Jewelry Maker: Mallory Nicholson
Jewelry making found Mallory Nicholson, a designer, serial entrepreneur and self-proclaimed Francophile, who owns Mallory et Cie.
“I wasn’t really into jewelry when jewelry making found me,” said Nicholson, who owned and operated an interior design firm as well as Urban Refurban, a retail shop specializing in refurbished vintage metal furniture in her native California before founding Mallory et Cie in 2010.
Mallory et Cie translates from French into “Mallory and Company,” but according to Nicholson, company in this context isn’t about business, but relationships.
“I think of company in terms of hospitality—friends, family, guests, customers….” Nicholson said. “For me to be happy and fulfilled, I have to be designing and actively using my creativity in a way that gives me a human connection.”
She continued, “Customers make my business, and the best part of being a maker is making connections—my customers are my people.”
“Mom always said, ‘The jewelry will be here when we need it,’” Nicholson said.
Nicholson turned to jewelry making when she took a sabbatical to help her mother recover and rehabilitate from an illness. Friends started buying pieces. Visits to retail shops in Los Angeles resulted in orders. Even up-and-coming celebrities began buying from her.
“I thought I might be on to something,” Nicholson said.
Her hunch was confirmed when she relocated to Houston, along with the family’s commercial real estate business, where Nicholson worked as a manager and interior designer. Within six days of arrival, she landed a jewelry trunk show at Memorial Antiques and Interiors followed quickly by a private trunk show in the Memorial neighborhood. Nicholson left real estate for full-time jewelry making within a year of moving to Texas.
While her business sprouted organically, Nicholson shaped it around her twin passions: France and vintage goods. As a 21-year-old expat living and working in London, she fell in love with France during excursions to Paris and beyond. She traces her ardor for the unique to the vast, curated flea markets of Los Angeles where she spent every weekend for years “digging up, dusting off and repurposing treasures of the past.”
“People tell me I’m lucky because I travel to Paris—and throughout France—searching for vintage treasures,” she said. “It isn’t luck. I wanted to create a business that would give me an opportunity to indulge my passions.”
In addition to traveling to France herself, Nicholson maintains a network of French shoppers who scour the markets year-round for the antique brooches, religious medals, coins and other “really cool things that no one else has” that form the basis of her hand-made jewelry.
“The style is comfortably time-worn, but refined and sophisticated,” said Nicholson, who estimates she hand ties about 20,000 beads each year. “I don’t design with a plan in mind, but am inspired by the colors, texture, history and worn imperfections of the found items.”
Now based in Carmine, Mallory et Cie offers two jewelry lines, Authentica and French Brocante Cllections, that allow customers to build personalized necklaces.
“Everything is designed to be complementary, so people can start with one piece and then add others to layer and create their own looks,” said Nicholson.
Authentica is a mix-and-match collection of chains, pendants and charms. Vintage and antique French Brocante features reworks of French flea market finds.
“My job is to be ahead of the pack, so I’m constantly innovating and creating new designs,” said Nicholson, who is now mastering vitreous enamel work while planning the launch of a second jewelry-based company.
“At the Round Top Antiques Show where I debuted my indigo ponchos, I was thrilled when they sold out,” said Nicholson, noting her move to Carmine was due to her love of and success at the Round Top Antiques Show over the past eight years. “Now I sell both jewelry and apparel year-round at my pop-up tiny shop in Carmine, where I believe I carry the country’s largest line of indigo ponchos.”
This year, she will introduce a full line of European linen ponchos hand-sewn from fabric that is more than 100 years old. The ponchos are often styled with leather.
“I find inspiration in antique techniques as well as antique materials,” Nicholson said. “There are certain looks that can only be achieved by hand, and high-quality, stylish goods made by hand evoke feelings in the people who wear them.”
Evoking feelings and making connections between the past and present elevates Mallory et Cie beyond mere commerce for Nicholson.
“I love finding treasures that have already been owned, touched and loved,” Nicholson said. “They carry their stories from the past into the present, so their new owners can add another chapter to their history.”
To see and purchase jewelry and apparel, follow Mallory Nicholson on Instagram @malloryetcie or visit her website at www.malloryetcie.com. She is a regular at the bi-annual Round Top Antiques Show. Check her website for show schedule and locations.
by Lorie A. Woodward