Frieda and Nellie: Friendship Bracelets & Serendipity

Kerry Pieri
Frieda and Nellie: Friendship Bracelets & Serendipity
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Frieda and Nellie is just the kind of jewelry operation you would hope for when buying the whimsical, pretty, retro-meets-overnight-camp friendship bracelets that editors and the girls they influence have fallen hard for. I went to meet the designers, Sarah Reid and Stacy Herzog, at their East Village studio filled with natural light, trays of sourced vintage, sparkling finds, beads, colorful string, closures, fashion tomes, pink roses and two really cute dogs.

Stacy is the effusive, lit up counterpart to Sarah’s more laidback temperament they’re best friends, they strike a balance. Stacy, who did time as Sarah’s intern while still in school, shares an almost cinematic version of their first encounter, explaining, “We met on a hot summer Friday, she took me on an adventure we got really lost in the subway even though Sarah was the New Yorker who had lived here and knew how to get around.”

Both girls have educational backgrounds in both business and fashion so, in a way, they were unknowingly preparing for their future endeavor. But it wasn’t about business plans or fashion design degrees, instead it was a little luck, a little serendipity and, of course, a good idea and stellar sense of style.

After quitting her lucrative accessory design job, Stacy went on a family vaca to South America, unwittingly taking the first steps of her new venture. “I was in Ecuador with my family in late 2009 and in the Galapagos Islands there were all these families making friendship bracelets and I just sort of had a flashback to my camp days… I bought a handful of them and I put some on my wrist and my sister put some on her wrist and instantaneously, we like, mixed them with vintage chain and cuff bracelets of my grandma’s, Nana Frieda, that I wore on a daily basis. I really liked that mix,” Stacy explains.

“I brought Sarah back some bracelets and then she had this idea: wearing them together looks amazing.What if we start weaving, intertwining? And I was like, ‘Aha!’ And so we started making the friendship bracelets we were both like summer camp queens of making the friendship bracelets in different colors, using silk, using cotton… and then we didn’t want to use or sell our grandma’s vintage so we started scouring the lands, going to flea markets and such. We named it after our grandmas: Frieda and Nelly.”

And so the idea was born and the bracelets made, but then came the aforementioned serendipity part, “In December 2009, somebody grabbed my arm [on the street] and it was an editor from WWD and he asked, ‘Who made the bracelet?,'” Sarah explains.

“And Stacy and I were like, “We do!” We were together when it happened. And he said, ‘Well, send your line sheets.'”

One of the secrets of starting a fashion business is that it helps to be based in a city where the possibility of encountering a major player in fashion journalism while walking to brunch or the movies or the office isn’t entirely improbable. “Oprah says this it’s a matter of the stars aligning and it’s a matter of fate and karma and all this stuff, but it’s hard work. Once any door is open you work harder than you ever thought you could but it’s right time, right place. In New York, you never know. You never know who you’re sitting next to on the subway,” Stacy says.

And so the article dropped and the orders came rolling in, from places like Barneys, Intermix and Henri Bendel. It’s a bit of a fashion fairy tale, but the happy ending is hours spent on craftsmanship and beautiful creations. Click through to see inside the studio, see some of those beautiful creations and get to the know these two girls a little better.

Makeup by: Britney Batt, BritneyBBeauty.com

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"When we decided to use [friendship bracelets] it just all of a sudden brought this cheerful memory of going back to summer camp and I think it’s something that I think every child should experience and have those kinds of memories," Sarah explains.

"Absolutely, people that will be in my wedding are like best friends from camp, some of my best memories are from camp. I think both of us are deeply rooted to where we grew up, our childhood friends, our moms, our grandmothers, this sort of..." Stacy continues.

"Nostalgia," Sarah says, finishing her friend's sentence.

"All the vintage is still, for the most part, one-of-a-kind. Every once in a while we’ll find a warehouse or a department store from the 60s that sold to this guy and we get 25 of something, but all the jewelry that we make is handmade and one-of-a-kind," Stacy explains.

"I think that we have this relationship where we are definitely like sisters from another mother. ...Barneys calls, Bendels calls, and we’re just like, 'Pinch me, pinch me, pinch me,' and you just keep working harder and more ideas come and I think that’s what the friendship bracelet means. This is so cheesy, but with your best friend, with an amazing sister, with that support you can do so much, it’s crazy," Stacy says.

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