Creative Genius: Taylor Miller of Hazen Jewelry
Get to know an entrepreneur who started very young and fashioned a career out of upcycling costume jewelry.
Playing with jewelry turned a childhood passion into a profitable business for Taylor Miller. When she was 9 years old, Miller started tinkering with her grandmothers’ and great-grandmother’s costume jewelry, upcycling them into new pieces. She loved designing and creating the baubles so much that she spent $50 of her Christmas money on materials and started her own line. Six months later, she held her first trunk show in Oxford, Mississippi, and before she was even a teenager, her earrings, bracelets and necklaces began appearing in stores across the Southeast.
Now Taylor, 23, is a 2014 graduate of Southern Methodist University (she majored in marketing) and owner of Hazen Jewelry, which in 2016 opened a storefront in Dallas. The company designs earrings, bracelets and necklaces, which are sold in about 150 stores across the United States and online. (You can also keep up with her on Instagram.)
We snagged her for a few minutes, and asked her to chat about the importance of having a creative outlet as a kid and also got her to divulge her design influences.
How did Hazen Jewelry come about?
I remember vividly my mom had this big chest. It stayed in the closet under the stairs. On occasion, I would pull it out and just play with all her pieces. Then I actually took dental floss … and started making them into my own designs. I would beg my sweet mom to wear them, and she so kindly would. When she wore them out, she got lots of compliments. My mom would sell things off her neck at parties and luncheons. Then we had our first store reach out when I was 10 years old that wanted to carry the line. I did my first trunk show there.
How did your parents help you learn about this craft?
I took an after-school jewelry making class in the fourth grade. I learned the technique. I took about $50 of my personal Christmas money and bought semi-precious stones.
We’d go to a thrift store. I’d buy old purses, I’d buy old brooches. I’d combine them. I started making things on wire, not dental floss. I would sell in a shoebox at my brother’s Little League baseball games. My parents, they not only exposed me to a lot at a young age, but they gave me the opportunity to try a lot of creative things. I would not be where I am today without incredibly supportive parents.
What’s your design style?
My goal is to have timeless designs that are current. I see a lot of women wearing the pieces I made when I was 9. That was 15 years ago. On top of being timeless and still current, I would say we definitely have a traditional ”Southernness.”
What’s an example of one of your first designs that’s still popular?
When I was 10, we came out with this design: five mother of pearls in the shape of a flower on a cord. I still have customers that will come to me with their necklaces on. As a 12-year-old, I probably sold a thousand of these. I taught my grandmother, who was retired and lived in Florida, how to make them. I couldn’t keep up with school (and the orders). We also have had the stretchy mother of pearl bracelets since the beginning. It’s still our No. 1 seller.
What are some of your design influences?
I love the Palm Beach chinoiserie. I grew up looking at Brunschwig & Fils fabrics and Thibaut wallpapers.
It sounds like home decor inspires many of your designs?
When I design a product, often what’s in my mind is: Who is the person who is wearing this, and in what setting is she wearing it? A pool in the Hamptons? Running down the beach with her kids in Seaside, Florida?
What’s a trend you’re seeing in jewelry?
The role of jewelry in a woman’s wardrobe has changed. You see layering. In the early 2000s, we saw a lot of very simple one-strand of 16-inch beads and one bracelet. It was almost much more streamlined. What we now see is women putting five different bracelets, three different strands, three different lengths. They’re not being afraid to wear a choker again. We’re seeing the rise in costume jewelry again—big shapes and different textures. We see pompoms now.
What have you learned about creativity?
What stared out legitimately as a hobby and something I did for fun … it’s also my livelihood. Having the creative freedom to sit on the floor as a 9 year old and make jewelry for hours on end in the summer: I loved the challenge.
And finally, what’s the origin of your company’s name?
I came up with it as a 9 year old while sitting on my bedroom floor stringing beads with a friend. I thought it sounded grown up and sophisticated. I thought about changing the name, but we already had enough brand recognition. Fifteen years later, we're still Hazen.