Throughout Women’s History Month, we are sharing the stories of female entrepreneurs who inspire and empower communities to follow their dreams and create a better world.
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“I wanted something I couldn’t find, and I decided to make it.” That’s how A-Morir was born, and — to the surprise of founder Kerin Rose Gold — it quickly transformed into a worldwide fashion phenomenon. Within the first year, Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga had all chased down A-Morir Eyewear to make the brand an international sensation.
Now, ten years after selling her first pair of sunglasses, Kerin reflects on her atypical entrepreneur path — sharing both the challenges and the lessons learned — and how her full time hobby transformed her into a respected artist and a pioneering designer with a prestigious press portfolio (including placement in every international Vogue), a massive product catalogue, and a piece of eyewear in a museum.
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Tell us about yourself. What is A-Morir? How did it all start?
Hi IVY! My name is Kerin Rose Gold. So stoked to be here. I am a human person proudly born and raised in New York. I’m a first- and third-generation immigrant, bilingual, crystal-obsessed, orange-haired, enthusiastic, and a loud creative. I’m also the founder of A-Morir Eyewear and A-Morir Studios, a cult-loved embellished eyewear line and a creative studio, respectively.
What started out as a personal project in my Manhattan living room nearly ten years ago has evolved into 15 eyewear collections, countless custom pieces, an online and wholesale business, and a creative branch. I have repeat clients from the likes of Beyoncé, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Nicki Minaj, have been in every international Vogue, and have even had Rihanna shout me out by name on TV once. I have done it all with a lot of hard work, without compromising my creative integrity, and, believe it or not, without gifting. Most days you can find me in my studio a few blocks north of the Flatiron building.
Share some details on how things began to take off.
My entrepreneur story is atypical. I came from a very pragmatic nuclear family: my parents encouraged every artistic and musical endeavor, but the concept of an artistic career was too abstract, so I never thought any of my crystal work or embellishing-eyewear thinking could be profitable.
I got my start during a gap year between leaving a marketing career and entering a graduate program at NYU for costuming history. I had just gone into remission from Ulcerative Colitis after a very aggressive nine years of actively living with the disease. I was 25 — a healthy normal person for the first time in a long time — and had a post-traumatic breakdown. I looked at my life and realized I wasn’t doing something that I was passionate about; rather, I was doing something that I fell into.
Like a lot of my effects, when I made my first pair of embellished sunglasses, I made them for myself. I wanted something I couldn’t find and decided to make it. To my surprise, it quickly turned into a phenomenon; from kids chasing me down the street within the first few weeks of wearing them to pop stars like Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga chasing down my contact information within the first year.
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When was your, “Wow, I can make a living off of this!” moment?
One day, I embellished a pair of sunglasses — just for myself. I’d wear them out and get chased down the street: in 2008, nobody had seen anything like them before! I never had any intention of selling anything I was making until people asked me where they could buy my sunglasses and how much they cost.
During my gap year, I worked at the legendary Patricia Field boutique part time, and the buyers insisted I make some to sell in the store. The first round sold quickly… and so did the subsequent ones. I had set up a web shop, and started to make a sale or two. A few months in, Katy Perry wore a pair of my sunglasses.
It wasn’t until I made my Love/Hate chain necklace sunglasses and was connected with Rihanna when I realized this could be a thing. She and I met, she immediately purchased a few pairs, and wore the chain sunglasses out the night she got them. Fashion blogs had just begun writing about celebrity style, and multiple blogs linked to my web shop. That resulted in multiple sales. Within a year, I was making more money selling eyewear than I did at my last office job.
I never thought I could sell at a store until another store emailed me asking how to carry my product. Two years after that, I was debuting my second collection in Milan as one of Vogue Italia’s selected new designers.
Did you encounter any major challenges or failures throughout your journey? How do you deal with someone knocking your confidence?
I’ve dealt with a lot. After three years of remission, a standard Colitis check up resulted in a pre-cancer scare, and as a necessary precaution, I had to have my colon removed… two months before going to Milan, where I would be honored as one of Vogue Italia’s New Designers. This happened when my business was growing at its fastest, and the physical and emotional toll that took on me stalled the business for a year. Life isn’t always fair, and that’s something I had to deal with.
When I was very green, and in what was, at the time, the best luxury accessories showroom, I was constantly put down and had my designs ridiculed by the showroom owner. That affected my self esteem as a designer. I wish I had the self confidence I have now to stand up for myself against that kind of negativity. I also spent a number of years trying to play the game and make A-Morir a “legitimate fashion brand,” which negatively affected both my happiness and my bottom line. I had to get out of my own ego and realize that being in A/B/C boutiques or X/Y/Z magazines isn’t what matters.
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Photo: Sophy Holland
What are some of your other passions?
Homelessness is something I hope I can work in in a legitimate capacity at some point. My mom has a degree in nursing and managed homeless shelters in Queens, New York, in the 1990s. She’d bring my sister and I to work with her when we had breaks from school. My sister (a doctor in Europe) and I are both still very attached to working with the homeless again at some point. I carry around socks and snacks as often as I can to pass along.
I’ve been doing a lot of research on energy conservation, solar energy, and green roofs. Why New York City doesn’t have more green roofs is astounding; environmental benefits aside, it would save building owners so much money in reduced energy costs. There’s an incredible video by NPR on the Javitz Center’s roof, and I’m shocked more people haven’t watched that and thought, “We need to do this immediately.”
I’ve gotten aggressively into creating as little waste as possible. Through my apartment building I’m able to compost and recycle everything possible at home, I carry multiple reusable bags with me at all times, I don’t use straws or plastic water bottles, I use cloth towels, unplug all my appliances, bring small bags with me when I go purchase materials to put trims in (after an afternoon of supply shopping it is easy to come home with 20-30 small cellophane bags that go straight into the garbage). I’ve even been saving all of my trim scraps to use in a sculptural piece. Being more conscious of your waste is something everyone can do with both minimal cost and minimal effort.
Let’s talk about making art. What are your other art forms outside of fashion?
I recently began carving out time to work with all of the creative mediums that fulfilled me as a kid. (I have been aggressively painting since I was five or six.) I’ve been working on a series of 3-D acrylic sheet cakes, but have been putting salty or subversive phrases on them instead of the traditional “happy birthday” or “congratulations.” The response from friends and strangers has been overwhelming, so I’ve begun selling them. I have crystallized objects for decades, and even though it’s part of my business, I still do it to relax — it’s very therapeutic. I’ve been doing classic orange medication bottles, a Magic 8 Ball, and more. And those have also garnered a really positive response, enough so that I’m developing an “objects” section of my website so friends and strangers no longer have to slide into my DM’s to inquire about purchasing. I leave music making to my boyfriend (DJ / producer / Fool’s Gold Records co-founder, Nick Catchdubs) but have gotten back to playing piano and guitar, instruments I’ve been playing since I was a kid. Once I get back into singing I’ll have checked off all my creative childhood boxes.
I love being creative, and I love making things. Anytime I get to do that I’m happy. I love giving items a new purpose with Strass crystal work, and love the methodical precision it requires to complete the process. Being able to reimagine something for myself or at someone’s request and give it a new life brings me a lot of joy.
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Photo: Kerin Rose Gold
What other custom projects do you work on?
I’ve done work for stars like Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Missy Elliott, Britney Spears, and J.Lo, as well as with corporations like The New York Times, Verizon, Sanrio, Nickelodeon, and Vogue. I average two projects a month of various size — recently, I’ve been busy with back projects including a crystal bodysuit for Britney Spears for New Years 2018, 40 runway accessories covered in nails and spikes for Palm Angels, and embellishment work for two ad campaigns.
I also have had a column with Nylon Magazine for the last 2 years called Kerin Rose’s Guide To Bedazzling Your Life where I share my varied life experiences: running a business, breaking up with friends, personal style, not being cool, how to deal with horrible bosses, sexual assault, and keeping your hair dye looking great at all times. I’ve also ran a local TV studio, interned at a brokerage firm, been through depression, lived with a chronic illness, worked at record labels, dealt with a quarter life crisis, started a business, lost an organ, and fallen in love with my best friend. When I went through most of those, I was alone. That work is the hardest, but I’ve had readers reach out to me and tell me I’ve helped them — therefore, it’s the most rewarding.
What keeps you excited and creative?
Inspiration has to come from within. However, I’m surrounded by entrepreneurs and creatives. More than half of my friends have successfully created their own life paths. Whether they’re designers, writers, musicians, inventors, artists, doctors, healers, lawyers, or teachers, everyone I know works hard at not only being successful at what they’ve chosen to do, but also at being a good person. I’m wildly inspired and supported by the people I choose to keep in my life and the ways in which they tackle the world.
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Photo: Kareem Black
What advice would you like to share with someone considering starting their own business but aren’t sure how to take the first leap into pursuing their passion?
Ask yourself: are you good at what you want to do? Do you have a fresh, new, or unique idea? Are you okay with failure? Are you okay with never having any free time? Are you okay with being broke and or stressed all the time?
I’ve forced myself to answer certain questions. How can i push the boundaries of design? How can I use materials in a new application? How can I create a cohesive collection? How can I refine the product? How can I expand the category? As I’ve tackled each question, I move on to the next.
These are hard questions but they’re the most important ones. Keep a schedule. Give yourself deadlines. Distill your idea to a few sentences. Build a website. Get all the elements of your branding together, get accounting software, figure out if you should be an S Corp, C Corp, or an LLC… Or, start with my Nylon article on starting a business.
What’s next for you?
I’ll be launching a bridal eyewear line in the coming months; bridal eyewear doesn’t exist anywhere in the market. I have a beautiful range — and one stand out piece — that will be a low risk way for women to add something unique to their wedding day that can carry over to their honeymoon, and sit as a keepsake on their shelf at home. There are options for bridesmaids as well, as custom engravings for the woman who wants to commemorate the date or her wedding hashtag. There are a handful of unisex styles, and I hope to create something groom-specific as well.
I’m also finishing up samples of crystalized beauty products with hard cases (lipsticks, mascaras, pressed compacts, small acne electronics) as samples to shop around to beauty and wellness companies for their press pushes; it’s a less wasteful, more economical, and fabulously product-centered way to showcase a new item that will yield a much higher social media ROI and have a longer imprint than sending over a big flashy presentation. (So if anyone reading this works in the beauty world, give me a shout!)
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This is the third article in a series of interviews with inspiring female entrepreneurs throughout Women’s History Month. Read the first article, Dream, Girl: What Happens When Women Share Their Stories, to learn more.
We’d love your feedback. To learn more about Kerin Rose Gold and A-Morir, to share inspiring stories, or just to say hello, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.