Accessories are the heartbeat of a look. If one rocks a simple little black dress, the accessories can make the look casual or formal. I personally live for accessories, and this Style File feature is taking the industry by storm with her innovative accessory design perspective.  Mary Collins’ creations can be seen in magazines and among trendiest celebs. Being one of the area’s premier jewelry designers has been a real journey for her. So let’s take a moment to get familiar with her brand.

NAME: Mary Collins

Age: 35

Hometown: East St. Louis, Illinois

Occupation: Designer, Vauje (pronounced Vawjay) Jewelry

Danie Rae: Give the reader a little background information about the Vauje Brand.

Mary Collins: Well, I started off selling lingerie and doing photography work. I couldn’t find accessory pieces that I liked to photograph, so I started to create my own. During this time the economy crashed, and no one was really spending money on lingerie, so my focused shifted to creating unique jewelry that people would invest in to be able to wear with multiple looks.

The design concept of the jewelry was vintage and after getting recognition from a “retro” model, Bernie Dexter, I started booking fashion shows. This forced me to create more universal pieces that could be more versatile to accompany a variety of design perspectives. And that’s how my current brand has evolved to what it is today.

DR: So who is Vauje’s target customer? Who do you make your pieces for?

MC: My pieces are pretty much made for anybody who likes unique jewelry. I have so many different visions for my work, that I really don’t limit my design perspective. I kind of go with the creative flow. My work can range from simple, elegant pieces to bridal accessories, to avant garde editorial creations. 

DR: Where do you get inspiration from?

MC: Well, it really depends. I can get inspiration from a lot of things, ranging from fashion designers to architecture. But my creative process is pretty much me buying a bunch of different materials that I’m inspired by and creating what comes to mind.

DR: So, where do you see your design perspective and business growing in the next five years?

MC: I want my brand to be cleaner in its design perspective as well as more retail ready. When doing custom work, there can be too many inconsistencies. I want to be able to provide the same level of quality to all of my pieces and have them be retail-ready.

DR: What challenges have you faced within the fashion industry throughout this region and how have you overcame them?

MC: In this industry, you really have to put yourself out there by networking and always meeting new people. I’m a pretty shy person, so I have to work on putting myself as a brand also out there.

DR: St. Louis tends to have a reputation of being “a town full of haters.” Have you experienced that type of response from the market? If so, how have you handled it?  

MC: To be honest, I’m not the type of person who thinks they have haters. I really have a positive outlook on life. So when I meet new people, I genuinely think they’re supportive. It takes for someone else to point out if any shade has been thrown.

DR: So, what’s next for the Vauje brand?

MC: Well, I’m going through a rebranding process with the Style Broker’s visual branding service.

DR: Note to reader: I did not put her up to that! LOL

MC: But in conjunction with doing a branding campaign, I’m launching the fall collection in June. The merchandise line will consist of about 10 new pieces and it will be available on my website, You can also follow me on social media (Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter) @VAUJE.

DR: Ooooh … speaking of social media, how important is its role in promoting your business?

MC: Social media has played a major part in promoting my jewelry to people across the world. I’ve made so many connections through outlets like Instagram with stylists and photographers who want to use my pieces for their celebrity clients and editorial work. If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have been able to make those connections.

Follow Danie Rae on social media @style_brokers.   

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