Success stories can seem just as fantastical as the fairy tales you (may have) loved growing up: Bold career woman finds herself in the right place at the right time, and poof, her
fairy godmother mentor snaps her fingers, transforming our hero into an overnight success who brings home a 7-figure salary, jet-sets the world spreading her you-can-have-it-all gospel, all while looking awesome and Instagramming the whole thing. Umm...really? Why do we so rarely hear the other side of the story — the false starts, the waves of doubt, the failures, and the fuck-ups? Those late-night worries and, occasionally, breakthroughs that are so relatable to the rest of us?
Introducing Self-Made, Refinery29's newest column spotlighting the real stories that fueled success — the wins, the fails, and the curveballs —proving there's no one path to getting what you want.
After nearly 18 years working as the CEO of women's ready-to-wear brand Rebecca Taylor, a fashion brand she co-founded when she was 23, Beth Bugdaycay left in 2014 to launch Foundrae, a fine jewelry line of what she refers to as “modern heirlooms.” Now, five years later, Bugdaycay's line is well on its way to becoming a household name like Cartier and Tiffany & Co., with clients like Kristen Stewart, Sofia Vergara, and Alexa Chung.
Bugdaycay debuted Foundrae’s first fine jewelry collection in the spring of 2016, incorporating elements like 18k gold, enamel, and strategically placed stones. Each piece is based on a lexicon of symbols that Bugdaycay and her husband culled from different cultures and time periods. Their goal? To create an inclusive language that not only appeals to the individuality of the modern consumer, but also celebrates a set of values greater than the value of gold itself.
Refinery29 talked with Bugdaycay about her jewelry brand Foundrae, how she refuels, and what she would be doing if she wasn't designing jewelry.
Increasingly, women are buying themselves the fancy piece of jewelry (versus a partner or their parents). Was this a trend that you noticed as you were launching your brand or before?
From day one, I was speaking to the buyer. I hadn't even thought of another possibility. I had just kind of always imagined people putting together their own stories with their own symbols. And I believe that the process of selecting the symbols that most resonate with them was very personal.
I didn't even think about another universe, where people weren't buying for themselves. And then, when we were about a year into our business, I was speaking to people that have far more experience than me, from a more traditional [standpoint in the] jewelry industry. And then, they were excitedly saying, "Wow, everything's changing."
What was the transition like, moving from Rebecca Taylor to focusing on jewelry?
Well, it was really a completely different world. I was able to rely on myself again, and be more hands-on with every aspect of creating Foundrae. And that was very refreshing for me. I was so busy learning all the differences in the beginning, because, really, there's zero overlap. Not in the design process, or retailers, production, sourcing, marketing. Even the navigation of the market of raw materials. So, I had such a steep learning curve. But the learning curve actually made me feel like a much younger version of myself.
For the shopper who's just starting out buying fine jewelry, the selection process can be intimidating. What's a good piece that you feel comfortable recommending, but also you know will age well?
Yes, we call that starter piece, our base necklace. You pick a chain of your choice with a single medallion. And then, it can build from there. And what has actually happened to us quite a bit is somebody might find a chain they like, and they might pick a baby medallion at the beginning. And then, six months to a year later, they come back and they do either a medium or a large medallion. And then they switch the baby up to a higher position. And so, that's really been fun to see how people kind of evolve with their piece.
Foundrae has such cool clientele, how were you able to make fine jewelry an It item?
I really see Foundrae as providing tools of self-discovery and self-expression. I don't do anything that I see as cocktail jewelry or special occasion jewelry. For me, there has to be this kind of comfort, effortless part about it, so you know that you can wear every day. Because I really do see the jewelry as becoming part of you and expressing who you are. And so, I think it's maybe that effortlessness that you're qualifying as cool.
In your opinion, what is the definition of being self-made?
It's a person who found opportunity where a path hadn't been laid before. But a few years ago, I would have colored that statement with a social-economic viewpoint. I think that there is a societal expectation, that a self-made person means that they came from a less privileged background, and then created wealth. But I really wouldn't define it by that anymore, for a couple of reasons. I know a lot of people that have served society and carved a clear new path but their path wasn't tied to the creation of wealth at all. I still really consider these people self-made, you know? I also know people that I consider self-made, who actually came from wealthy backgrounds, but then forged their own unique vision, they didn’t just do what was expected of them. And I also think of those people as self-made. So, I really think, in the end, it's about carving your own path.
What quality do you possess that you think makes you such a great candidate, as you're self-making your destiny?
The point of Foundrae is that, I don't possess any unique quality that would make me more of a candidate than anybody else. I really believe that we all have that “it” [factor] inside of us. The ability to grow. The ability to take risks. To be seekers. To become the best version of ourselves, to find an opportunity in our own path. I think we all have it, and it's about unearthing it, or unveiling it, and letting those qualities emerge.
What advice can you offer to young women who are trying to manifest their own destinies?
I very much value wholeness and balance of life. And so, I wholeheartedly believe it's possible. I tell every person I know that the reach for the wholeness is worth it. Where I think sometimes that there's stories out there that it's not possible, and that you have to choose one. And that everything is about compromising. I really don't believe that. I really believe that it is possible to find wholeness and balance and beauty.
How do you refuel and refresh?
I've actually been talking a lot about this recently with the team. Because, I think I can get much better at self-care. But I tend to care for my mind and my spiritual growth. I do a lot of reading. I go to worship regularly. I sit in silence. I exercise regularly. And see the doctor. That kind of stuff.
Do you have a self-made mantra?
I constantly have to think that I have a light inside and I want to share it. I look at the people around me, and I see that they also have a light. And I think that the more you can see that in yourself and other people, then the more community you have, and the more collaboration you have. And I think that helps.
Are there any unexpected challenges that you've come across in running your business?
I love doing what I'm doing so much, that any anxiety I have is about how to protect what I'm feeling right now. How to protect the creativity, the passion. The personal nature of what we're doing every day. It's about making sure that we recognize this delicate balance, and maintain it.
What are you generally doing at midnight?
Definitely asleep. Always.
If you were not creating beautiful heirloom pieces, what would you be doing?
I would say, I would be, either a florist, or an antique dealer. Or an anthropologist.
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