Meet three chic Houstonians with expert eyes for accessory design—and big hearts for giving back.
Houston-born designer Kimberly Hartman grew up going to drill team practice at Sam Rayburn High. And she “dreamed of traveling between Texas, Los Angeles, New York and Paris.” As CEO of JadeTribe (jadetribe.com), a collection of bags and accessories made by newly empowered women in developing nations, the designer does something like that—except her major stops are Southeast Asia, Morocco and Spain.
The sunny, green-eyed blonde moved to New York with a fashion marketing degree from the University of North Texas, two suitcases and her cat in 1997. She spent a decade working her way up the corporate fashion ladder, building brands like Trina Turk. It wasn’t until a hiatus in 2008—during a trip to Asia—that she decided to create a fashion brand of her own. “It was in Laos, where I discovered a village of women organically dyeing and handweaving beautiful traditional textiles,” Hartman says. “I wanted to return often and help these ladies continue to pass down the weaving techniques to their daughters and to provide a steady income that would improve their lives.”
Hartman employed a village of women in Laos who weave richly colored fabrics into clutches, handbags, totes and iPad cases, in clean, simple shapes “to showcase the handwork,” she says. Each piece has ultrasuede lining, sleek hardware and signature charms. Hartman also proffers pretty throw pillows and produces, in Morocco, apparel. “I have a wonderful artisan workshop there that does the most beautiful embroidery on lightweight cover-ups perfect for the beach.”
Celeb fans include Sandra Bullock and press shout-outs have come from the likes of The New York Times and British Vogue. “Quite a big deal for a girl from Texas.”
Katie Stassi Scott
Designer Katie Stassi Scott, 42, launched Katie Design jewelry line (katiebydesign.com) this summer with the intent to give back. “Personally, I had an increase in spirituality in my life, and I wanted to wear more meaningful pieces,” she says. But the Ole Miss grad and mom of four couldn’t find what she had in mind—something spiritual, yet edgy—until she stumbled upon some vintage religious medals while antiquing in her native New Orleans. It was a shield-like piece depicting Jesus, St. Christopher and the Virgin Mary that first captivated her.
“It sent electricity to my brain,” the brown-eyed blonde remembers. She couldn’t help but notice how the iconic symbols contrasted the alligator Hermès cuff on her wrist. “I crave juxtaposition,” she says. “It creates interest, establishes balance and makes life fun.”
The designer, whose interior work has been touted by Elle Decor, began laying the groundwork for creating a line of emblazoned cuffs, bangles, diamond rings, charms and earrings, many of which have symbolic accents like rosary beads and the Star of David. She also created interchangeable jewelry attachments for alligator cuffs. “The idea is to invest in something you love, yet have the ability to alter the style as the mood presents itself.”
Scott is a hit with retailers nationwide, and dresses celebs like Houston’s The Voice winner Danielle Bradbery. A percentage of all sales benefits Yellowstone Academy, a faith-based school that serves children from low-income homes. “Yellowstone was exactly what I was looking for,” she says. “God connected the dots.”
Houston native and jewelry designer Sarah Aghili, 26, studied public relations at UT San Antonio. But an artsy streak fueled the launch of her eponymous accessories collection (sarahaghili.com), which shares proceeds with a variety of charities. “I always found myself creating things, like cutting up necklaces and other pieces to make something new and unique,” says the 5-foot-5 brown-eyed brunette, who’s also working toward her pilot’s license.
Aghili’s enterprising eye for trends evolved into a business shortly after college, when she purchased a few stones in India and took them to a jeweler in her parents’ native Iran. “I sat with him for days, explaining my vision,” she says. “I got behind the counter and used his tools to show him what I wanted.”
That was four years ago, and her company is now thriving online and in 50-plus stores worldwide—Bloomingdale’s in Dubai, for one—with a “huge selection,” from skull studs and bone-shaped bangles to hamsa charm bracelets and four-leaf-clover rings. “There is definitely something for everyone—punk, bohemian, pretty and personal.”
Her philanthropic bent—particularly her site’s “shop by cause” structure—has garnered international attention, and praise from magazines like People and Cosmopolitan, to name a few. Her most recent charity partnerships include the People Water project, which digs wells in arid climates, and Mother Miracle, which helps to provide school uniforms for children in India. At home, “all of the proceeds from my bracelets sold in the Auxiliary Gift Shop in Texas Children’s Hospital are donated to pediatric cancer research.”