Army wife's hand-crafted jewelry makes it to Hollywood
March 15, 2012
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. -- Nicole Shanabrough never imagined that a piece from her home-based jewelry company would capture the eye of an actress at a pre-party for the Oscars. But it did.
On Feb. 23, Kate Linder, an actress on TV's "The Young and the Restless," took home one of Shanabrough's hand-crafted necklaces that was displayed at a celebrity gift lounge during a pre-party for the 84th Annual Academy Awards.
"I'm still in shock," said Shanabrough, who lives in Potomac Place with her husband, Spc. Christopher Shanabrough, a combat medic at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, and their 18-month-old son Jameson.
"I still pinch myself," she said.
Shanabrough is the owner of Nikkay Fashions, a line of hand-crafted jewelry that she started three years ago.
The designer makes necklaces, earrings, rings and bracelets using wholesale colored acrylic and glass beads, fishing line, charms and odd ends such as gun metal, hardware washes, peacock feathers and acrylic crystals from chandeliers.
Linder, who appears as Esther Valentine on the soap, has not contacted Shanabrough about Nikkay Fashions, but the designer said she has noticed more hits to her website and Facebook page from Los Angeles and Beverly Hills.
Although she has made some income from the sales of her work, Shanabrough said she is focusing on creating a jewelry line for department stores.
The Army wife decided to create her own jewelry company in 2009 when she and her husband lived at Fort Campbell, Ky. Shanabrough's husband was serving a one-year deployment to Afghanistan when she was invited to an at-home jewelry show at a friend's house.
The designer said many of the women at the show said they would like to own a unique piece of jewelry at a reasonable price.
"I thought it can't be that difficult to make jewelry," Shanabrough said. "I thought it would be a good hobby and a way to make new friends."
With her husband away, Shanabrough said she also wanted to make good use of her time alone.
"I thought I can sit here and cry and mope that he's gone, or I can do something with my life," she recalled.
Shanabrough headed to local craft stores to purchase supplies. She started off making stretch bracelets and necklaces and sold them for $10 to friends and relatives.
Although she got positive feedback from her first clients, Shanabrough was turned away when she tried to sell her line to local retail stores.
Shanabrough later discovered she could purchase her supplies much cheaper from wholesale gem and bead fairs. She also started using fishing line to make her jewelry because it is much more durable than the string sold in craft stores.
In 2010, Shanabrough created a website and Facebook page. Luck struck when fashion bloggers Deana Spoitti and Dana Prigge saw her Facebook page and asked Shanabrough to create a piece they could advertise to their readers.
Later, Prigge, who was a guest fashion stylist on "Glam Fairy" and knew the makeup artist and hairstylist on "Jerseylicious," two hit fashion-reality shows on the Style cable channel, asked Shanabrough to create pieces for the cast of each show.
Nikkay Fashions has been featured on each show since November 2011. In January, the Shanabroughs moved to Fort Meade.
Although she grew up as a tomboy and athlete in York, Pa., Shanabrough said she has a keen fashion sense, despite the fact that her wardrobe is filled with shorts, T-shirts and hoodies.
"I eat, sleep and breathe fashion," said Shanabrough.
"I read W magazine and watch 'Project Runway'," she said. "I set my DVR to record it."
Last summer, a friend told Shanabrough about the Indie Exhibit, an organization that represents independent artisans and creatives at celebrity gift lounges. The lounges feature free promotional items for celebrities, media professionals and publicists at entertainment parties in Hollywood and elsewhere.
Shanabrough signed a contract with the Indie Exhibit and had her jewelry displayed at celebrity gift lounges for the American Music Awards in October 2011 and at the Oscars last month.
The designer said she hopes more celebrities will pick up her jewelry when the Indie Exhibit showcases pieces at actor Charlie Sheen's post-viewing party for his upcoming film "She Wants Me" on March 30.
Her work will also be displayed at the gift lounge for the Kids' Choice Awards, also on March 30.
Nikkay Fashions will be featured at Baltimore Fashion Week on Aug. 17.
"I have a bigger goal for myself," Shanabrough said. "I'm determined to make it to New York Fashion Week," a premiere fashion event held every February and September.
Next month, a bracelet from Nikkay Fashions will be featured on the cover of the New York Post's Page Six Magazine.
Shanabrough said her ultimate goal as a jewelry designer is to become her family's sole breadwinner. But for now, she is studying for an associate's degree in nursing at Anne Arundel Community College.
Shanabrough plans to become a registered nurse while working toward the fulfillment of her dreams -- to produce a jewelry line sold in department stores.
"I've always set bigger goals for myself," Shanabrough said. "That's the only way that you can advance things in life."