Kristin Hayes always knew she loved working with jewelry but she never imagined she’d become one of the most sought-after designers in Charlotte.
“I always had an interest in jewelry,” the single mom says. “My senior year of high school I went to Charleston and was in a store on Market Street, and they had all this handcrafted jewelry, and it was the first time I’d seen handmade jewelry.”
The 42-year-old studied fashion at Appalachian State and took classes in jewelry design, but after graduation she moved to New York City. There she worked in production and sales at Tommy Hilfiger until deciding to come back to the Queen City in 2000. “I always had this love affair with jewelry but I didn’t know yet I had a talent for making it.” She wasn’t sure what she’d do professionally. She thought about opening a boutique, or getting into marketing. But then something clicked.
“At Christmas time I thought I’d save a little money, so I went to a bead shop in town and I made gifts for my friends. I had this moment, like, I’m gonna do this!”
That was 12 years ago, and the Myers Park mom now has a formal workspace at 2318 Crescent Ave., where she invites customers in to help design their own unique pieces. She has built a loyal following thanks to pop-up shops, word of mouth and magazine fashion spreads that regularly feature her creations.
The very first thing she made continues to inspire her work today. “I had a really cool vintage chain, and it had these whimsical charms and beads. My mom still has the piece. She was shocked when I gave it to her because it was pretty unique.”
Kristin is now known for her charm bracelets and necklaces, and considers them part of her signature collection. Most are custom designed with specific clients in mind. “I love the idea of heirlooms and things that are timeless and have sentimental value, and meaningful pieces. If you’re going to buy a piece of my jewelry, I want it to be something that you never want to let go of.”
She does a lot of work with dog tags that are hand stamped or engraved with special names or dates (a child’s birthdate or initials is the most common request she gets) that hang alongside other charms. “I provide customers with themes — it can be wishbones, feathers, angel wings — and the customer chooses the mixed metals as well. Every one of them is individual to the wearer,” Kristin explains.
Andrea Cohane was in a dressing room at Nordstrom when she admired a necklace that her friend was wearing. She assumed it was an expensive store-bought piece and instead learned it was a Kristin Hayes custom necklace. She ended up designing one for her sister and a second for her daughter. “I think it’s fantastic, and the fact that I bought one for a 15-year-old and another for a 50-year-old says so much. They’re unique and fun and so personalized with the different pieces you can add and subtract.”
Kristin is also known for her everyday pieces. They tend to have clean lines with a little bit of an edge to them. “I like things to look a little bit industrial. I like classic, clean lines, but at the same time I add a little edge and a lot of bling. I like the yin and the yang of the organic look with a little bit of bling.” The earrings are usually either sterling silver, gold-filled or rose gold-filled, and often feature strategically placed Swarovski crystals.
Brides love Kristin’s work as well and often track her down after spotting her pieces in fashion spreads in magazines. “Usually what happens is they like a certain piece they’ve seen, and then we customize it so that it’s one of a kind.”
Her price points are affordable — you can get earrings for as low as $52, and more elaborate necklaces can go as high as $450.
“My style really is classic and I love that my customers are my friends and just working women who are stylish and want something a little different.”
Check out Kristin’s complete line and learn more on her website.
All images by Amanda Caldwell Photography provide courtesy of Kristin Hayes.
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