Interview with Blaque Reily | Portmanteau Jewelry Collection

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Company Name: Portmanteau Jewelry Collection  (pronounced: “port-man-toe”)

Website: www.port-manteau.com

Location: Nashville, TN

Portmanteau is a collection of handmade, premium jewelry designed and produced in Nashville by Blaque Reily.  The design aesthetic ranges from contemporary minimalism to bohemian-chic, emphasizing asymmetry and layering.

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About the Founder: Blaque Reily, 32 (Founder/Designer); born and raised Fairbanks, Alaska; currently lives and operates Portmanteau out of Nashville, TN

Founder Background

My personal story is eclectic and an important part of the Portmanteau brand. I am an Alaskan hippie with a New Zealand heritage, and I now live in the urban creative setting of Nashville, TN. The juxtaposition of my geographies has a visible influence on the bohemian-chic aesthetic of my designs. I am also an artist with an MBA, a rare combination which I think can be explained by my upbringing:  Growing up we had a commercial fishing site in Bristol Bay, Alaska —my parents also owned their own photography business.  In this respect, I was raised in an environment where creative pursuits and business were not mutually exclusive!

While at Owen

My first year at Owen I worked on projects for Stony Creek Colors (a bio-based textile die company) and Nisolo (social impact accessories brand).  Through Net Impact and Turner Family Center we were able to host a Fashion & Sustainability Panel at Owen, as well as build partnerships between sustainable brands and the Owen Career Management Center.  While I enjoyed working with bigger brands, I was also excited to give my own artisanal jewelry line a shot.  I officially launched Portmanteau Jewelry Collection in Fall 2015.  I now sell wholesale through boutiques and direct to customers through my ecommerce site www.port-manteau.com.

I have a degree in Environmental Science (Colorado College) and came to business school to work with brands on social and environmental impact.  My first year at Owen I worked on projects for Stony Creek Colors (a bio-based textile die company) and Nisolo (social impact accessories brand).  Through Net Impact and Turner Family Center we were able to host a Fashion & Sustainability Panel at Owen, as well as build partnerships between sustainable brands and the Owen Career Management Center.  While I enjoyed working with bigger brands, I was also excited to give my own artisanal jewelry line a shot.  I officially launched Portmanteau Jewelry Collection in Fall 2015.  I now sell wholesale through boutiques and direct to customers through my ecommerce site www.port-manteau.com.  I am proud to have my pieces carried by Emerson|Grace, H.Audrey and Wilder Boutique in Nashville –all stores that support local artists alongside big fashion brands.

While completing my full-time MBA program I managed the various aspects of building my business including: marketing, sales, branding/creative, business admin, and production (hand-making every piece myself!). I am currently focused on expanding into new geographic markets, growing my online sales and building my production capacity.

In Spring of 2016 Portmanteau received funding from the Sohr Grant ($25,000) and won the Launch Tennessee University Venture Challenge Lifestyle Category ($12,500).  Portmanteau was also one of four finalists in the Forte-Microsoft Power Pitch Competition ’16, and has been featured in Style Blueprint as well as the September issue of Delta Sky Magazine.

About the Product

Layering is a big part the Portmanteau concept, and most of the pieces are designed to be mix and matched –asymmetry is key to our aesthetic. The word Portmanteau means the blending of two things and through the collection I encourage my customers to push their personal style and create unlikely combinations. Experimenting is a fun part of the Portmanteau customer experience.

The collection is versatile yet cohesive – ranging from base designs to statement pieces, the overall minimalism means that pieces can be worn for a range of occasions (professional to evening, casual to bridal). The price point ranges from $50-150, with custom order fine metals available ($200+).  All designs are currently hand-hammered by myself using premium materials (14k gold, 14k rose gold and sterling silver).

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On Being an Entrepreneur in Nashville

I have benefitted greatly from the collaborative environment of Nashville –moving here was the best decision I could have made for my business.  It is an exciting and creative city, with plenty of opportunity to be a part of growth that is underway. My business wouldn’t be where it is if it weren’t for entrepreneurial support from Owen Vanderbilt faculty and students, LaunchTN, the Entrepreneur Center, and The Social Enterprise Alliance, as well as industry support from the Nashville Fashion Alliance (NFA) and mentor Van Tucker (NFA CEO and Owen alumna).

On Community & Social Impact

Over the past six months I have enjoyed hosting youth-at-risk jewelry workshops within the community —a portion of each Portmanteau purchase goes towards this project.  This workshop idea stemmed from my own positive childhood exposure to art.  Growing up around artists and entrepreneurs gave me a creative confidence at an early age.  This sense that I could manifest a vision into a physical thing has benefitted me far beyond my artistic pursuits.  It is a confidence I hope to share as much as possible and right now growing the youth workshops seems like the best way to do that!  Recent workshops have been in partnership with Consider the Wldflwrs, Youth Villages, and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

As a brand in fashion, I am very conscious of my labor and materials sourcing. In terms of labor, Portmanteau is an artisanal brand whose customers appreciate (and pay a premium for) hand crafted, small batch jewelry with a maker’s story.  My biggest challenge as a small company is sourcing ethical metals –my supplier certifies that all metals are recycled and/or conflict free, however, information beyond that is difficult to discern.  As Portmanteau grows my goal is to be able to track our materials to origin, and ultimately work directly with an ethical source.

In terms of growth and ethics I look to companies like Elizabeth Suzann and Nisolo.  These Nashville brand have been able to stay close to their supply chain, manufacturing processes and customer experience while growing to international success.

Recent Awards & Press

  • Sohr Grant $25,000
  • Launch TN University Venture Challenge $12,500
  • Portmanteau was selected as one of four finalists in the Forte Power Pitch Competition for $7,500 (hosted by the Forte Foundation and Microsoft in Austin, Texas, June, 2016)
  • Featured in Style Blueprint as “10 Southern Jewelers We Love”
  • Featured in Delta Sky Magazine (September 2016)

 

 

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