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Adventure Chic

Picture yourself sporting stylish jewelry while climbing a rock wall or paddling around the lake. Now imagine the jewelry enduring all of the physical activity right along with you, taking on the punishing elements with considerable fortitude. This is just the kind of vision that Bronwen Lodato, founder and designer of Bronwen Handcrafted Jewelry, had when she created her line of necklaces, bracelets and earrings for the outdoor market.

With its tagline, “In the spirit of travel, adventure and style,” Bronwen Jewelry offers artisan pieces—like brilliantly colored silk ribbon wrap bracelets, soft leather cuffs and layering charm necklaces—meant to complement the life of the outdoor enthusiast. Driven by the idea that it’s possible to be in motion and fashionable at the same time, Lodato believes women who live and play hard deserve stylish jewelry that will keep up with them.

“It has to be beautiful first and then it has to work really well,” says Lodato as she points out her pieces that are mostly made in her downtown Bend studio. Her creations reflect influences from her travels around the world and include everything from sophisticated Czech glass beads to Native American-themed sterling silver pendants. The use of sturdy waxed linen cording allows for many pieces to be sweat-, swim- and shower-friendly. “I call it adventure chic,” says Lodato.

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Lodato first started stringing together seed bead necklaces years ago, when she was working as a wilderness instructor. “Active jewelry is a category I came by naturally,” she says. “In my twenties I was leading backcountry expeditions and noticed that women love to wear jewelry, even while being active.”

As more instructors responded to her colorfully beaded necklaces that stood up to the rigors of hiking, climbing and kayaking, Lodato realized that making this type of jewelry was something she was quite good at. She continued to fine-tune her craft while working in Colorado, where she learned silversmithing, the art of turning silver sheet metal into jewelry. Learning this skill not only opened her eyes to the freedom in creating something original but also confirmed that, in her heart, she was a designer.

In 2008, with the help of her husband and business partner, Michael Rubovits, Lodato launched her business. With a focus on the “outdoor girl,” Lodato attended the Outdoor Retailer trade show and snagged the attention of the successful women’s athletic wear catalog, Athleta.

“Women’s lifestyle is driving the outdoor industry right now,” she says. Since that first trade show, she says, the market has grown, with many companies targeting women in the adventure category. Retailers in the industry now feature a multitude of products for women, from skirts to headbands to jewelry.

After her products were featured in Athleta, the line gained momentum and caught the eye of other big catalog companies such as Sundance and Title Nine. The business continued to grow by adding lines for men and children. Thanks to its lifetime warranty, the brand has a loyal customer base. “Our active and outdoor community is a huge and important part of our business, and they’re mostly the customers that we connect with because we speak their language.” As Lodato’s life has included everything from yoga to sailing and hiking, she relates closely to her client base.

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In addition to creating wonderful adventure jewelry, the brand aids the environmental community by contributing a portion of sales to various eco-friendly organizations such as One Percent For The Planet.

What’s next for this thriving business that now serves several high-end catalogs, over 50 retailers and a burgeoning online clientele. “Active is trickling into fashion big-time, right now,” Lodato says. Because of this trend and her passion for textiles, she is entertaining the idea of adding clothing and other accessories into the mix. “It’s an exciting time.”

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