HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE JEWELRY INDUSTRY?
I started making jewelry when I was in college using inexpensive materials from a craft store and making it for my friends – those pieces started at $20. I then did trunk shows at sorority houses on campus and the price point increased to $100. I continued to do trunk shows in Alabama and refining my skills. The first boutique that purchased my pieces was in Fairhope – it was my first wholesale account. While I was in college, I had up to 10 boutiques in the south selling earrings priced from $75 to $125. I then stopped for a little bit and about six to eight years ago, I started doing my pieces with pavé and that’s when I transitioned to making exclusively fine jewelry.
DID YOU HAVE ANY TYPE OF DESIGN BACKGROUND?
No! I had zero design background. I am a Communications major.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT JEWELRY?
I love the story behind it. I love jewelry in general. I love a piece that has a heart and a story behind it. The reason my coin collection is my favorite is the history of each coin – the hands the coins have passed through. I also love the sentimental aspect - even if there isn’t a history to a piece, it’s the story the wearer attaches to it.
HOW LONG HAS YOUR COMPANY BEEN IN BUSINESS?
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO START YOUR COMPANY?
I got to a point where I had made jewelry as a side job since college and once I decided it was something I really enjoyed, I wanted to legitimize it and have people as well as myself, take it more seriously.
WHERE ARE YOU BASED?
WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
Originally from Tennessee. I moved to Fairhope, Alabama when I was a freshman in high school.
ONE WORD TO DESCRIBE YOUR JEWELRY
IS THERE A UNIQUE STORY BEHIND YOUR BUSINESS NAME OR LOGO?
Since I had been making jewelry since college, I decided I wanted to use my name - K Michelle was my original name. However, a year into it, I thought it sounded too whimsical for my brand and I wanted something that would better represent the look of my jewelry so I changed it to Kara Strope Designs. Once I married, even though I changed my name to Kara Warr, I kept my brand name with my maiden name, Strope, since I had a significant following.
WHAT’S THE FIRST PIECE OF JEWELRY YOU FELL IN LOVE WITH?
My grandmother has a very Deco looking ring. It has a wide gold band and a round 1.5cts. diamond. I remember being infatuated with it my whole life to the point that even though I have a sister and a mother, the joke in my life is that I say it’s mine. I also love the way it looks on her hand, it brings back so many childhood memories with her.
WHAT IS YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL?
A wolf, but not in the scary way. I’m very aware and I am in tune with my intuition, but I also realize what’s important. I like to be social and fun but there is a time and a place. I am very instinctual. I’m an extrovert but I’m not the life of the party. My family comes first no matter what.
WHO IS YOUR JEWELRY ICON?
Marla Aaron. I love the fact that she took something so simple and is able to be used in so many ways. Usually the jewelry designer dictates how pieces will be worn just by the nature of how the pieces are designed but with Marla’s pieces, you’re not relying on the designer for how the piece is going to look, it’s up to the wearer.
IF A THEME SONG PLAYED EVERY TIME YOU WALKED INTO A ROOM, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
‘Southern Girl’ by Amos Lee - this was mine and my husband’s favorite song while we were dating.
DO YOU HAVE A PIECE(S) OF JEWELRY YOU WEAR EVERY DAY AND IF SO, WHY?
A custom initial necklace that has all of my children’s initials on it: MHMJ
My engagement ring.
A pair of 14kt gold huggies.
A pair of diamond studs that my husband gives me every year. For background, every Christmas my husband upgrades my diamond studs as well as those of our three daughters.
ONE WORD TO DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE
LAST PIECE OF JEWELRY YOU BOUGHT AND LOVED
THE BEST GIFT YOU’VE GIVEN RECENTLY
One of my initial necklaces. A group of friends got together and gave a custom initial necklace to another friend for her birthday and she loved it.
THE BEST GIFT YOU’VE RECEIVED RECENTLY
My husband threw me a surprise birthday party this past August and it was so much fun. He put so much into planning it and it was super sweet.
THE THING YOU ARE COVETING NEXT
I really want a new Marla Aaron lock and a pair of diamond hoops! People think that jewelry designers can just make themselves anything, but you really have to budget for these things.
YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH…
LEAST FAVORITE FOOD?
WINE OR CHEESE?
COFFEE OR TEA?
YOGA OR BOXING?
FAVORITE VACATION SPOT?
THE LAST SONG YOU LISTENED TO?
‘Coming Home’ by Leon Bridges.
THE LAST CONCERT YOU WENT TO?
The Parent Trap.
SUPERPOWER OF CHOICE?
I’m a really good investigator. I could solve a crime! Oh and I can also tumble. I can still do a back flip.
FRIENDS CHARACTER YOU RELATE TO THE MOST?
As much as I would love to be Rachel, I am Monica.
FAVORITE PART OF THE DAY?
LEAST FAVORITE PART OF THE DAY?
The chaotic homework/activity time for the children.
YOU WON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT…
WHEN DO YOU FEEL HAPPIEST?
When my family is all together.
WHEN DO YOU FEEL STRONGEST?
In the morning, after I do my devotional and feel like I can handle anything that comes my way.
YOUR BIGGEST FEAR
Losing a child.
HOW DO YOU PICK YOURSELF UP FROM A LOW DAY?
I depend on my husband to make me laugh.
WHAT PIECE(S) OF JEWELRY MAKES YOU FEEL HAPPIEST?
My coins! I love to mix them up and think about the stories behind them. I like to imagine stories about where they went and who they belonged to! For instance, a Nigerian coin and what it was used to purchase. I love to dream about the stories behind the coins.
WHAT PIECE(S) OF JEWELRY MAKES YOU FEEL STRONGEST?
My engagement ring because of all the meaning behind it.
WHAT DOES JOY MEAN TO YOU?
Peace and laughter - I love to laugh.
WHAT DOES CONFIDENCE MEAN TO YOU?
WHAT DOES EMPOWERED MEAN TO YOU?
Having confidence in yourself but falling back on having someone there who also has your back no matter what. My mom and my husband are my rocks. I feel empowered when I know I have those two on my team.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. I often ask myself, “Will it matter tomorrow? Will it matter in five years? Will it matter in the long term?” I am still working on this!