewelry, because I wanted it to be cohesive with the rest of the brand. I wanted it to be elevated, like the older sister. I think the tone of voice we use on social media is very conversational, it’s familiar, it’s playful, it’s young. I think with that, it encouraged user-generated content. People started posting it, and it was really echoing our brand. Audiences were able to see it not just on our feed, but on other people’s feeds, and they could get a better understanding of what Neophyte is about.

 

Youve managed to get yourself some fantastic brand ambassadors and press – how did you connect with everyone? 

A lot of this was luck! I think the biggest girls – like Chiara and Chriselle Lim – they came to me! They reached out to see where they could get my clips and I was happy to send them some. They were really sweet, and such huge supporters. Some of them have bought product after they were sent product, which has been such a dream. Some of the people who I have reached out to have gotten back to me with such generosity and kindness – it’s crazy! They’re celebrities! But sometimes, you can still reach them through DMs.

 

What is planned for neophyte in the future?

I want to keep growing it and keep legitimize it. I want to put out a higher-end quality. Right now, we are putting out fashion jewelry, but I want it to be in retail stores and for people to trust the product. I want to see people buying Neophyte and keeping it forever. I would like to branch out at some point: I know we have branched out a little bit with merch, but I would love to do a curation of the most important pieces in your wardrobe down the road. Jewelry is number one for me – it never comes off, and it’s such a statement. I think other pieces that do that are shoes, handbags and jackets. I don’t need to do everything; I trust other brands for every day basics. But I would love to create the perfect additions at a reasonable price.

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