BONE by Dawn proves launching a successful business is more than a hat trick

A local jewelry designer follows her bliss and creates a popular hat collection.

Like most fashion designers, Dawn started out working in retail. She managed a local store—Manhattan Denim in Manhattan Beach—for many years. She did plenty of buying for the store and would see certain jewelry pieces and think, “I can make that!” So she started making jewelry as a hobby.

After receiving great feedback on her pieces, she realized she could also sell her creations. She began to go to jewelry shows to get inspired, but her biggest struggle was figuring out where all of those jewelry designers were getting their stuff. She met with vendors and started asking lots of questions.

Dawn moved from the retail arena into a more corporate fashion business space and continued to make her jewelry on the side. She remembers this being a particularly challenging time, because although her 9-5 job gave her stability, she wasn’t able to give 100% to her passion of making jewelry. Overworked and tired, she eventually made the brave decision to go out on her own and pursue her art.

“I just knew in my core that this is what I was meant to do,” she shares. This was the birth of her jewelry line, BONE by Dawn. Her jewelry business thrived, but the next chapter of the BONE by Dawn line came unexpectedly.

Dawn would describe herself as a “hat girl.” She had one unique hat that she loved, but she was on the search for another so she could rotate her look. She scoured online stores, but when the hats would arrive they either wouldn’t fit or were simply too boring. She got so fed up with this search that she announced to her coworker one day, “I think I am going to make hats!”

Having worked in wholesale before retail, she called one of her old contacts to seek help. As luck would have it, after an extensive hunt they found a wholesale hat guy in Downtown L.A.

Dawn soon took to making hats in much the same way as jewelry. She dove into research and YouTube videos. Her goal was to make hats that were completely original but also affordable. With her creativity in full overdrive, she started deconstructing hats to figure out how they worked. She then distressed them with a cheese grater, splattered them with paint and even burned them under a flame to add more character.

After building up inventory and nerve, Dawn and her friend debuted her first hat show at UniqueLA. They stayed up all night making all kind of hats using vintage scarves, bandanas, feathers and other unique materials. The hats sold really well, which best of all helped get her hats into a store back East.

Each of Dawn’s hats is truly one-of-a-kind. She even goes so far as to personally customize them based on a client’s request.

She recalls one of her favorite experiences: making a hat for a musician. She hadn’t heard her music before, but to help with the inspiration she invited her over to her apartment. Dawn hung vintage scarves from the windows, with her hats and jewelry adorning the walls—all helpful inspiration of bohemian beauty. They opened a bottle of wine and listened to the music and in that way got inspired to make the musician the perfect custom hat. Dawn’s customer became part of the experience, and the story became part of her hat.

Part of Dawn’s creative process is pushing boundaries. In a fun and bold mood, she created hats using crazy colors like pink and mustard yellow. She didn’t really think they would be commercial enough to sell, but once she wore them out a few times the countless compliments and great feedback from complete strangers gave her the confidence to produce them for her customers too.

Dawn prefers that her customers shop through Instagram, allowing back-and-forth messaging and a more direct connection. She loves seeing who her customer is and finding out where the hat is going and why the person is buying it. Often her customers will post or send her a photo of themselves wearing the hat, and that feedback completes the personal creative journey beautifully. There is something very rewarding in releasing your creation and then seeing it find its home and telling a story.

You can buy Dawn’s handmade hats
and jewelry via her Instagram
@bonebydawn and at Beach & Beverly
in Hermosa Beach. |||