Tina Elle Fulton’s futile search for vintage jewellery sparked her entrepreneurial spirit. Fulton, who lives in the dying manufacture centre of Oshawa, ON, decided to manufacture her own jewellery. Need gave birth to invention. “Elle” is her online jewellery business venture.
“I love vintage but I hate the idea of wearing something someone else has already worn,” says Fulton. “I was seeking out jewellery for my own collection and I was seeking out pieces not worn before, warehouse dead stock, new, old stock. A little at a time I came across these amazing suppliers across Canada and the U.S. and a business was born. I saw potential to bring something back to life. Most of what I make my jewellery is from pieces that have been in boxes in dusty basements for 50 years or more.”
The standard cut-off for vintage is five decades. Beyond that things are considered antique. Elle offers some 40s and 80s but most of her collections she says are from 50s to 70s. Its her favourite period for fashion.
“The 60s and 70s were the best time for costume jewellery in this way that doesn’t exist anymore. You can buy $300 Swarovski or a $10 necklace that’s going to be broken in three days. There’s nothing in between. You used to be able to get a higher quality costume jewellery you expect to last even though its not fine jewels. When I started working with the pieces I was finding brass cast, raw brass and gold plated pieces that were in amazing condition. I started looking for 18 caret gold filled chains, gold filled ring bases to make something that has a reasonable price point and speaks to what costume jewellery used to be about,” she says.
Fullton has a background in sewing and clothes making and says her learning curve for jewellery wasn’t steep, her previous craft and design skills helped. She began with putting charms on necklaces but quickly graduated to setting rings. She offers many different lines including Canadiana featuring a variety of city coat of arms and 67 Centennial logos.
Her latest line is Roller Girl, “think Heather Graham in Boogie Nights,” she says. It’s a spin on roller derby culture. Rainbows, unicorns and hearts are the themes used, also Zodiac signs. Everything you would associate with 70s disco culture or roller derby culture she says. The Roller Girl line is designed to be summery novelty pieces that are fun to wear.
Novelty items come and go in this fast-paced modern world but trends can become icons if they can survive the vagaries of fashion. The trick to making trends last is to build initially with quality materials.
“Whether its décor, clothing or jewellery I think people are looking for vintage because it’s stood the test of time. The manufacture quality is an issue now, stuff is made to fall apart quicker. Quality material is one of the things people are looking for when they buy vintage jewellery,” she says
Quality in manufacturing used to be a source of pride for both producers and consumers. Corporations are all veneer these days, with cheap chipboard as the frame. Workers are as disposable as the products. There exists a desire for value, and an opportunity for business. This is where the new entrepreneur can step in, an entrepreneur like Fulton, who turns to the past to make her own future, out of necessity.