If you love the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, you know that Texas style shines big and bright. From boots to bangles, all aspects of Southern fashion celebrate the bold spirit of the west. As the fourth largest city in America, Houston has its fair share of designers. One such local up-and-comer is Amelia King, founder of Ila and Bertie, who’s bringing handmade Southwestern jewelry to fashionistas with flair. As you prep your Rodeo outfit, meet the lady behind this new Texas label.
When did you launch Ila and Bertie?
Ila and Bertie officially launched in July of 2017, but it was many months coming! I started dreaming up the idea in July of 2016 and slowly began to make product on my own for friends and family, gaining feedback, and learning different skills and techniques, until I opened my Etsy shop this past summer.
What inspired you to start your business?
It was a mixture of something that had been on my mind for awhile and my job situation at the time. I have a stack of sterling silver Southwestern bangles I wear every day—passed down to me from my Grandmother from the 1940’s—that I would constantly get compliments on. I always thought, I would love to learn how to makes these—I can’t find them anywhere!
After working in fashion for over 13 years and living a very fast-paced life in New York City for 6 years, I felt stuck and didn’t know where I saw my career going next. Thankfully, my job was very focused on gaining relationships with different makers, designers, and artists all over the world and sharing their stories along with their beautiful products. Learning about how they started their businesses, many times from nothing or no experience at all, really inspired me to take the plunge and do it myself!
How did you come up with the idea for bandana embroidery design?
It honestly began on a whim! I started to think up different ideas of packaging for my jewelry line, and I thought it would be super unique for my customers to get their pieces wrapped in a vintage bandana with an embroidery design. I began practicing on my lunch break, and people kept coming up to me to ask if I sold my designs anywhere or if I could make one for them. From there, it really took off! I started embroidering bandanas for my friends, which eventually led to creating collections, selling in boutiques and craft markets, as well as designing personalized doggie bandanas.
In addition to bandanas, you design and make Southwestern jewelry. How do you design those pieces?
My designs come from so many different places! I mainly draw my influence from style icons of the ‘70s like Jane Birkin, Brigitte Bardot, and the Rolling Stones, as well as Native American Southwestern pieces and flowers—I am constantly snapping pictures of flowers!
Stones are also a huge part of my design process. I have been collecting them since I was about 5 years old, and I really look at their shapes or colors when deciding what type of piece it is meant to be! I love to start with traditional designs and add in modern or colorful twists.
What makes your products unique?
Being unique is really important to me. I have always said to myself in designing, What is the point of doing something that tons of other people are already putting out into the world, and in some cases better? I try to form my own ways of embroidering and creating jewelry, instead of basing it off of other artists. I want each new piece to be different from the last so that my customers feel like they are purchasing something that is truly one-of-a-kind, that they can cherish forever and pass down from generation to generation.
Tell us about your Texas roots. How have they influenced your design?
My Texas roots have definitely gotten me to where I am today! At a young age, I was constantly dressing up in my grandmother’s jewelry, and even today I never leave home without a wristful and handful of jewelry. I treasure the pieces that have been passed down to me through my family, and it was really important to me to have that as a forefront of my brand—Ila is my great-grandmother and Bertie was my great-grandfather! I think being from Texas has helped me to be bold with my designs, not to shy away from color, and to not give up no matter how hard it might be!
What’s next for Ila and Bertie?
I have so many plans for Ila and Bertie—I sometimes can get ahead of myself! In the near future, I will be designing a collection of bandanas inspired by the Houston Rodeo, and I will also debut a new collection of modern southwest Sterling Silver jewelry for summer 2018, expanding my range to bracelets, earrings, and necklaces!
I would love to eventually teach workshops, as well as design vintage-inspired clothing using sustainable deadstock fabrics that incorporate my embroidery. I hope the brand continues to grow and change as I do!
Featured image courtesy of Ila and Bertie.