Reagan Charleston Shines as a Self-Made Jewelry Designer

Reagan Charleston Shines as a Self-Made Jewelry Designer

Reagan Charleston is a force to be reckoned with. Since starting her own company, Reagan Charleston Design, she has been featured in NOLA Fashion Week, seen her work worn by celebrities, and has enjoyed the enormous amounts of positive feedback that she’s received from customers. Her success didn’t come from luck, however – this woman has worked incredibly hard and has a hectic schedule to keep everything on track. In fact, when we spoke, it was on the phone while she drove from one appointment to another. How does she do it all? We found out.

Reagan's Carousel Tiger piece.
Reagan's Carousel Tiger piece.

Charleston started off as a student at LSU who was planning on going into law. Given her family, however, it seems predestined that a more creative career would be for her. She comes from a family of artists – her grandparents owned an art gallery in the French Quarter that she would often visit as a child. Both of them did copper sculpture, and her grandmother is proficient in many different styles of painting. While she was inspired by her family’s creativity from an early age, she never really saw herself going into that particular field. That view changed, however, when she took time off of school to go to Paris.

“We were in Paris and I think it was just being around the architecture and all the fabulous clothes and the artwork and…I said, ‘I really want to do jewelry and handbags and I wish I didn’t have to go to law school,’” Charleston remembers. Her boyfriend at the time – Jeff Charleston, who would later become her husband and a player for the New Orleans Saints – reminded her that she didn’t have to do anything that she didn’t want to.  When people started asking her if they could buy her jewelry pieces that she had been making for fun, it really clicked for her that this could be her career path. So she took a chance, turned her back on law school, and started her own company.

Pictured: American Alligator Clutch with Carousel Tiger Hardware, a bracelet from Spring/Summer 14, and Reagan's gold carousel tiger double ring
Pictured: American Alligator Clutch with Carousel Tiger Hardware, a bracelet from Spring/Summer 14, and Reagan's gold carousel tiger double ring

Her pieces are inspired by who she is. As a Leo, she’s always loved lions – an animal that features quite frequently in her work. (There happen to be two beautiful lion sculptures outside of her grandparents’ art gallery.) She’s also inspired by nature, architecture, and art. Anything that is around her is a possibility for inspiration. Those inspirations have given her the opportunity to display her work in runway shows, including Strut and Swim – which she marks as her favorite.  “It’s always special to have your work displayed,” she affirms. More recently, a designer selected Reagan Charleston Design as her supplier for jewelry for her spring and summer line during NOLA Fashion Week – a week Charleston describes as a “complete madhouse.” “It’s just absolutely insane,” she says of backstage. “You’ve got jewelry flying around everywhere…and for me, I’m watching all of these precious little objects that I’ve created just rolling around backstage! It’s stressful, but it’s so worthwhile, and everything comes out so beautifully.”

The runway isn’t the only place that her work has been featured – celebrity Rose McGowan wore her jewelry at New York Fashion Week, which was a huge boost both for Charleston and her company. “I didn’t even have time for it to sink in and have that ‘oh yeah!’ moment, because I was working,” she laughs. “Then later it hit me.”

Seeing other people wear her jewelry is one of her favorite parts of her job. “It’s such a gratifying experience,” she says. “Every piece is like a child. You put everything into it…it’s really a product of yourself. And when someone appreciates it as much as you do…it’s like a feeling I can’t really describe. You feel so proud.”

Reagan looking stunning in a dress she designed herself for a Parisian ball.
Reagan looking stunning in a dress she designed herself for a Parisian ball.

It took a lot of hard work and long hours to get all of the success that Charleston has enjoyed so far, however. She may be her own boss, but that’s actually the biggest challenge of her job. Working from home and monitoring her own productivity is no easy task. “My schedule is pretty much 24 hours a day, because if I’m not working, I’m thinking about it,” she says. “It’s just something that’s constantly on my mind. It’s not just a financial investment, it’s an emotional investment.” All of that work has certainly paid off, however – and nothing can compare to the feeling she gets when she sees someone wearing one of her pieces. “When it comes down to it,” she says, “I’m doing something that I love and I’m doing something that makes me happy.”

Think that’s all for Reagan Charleston? That would be enough, but she’s certainly not done. She has big plans for the next year. She just started her own handbag line, wants to expand her jewelry line out of the south into a national endeavor, and aims to build and expand her collections. If the success she’s had in the past is any indicator, we have no doubt she’ll achieve every single one of her goals.

You can read more about Reagan and view her work at reagancharleston.com.