Alumna sparkles

Alumna sparkles

By Bessie King

For Alanna Richman, fashion is more than just a form of expression, more than just a cute new accessory – it’s a paycheck and a way of life.

The 2006 graduate designs and produces her own jewelry line.

From bracelets and necklaces decorated with precious stones to solid 18-karat gold earrings, her pieces sell for $200 to $600.

“I was always artistic since I was a little kid, but I never knew what to do with my talent,” said the 23-year-old who graduated with a degree in entrepreneurship. “When I began designing jewelry I knew I had found my passion.”

Richman, who uses her first and middle name for her collection, Alanna Bess, developed her passion for jewelry after her freshman year.

After experimenting with a few pieces, she received an overwhelming response from people who said they liked the jewelry and wanted to know where she had bought it, Richman said.

She began selling her work at the Grettacole Day Spa in Copley Place and then spread her line to boutiques in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Florida and California.

“At the beginning of my career I made hundreds of pieces by myself and I would get my mom involved in case I needed even more for trunk shows or other orders,” Richman said. “I started everything with my life savings of $3,000 and have kept going to make the business grow.”

Traveling to Florence, Italy for study abroad, she said she was inspired by the colors, artwork and ambiance of Da Vinci’s homeland, which brought her designing to a new level.

For co-op her senior year Richman interned in New York’s fashion district and met famous designers like Gustavo Arango. Arango offered to sell her line at his flagship store in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He asked for her to custom design other pieces for his couture clothes and since then she has provided exclusive items to his store.

After graduation, Richman put all her effort toward her jewelry.

Within the first month she was interviewed by some of the top fashion magazines like Vogue, Lucky, Glamour and Teen Vogue. Just About Magazine will do a special feature on her this September and In Style magazine may feature her in October.

“I never look in any magazines for inspiration,” she said. “I always draw on what I see is popular in the market and whatever suggestions or tips I get from people, but to be featured in these fashion magazines is incredible.”

Even if she doesn’t take examples from magazines or fellow designers, Richman said she is always attracted to color and uniqueness and tries to grow with every collection and make each piece different.

“I dove into this opportunity with all I had because my heart was in it and the risk didn’t scare me,” Richman said. “I keep designing with the same passion since I know that every day brings something new to my life and I can get ideas from anything. I just love what I do.”

Although things are going well for the young designer, she has experienced rejection and criticism.

When she first began selling her line, many doubted her credibility because of her youth. She said it was hard for her to break into the established businesses or represent herself professionally.

“I encountered a lot of jealousy and a lot of disrespect because of my age,” she said. “I avoided the age question and always made my designs and my pieces the focus because it’s not about age, it’s about talent; others who are trying to make it in this industry need to remember that to keep going too.”

Professor John Friar, an executive professor of entrepreneurship, has taught Richman in a few of his classes and said starting a business at her age is not uncommon.

“Many people don’t know that starting a business is not scary or risky,” Friar said. “You just have to be prepared and many, like [Richman] do start their businesses while they are still undergrads.”

Although no one in Richman’s family is in the fashion industry, Richman said her parents have always been supportive of her career path.

“I’m the first one in my family to venture into this profession and my friends and family have been very supportive, especially my mom, and now she gets to wear a different piece of jewelry every day so she loves it,” she said.

Her father, David Richman, said his daughter has a knack for business.

“She is a very rare combination of attributes in one person,” her father said. “Northeastern helped her develop some of these attributes and of course at home others were developed as well, but she is creative, outgoing, entrepreneurial and a wonderful salesperson.”

Richman hopes to increase the number of boutiques where her work is sold and maybe go into retail to reach a broader market.

If her fashion career ever comes to a halt, the young designer would like to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York to become a professional interior designer.

No matter where the world of couture may lead her, Richman continues to believe in herself, following the advice of her parents and professors.

“I had amazing professors at Northeastern. and one of them was Professor Friar, who used to say, ‘I’m growing but I’m always thinking big growth venture.’ I still follow this saying and I can advise fellow students to believe in themselves or in their product,” Richman said. “No matter how much rejection you get, if you know that you can do something you try until you make things happen you keep reaching for your big venture.”

To learn more about the Alanna Bess line visit www.alannabess.com.

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