Join us as we sit with Laura Reed, Owner and Creator of Margerite & Motte to take a look behind the brand!

 Tell us about yourself

Originally from San Antonio, Texas and graduated from Texas A&M University with a BS in Industrial Engineering.  I took a commission in the Navy afterward and served as a Nuclear Surface Warfare Officer.  I completely changed directions and became interested in fashion.  I absolutely love Charleston and decided to make it my permanent home.  But, I had to figure out a way to stay here and love what I do!

Tell us about your brand

Oysters are extremely important to the Lowcountry's ecosystem which is why there are so many oyster farms that line the coast to help keep our waters clean.  My tribute to these amazing mollusks is my jewelry.  Numerous shells are constantly being washed up onto the shore.  Instead of being discarded and forgotten, they now get to live on as gold-accented pieces of art.  

I hand-gather each shell, either from the Battery in downtown Charleston or James Island, and match them to their imperfectly perfect mate.  Only real 23ct gold is worthy to adorn these natural beauties.  My only hope is that you enjoy wearing these jewels as much as I have creating them.

My jewelry is all-natural, all local, all Charleston.  

What was the initial idea that led to starting your brand?

My brand came from wanting to use the oyster shells I found into jewelry.  I guess I started backward :)  The shells inspired me!  I loved the shells along the Battery beach and I knew I had to find a way to apply real gold to them.  It took some time, and I'm still trying to perfect the process, but I figured out how to gild the shells to make earrings and necklaces.  I didn't want to be like all the other jewelry makers out there using gold-colored paint.  There's no substitute for the real thing :)  

What is the biggest challenge of owning your business?  
Working for myself!  I can be so lazy sometimes and other times I won't stop working!  It's been a challenge trying to find a good balance with creating and selling.  Even though it hasn't been easy, I wouldn't trade this life for anything else!  

What is the biggest reward of owning your business?
Working for myself!  I only have myself to answer for:)  I make my hours and control my own schedule.  Also, it's a point of pride in owning my own business.  I did it all by myself and to be successful (in my definition) makes me feel fulfilled at the end of the day.  That's huge.  I feel very fortunate to be able to continue what I love. 

What inspires you?
Other creators!  Ever since I started this business I've met the most amazing, motivated, genuine, kind people!  The local crafter community is a small one, but a very kind and passionate one.  I feel like I've finally met other people that know me, understand me, and are willing to just "try it!"  I get more inspiration from my fellow peers than any other source:)  I miss them all so much too!  

How do you manage it all?
One day at a time:)  I'm still trying to manage it!  Thank goodness I just have to manage myself.  I try to "stop and think" about what I'm doing.  Almost like a self-check.  What is working, what isn't.  Can I do anything about it?  What's most important at this particular time in this particular business?  There is SO much to think about, but there are also so many resources to help!  Another great perk to owning your own business, I'll never be bored with it!

Who are your fashion icons?
I don't really know if I have a particular fashion icon.  I've always picked and chose what I liked.  I've always loved Ralph Lauren.  His style is just so classic, elegant and quintessentially American.  I'll just say I'm a huge fan of menswear for women.  Not sure if being in the Navy has anything to do with that, but I just like that boyish kinda style, but still sexy and feminine at the same time.  

How has COVID affected your business?
It's completely changed the game and it's rules:)  My gameplan this year was to do more markets and get out amongst new people and the right customers!  That was the biggest lesson I learned last year (my first year in business), so I thought I had everything figured out!  My jewelry needs to be seen, touched, tried on, specially selected by the wearer.  Pictures can only do so much and that's the best feedback I've received from my customers.  So business has definitely slowed down, but I'm surviving.  I'm lucky to have that year under my belt and a strong and loyal customer base.  It's also forced me to be more active on social media and my website (my least favorite tasks!).  Even with this all said, my business and I will come out stronger and smarter because of this.  Never boring! :)

How do you work from home?
I only worked out of my tiny apartment for a short amount of time.  The shells and equipment I use quickly started overwhelming the little space I already had.  I moved to a beautiful building on Broad street and I've never been more happy or productive!  Sully, my dog, loves the walk from my apartment to my studio every day too:)  Everything in my studio has it's place, even though it may look like chaos:)  

What are your favorite pieces from your current collection?
My favorite collection is the Battery Collection.  The shells come in all different shapes, sizes, and COLORS!  It's almost like searching for gemstones.  I'm a simple jewelry wearer so my favorites are the necklaces.  The combination of the natural shells that have been gilded and the different gold chains I pair with them just makes me so happy!

What inspired your current collection? 
Staying alive!  I haven't really been designing too many new things as of late, but there is a completely new product I'm working on.  It's super-secret right now, but hopefully, I'll have some samples very soon.  As soon as business jumps back up I'll have more funds to experiment with new techniques and equipment to really change up my designs :)
July 14, 2020 — Caroline Rhodes