By Cate Jensen
Although this is Allison Haywood’s first profile, it most certainly will not be her last. This ex-ivy leaguer is as poised and polished a person as her jewelry company, Woodrow Jewelry. After this Women and Sexualities major decided college wasn’t for her anymore, she sought out to start her own jewelry line – and hasn’t looked back since. From her pieces appearing at Spring/Summer ’15 New York Fashion Week to attending the exclusive after-party of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Fashion Education Workshop last month, this young goldsmith is going places, fast.
Q: You believe that jewelry should be personal and named your company after your late uncle. Can you tell me more about that?
He was an incredibly strong man in terms of his personality and was one of the funniest people. He would walk into a room and immediately the aura of the room would change and become a little bit lighter. I remember thinking I have to honor him in some way. And when I dropped out of Brown [University] to pursue this [jewelry line], it just all fell into place. Now here I am training to be a goldsmith and the only man in my life I remember wearing jewelry in my life, and being okay with it, was my uncle. Woodrow also happens to be a family name, so I thought it would be a perfect way to honor him.
Q: So you are being trained under a goldsmith here in D.C.?
Yes. So I had taken a course at the Corcoran School of Design, a metal working course. I took it on one of my summers off between my freshman and sophomore year. I loved it. They worked primarily with base metals, meaning brass and copper. That sat in the back of my mind as a very fun cool and experience. I think everyone in college has a moment of “what am I doing?” I have always been a person that if this doesn’t feel right to me, I am not going to force myself to remain in this environment. I wanted to delve into it further so I decided to leave Brown because I wasn’t loving what I was majoring in.
Q: And it progressed from there?
I went the old-school path in that I Googled D.C. goldsmiths, and I approached the man [Dan Valencia] who runs the amazing school, JewelryClassDC. I told him my story, [he] said “well you need to take my beginner course.” I don’t think he really believed me when I said had taken a course before. I had always been an artistic person, so when I had taken my Corcoran class, I walked through it very easily, it wasn’t hard for me. At the end of the beginner class, I was helping other students. It was one of those things [where] it became very obvious.
We worked out a way for me to essentially have an apprenticeship with him. I would come in and learn all the advanced stuff – learn how to set diamond, work more with gold and silver. He teaches all of his classes in sterling silver which is incredible rare in the world of jewelry.
Jewelry is the only thing in the world of fashion that holds value. That to me is exciting. If you buy a dress, the moment you walk out of the store it is not worth what you paid for it, or anywhere near what you paid for it. I really love that about jewelry is that not only can it tell a story, but it will hold value over time.
Q: How long have you been training as a goldsmith?
I started [my business] about nine months ago. But, have been training for about a year-and-a-half to two years with him. I have been really fortunate to find him [Valencia]. I am currently still training. He is an integral part of my line and is an amazing person.
Q: What is an average business day for you?
Right now, I am gearing up for a trunk show. The really exciting thing is that it is going to be the debut of what I am going to be calling my diffusion line. The price point will be from $50-$200 for gold plated and silver jewelry – still including a lot of gemstones, as well as funky pieces. The inspiration for this collection is moving forward – so a lot of arrows, linear things.
Q: Some of your jewelry was featured in Charles Harbinson’s Spring/Summer 2015 show at New York Fashion Week, how did that feel?
It was unreal. It was a presentation at Milk Studios, rather than a runway. He is so talented, one of the most tenderhearted people. Very nice guy, you can just see his passion.
Q: Along with that you attended First Lady Michelle Obama’s Fashion Education Workshop that was held recently at the While House?
I am standing with some of the foremost people in fashion industry, and we walked through the Green Room in the White House. Living in a place that is so politically oriented, people sometimes look down upon me for what I do. You don’t realize all that goes into it. So the [party] was very validating, that this is not an industry where people are getting their nails detailed all day. These are people who are hungry and incredibly intellectual and really have a passion for what they are doing.
For details on her upcoming trunk show, follow Woodrow Jewelry on social media.