Asian E-Commerce Sites Are Putting Beloved Jewelry Designer Rachel Stewart Out Of Business - GangStarr Girl : GangStarr Girl

Asian E-Commerce Sites Are Putting Beloved Jewelry Designer Rachel Stewart Out Of Business

[ 1 ] August 1, 2015 |
Rachel Stewart Earrings

Rachel Stewart in one of her designs (earrings).

Rachel Stewart Jewelry may have to close her business after years of operation all because of copycats.

I try not to get too much on a soapbox, but this story makes me so angry, because it happens too often. What especially struck a nerve here is that I have been following Rachel Stewart online since before she actually started selling her jewelry. I have watched her launch and build, and because of her and a generally better understanding of  how hard it is to be an entrepreneur, I want to do everything I can to help her. When it comes to any kind of business in fashion, copy cats are a given. It sucks, but every designer will tell you that there’s often not much that can be done about them, especially independent designers who aren’t working with a major budget. Or, as soon as you combat one, another one pops up.

However, in the case of Rachel Stewart, knock offs on sites like Alibaba and AliExpress are affecting her business so much that she may have to close up her shop.

Stewart’s designs has been worn by the likes of Kim Coles, Nelly Furtado and Beyoncé’s all-female band the Suga Mamas. Her distinct pop art-infused designs reflect her pride in her African and Black American heritage with styles like her Afro-pick earrings, her Nola Darling broach in homage to Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have it, Adinkra symbols, and more. Her popularity was starting to build enough to where she was able to sustain herself financially as a stay-at-home-mom, but now her livelihood is being threatened.

Nola darling pin and earrings at rachelstewartjewelry.com

A photo posted by Rachel Stewart (@rachelstewartjewelry) on

Nola darling pin and earrings at rachelstewartjewelry.com

A photo posted by Rachel Stewart (@rachelstewartjewelry) on

Nola darling pin and earrings at rachelstewartjewelry.com

A photo posted by Rachel Stewart (@rachelstewartjewelry) on

“The first time I contacted one particular seller, she said that someone sent her a picture of my earrings and asked her to make them. Of course, they don’t care who it belongs to, so she made it, sold it to the American boutique and also kept it in her own shop overseas. She also apologized and pretended that she was so sorry for everything,” Stewart told The Root. “She said if I didn’t take legal action she would remove them from her shop right away and make them for me exclusively. I thought that was funny. I produce my own product—just take down my work. She took them down and one week later changed the name of her shop and put them right back up. It’s not just these companies: Independent boutiques also steal my pictures and work; it’s rampant.”

Here’s another snippet from an interview she did with The Root’s Yesha Callahan (one of my writer homies):

TR: What other actions do you think can be taken?

RS: There are many things you can do, but what I’m most concerned about is prevention. I can copyright, watermark, send cease and desist letters all day long, it doesn’t stop it. For every shop you successfully take down, there are five more still operating. It’s an almost impossible task. Imagine Michael Jordan or Louis Vuitton trying to stop reproductions; they can’t. There’s a demand and millions to be made.

TR: Has any lawyer ever offered to help you pro bono?
RS: Yes, but I’m at a crossroads: my desire to continue with my work in peace, or deal with this issue, which has become more and more stressful as the years go by.

TR: How are the copycats affecting you?

RS: The first five years were great. I made enough profit to remain a stay-at-home mom, but as my popularity increased, so did the the copycats. It went from once or twice a year to every week I’m getting emails about some Instagram boutique or event vendor selling my jewelry. I’m a seller, but also a consumer, so I understand the desire to get a deal on an item you see online; I do it, too. So when someone sees my work for less than half my price, who do you think is gonna get paid? Whether the buyer knows it’s a knockoff or not, the fact is, I make no money.

TR: What would you like to see happen?

RS: I’d like for buyers to be a bit more aware of who they are buying from, and if you own a boutique, reach out to the original designer before you buy a knockoff. They might wholesale to you, and everybody wins. You think you are supporting a black-owned business, but at what cost?

Stewart doesn’t seem to have immediate plans to shut down shop, but she thinks that may be what happens eventually. I implore you, if you can, please support her. Again, I have followed her journey from the beginning and she deserves your dollar. I have purchased a pair of earrings from Rachel Stewart back when she first started, and I vouch for the quality of her products. Since then, for years I said I’d purchase something else without actually pulling the trigger, but best believe I’m going to purchase something today.

How many times do we support businesses that don’t give an eff about us or the community? It’s time to change that.

Yes, independent businesses are more expensive, but it’s because they don’t have a major machine behind them. Stewart designs and creates her products from scratch. There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that goes into it that must be financed and made profitable.

The deeper I get into my entrepreneurial journey, the more I understand why it’s important to support small businesses, especially when it comes to Black women and women of color.

This is not acceptable, and I want to do everything I can to help Rachel Stewart, and small quality businesses like hers with a similar struggle.

You can read the entire story at The Root.

Where to Find Rachel Stewart Jewelry:

Rachelstewartjewelry.com

Instagram.com/rachelstewartjewelry

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Category: Fashion/Style

About the Author ()

Starrene Rhett Rocque is a recovering journalist who often fantasizes about becoming a shotgun-toting B-movie heroine.
  • http://jfilez.wordpress.com/ Justine Monikue

    Thanks a lot for introducing me to Rachel Stewart’s jewelry! She has some fabulous pieces, and I totally intend to support her. Those pink afro pick earrings are calling my name!

    So sad to hear that she may have to shut her business down. As a creative individual, it hurts me every time I hear about a wonderful artisan or artist whose livelihood is threatened, that their craft is devalued. I wish more consumers were willing to buy directly from the source, or at least authorized sources. SMH.