When Beth Bugdaycay made the decision to leave her role as CEO at Rebecca Taylor and launch a jewelry line, she couldn’t get out of bed for three days. “My husband said, ‘Beth, you dove in. So swim,’ she recalls. “I tell people this because they don’t realize how scary it is for everyone to launch something new. Don’t let that fear stop you.”
Two years after launching Foundrae—Bugdaycay’s line of charm-focused necklaces and cigar band-inspired rings—her fear is gone. In its place is a dedication to creating jewelry with meaning. Pieces that people can truly feel connected to and buy because of their hidden symbolism and messages. A fusion of the word “found” (Bugdaycay is a huge collector), and her grandmother’s middle name, ‘Rae,’ Foundrae could best be described as a line of charm necklaces and rings in bold colors, each inscribed with unusual symbols and letters that look like the pendants a secret club might give their members. Each charm features various symbols and designs that have specific meanings, and hang from either dainty chains or larger, chunky gold necklaces. Perhaps the most well known pieces from the label, rings are inspired by cigar bands and feature the same insignia and stamps. “Before I designed a piece I first designed the symbols—I had tons of them,” says Bugdaycay. “I wanted them to be a means of self expression but also self discovery.”
Foundrae’s raison d’etre is especially appealing right now. The trend for all things wellness and spirituality sweeping our culture has inspired a newfound love for the brand. With millenials investing in experiences and products that are meaningful, Foundrae has found an attentive audience. More than pure ornamentation, the messages are ones of spirituality and emotion. The brand focuses on five tenets: strength, protection, wholeness, karma and dream, each of which resonate strongly with the founder. “I think by doing this collection I’ve really opened up a dialogue about mindfulness,” says Bugdaycay. “You just can’t lose sight of yourself. You always have to be able to dream. I needed this in my life—I had all these symbols and what I was trying to show people was that when you mix symbols together, they mean different things. When I call the jewelry ‘modern heirlooms,’ it’s about the actual intent of the pieces and the values that each piece indicates. The goal is to start a conversation.”
Bugdaycay began her career as a co-founder of Rebecca Taylor at the age of 23 and was instrumental in the brand’s success, remaining with the label for 19 years. “I loved it and grew so much. But at the age of 42—I say my age because I think that has something to do with it—I didn’t feel that I was whole. I felt like I was performing the role of CEO, but it wasn’t really truly what I was passionate about. I was good at my job, but just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean that’s the only thing you should do.” An accessories aficionado, she decided her next chapter would be as a jewelry designer. “The reality is I always defined my personal style by jewelry,” says Bugdaycay. “In an old interview I said ‘I start with my accessories.’ Everyone knows I’m all about jewelry.” During high school she had taken a jewelry making class, and her parents bought her a soldering iron for Christmas one year. A huge collector (she says she still hoards things and continues to collect everywhere she goes), she began crafting together old Victorian charms she had sourced and making pieces for herself. “Creativity is where my heart is,” she confesses. “I collect everything. I have enamel plates and spoons from the ‘60s and 1800’s. So when I talk about found objects, it’s not just jewelry, it’s anything that a hand has touched. Pottery, ceramics, sculpture, words, symbols—anything that inspires me.”
Since launching in 2015, the cigar band rings and medallions remain best sellers. Bugdaycay has resisted opening a retail space—although she would like to in the future—and says that online and brick and mortar stores have comparable sales. Necklaces and medallions are the fastest growing categories. “Once we sell a necklace, our customer tends to add on additional medallions in order to build their story,” she says. “The medallions give them flexibility to create pieces that are special to them.” The most important thing to Bugdaycay however, is that intimate connection.