‘The dictionary is a cornerstone of the store’ says Beth Bugdaycay, founder of buzzy new jewellery house, Foundrae, referencing a beautiful old tome that is illustrated inside with swirling, mystical motifs. Back in the 1990s, Beth and her husband Murat, launched the quintessentially feminine and phenomenally successful fashion label Rebecca Taylor, selling it in 2011.
The duo segued into jewellery design in 2015, looking for ‘a new chapter’ she says, that would ‘bring a more harmonious life together, doing what we love’. The symbolism-inspired designs struck a chord and after two years trading via stockists, the pair opened their first bricks-and-mortar store, in Tribeca, Manhattan, in March 2018.
‘We didn’t want to just open a jewellery store, we wanted a comfortable environment – an extension of our living room’ says Beth. We met the designer at her inspiring downtown space to talk words, symbols and designing for love.
Did you always want to work in fashion?
When I was 6 years old, I told my parents that I was going to move to New York and be in fashion – it was a pipe dream. I went to school for economics, and then when I was 18, I came to New York for a year of fashion school at FIT, got an internship, and then a job.
When did you launch Foundrae?
In 2015, we were operating the brand out of our house for the first two years. It took nine months to get the first product together and into two stores. It resonated with people, they needed ways to communicate with themselves and the outside world.
We didn’t have any preconceived ideas about what makes a successful fine jewelry brand, so we started off with pieces that served as “platforms” for our symbols: cigar bands, thick and thin bands, medallions and then chains. People weren’t doing certain things in the jewellery industry – no one had used symbolism to the extent we do, no one was using chains the way that we do – I was really inspired by fob chains from the late 1800s. We launched the store in March this year (2018).
Tell us about some of the symbolism?
We start with our core ‘tenants’ – like strength – and we pull multiple symbols to express that tenant – pictures, words. The triangle is a powerful water sign that originated in alchemy, a traditional feminine energy. I see this as a well of intuitive energy to dip into when I need – if you look at the store, we have a triangle table, triangles in the marble.
The star is energy and divine guidance, the crown is triumph. The protection tenant was particularly successful at combining east and west symbols – the scarab is an ancient Egyptian symbol and we combined it with the horseshoe which has Celtic origins.
How do you communicate this to customers?
Our customers are looking for meaning. The symbols are tools, intended to be specific to the wearer – about self-expression, self-discovery. It’s about finding something that speaks to you – a declaration, a core value, or something you want to work on.
Do you offer a bespoke service?
Bespoke chimes with the reasons we conceived the brand – for self-expression – if somebody wants to take ownership of the symbols, we encourage that. Foundrae is really personal, I think that’s one of the reasons why it resonates. Every part comes from my heart – it’s not merchandised, it’s not about being commercial.
Tell us about the new store?
We tried to create a comfortable atmosphere, it’s not just about buying jewellery – it’s an empowering space, an extension of our living room – art, some jewellery. We refer to our pieces as modern heirlooms, it’s the story that matters – the communication, the values – why you picked the pieces and qualities you picked. We try to pull in things to the store that do the same thing.
Books are important, inspiring stories – I pick up books everywhere we go. And we have a lending library, so people can come in and borrow the books with a library card. My mum always taught me to use my energy in constructive ways, so if I was in trouble my punishment would be looking up words in the dictionary. It’s a good lesson, and it has meant my vocabulary is very good! Now the dictionary is a cornerstone of our store.
And what about the new collection?
The Course Correction Collection comes from the cardinal directions, the compass. We made a mirror image, so when you look at yourself, you’re the only one who can choose the next step. Every day you make choices in your life, constantly realigning to ensure you’re living your true path, your purpose.
Tell me about your personal collection?
I wear the pieces that are important to me every day – the strength symbol, then this one, ‘With Every Breath’ – is about living life passionately. Our knuckle duster has multiple symbols – moving forward, energy, divine guidance, ‘with wings we fly’ – it’s a reminder that to live life passionately, you have to take a bit of risk.
Wholeness was the reason we started Foundrae, so I always wear it. Usually I wear a band that says love. These say light and divine guidance – they’re the first two pieces I made. I wear it like our customer does – I invest in pieces.
If you could have anyone to be the face of your brand, who would it be?
Alicia Keys – I love what she stands for, she’s real, her goal is to empower people – that’s something we really try to do with our whole lexicon.