Nancy Golden has always had an eye for design and discriminating taste—and no problem making that fact well known. At least that was the case when an 8-year-old Golden discovered that her brand new clutch purse was not leather, but (gasp!) plastic.
Though today, she good-naturedly admits she was “probably just being a pain,” Golden can’t help but admit how accurately that moment alluded to what would become an undeniably successful career in fashion and design.
Growing up, Golden loved being the center of attention, and in high school, she quickly fell in with a large group of friends—many whom shared her enthusiasm for theater, fashion and shopping. “Back then, I babysat so I could buy clothes,” recalls Golden, “I’ve always wanted to look in-style and on-trend, but I would alter things—tie-dye, embellish or rip something—to make it my own.”
It wasn’t long before people began noticing Golden’s flair for design, and soon they were asking for her creative advice—and not just in fashion but in their homes. Golden started out decorating a friend’s cabin, and before long, friends were at her door, asking for her opinion on paint colors and room layouts. “That’s when it started to get nerve-wracking,” recalls Golden, who had jumped into interior design in order to support her growing family on little more than a whim. “I knew that this was legit now, but I didn’t even know how to read a blueprint so I went back to night school [to study design],” she says.
After spending two years immersed in color theory and floor plans (with an ever-expanding pool of loyal clients), Golden struck out on her own, continuing to do what she did best.
And Golden quickly discovered that she was better than most—good enough, in fact, to catch the attention of the Scripps network, who whisked her off to Knoxville, Tennessee, where she spent the next six years working on multiple design shows for the DIY and HGTV channels, including Room for Change, Decorating Cents and Weekend Decorating.
Golden marvels at the good fortune she has experienced over the course of her career, and fondly recalls her time in the limelight as “an amazing opportunity” that has afforded her a plentitude of long-lasting friendships.
But after spending six months of every year in airports and make-up chairs, however, Golden was ready for the next thing. “I just kind of got that feeling, like, ‘oh, I might be done,’” she says. “It was kind of out of the blue, but I just knew.”
Which is not to say that Golden hasn’t stayed busy since that pivotal decision. Golden’s newfound free time allowed her to get back to her fashion roots, and explore another creative outlet she had been itching to investigate: jewelry.
Years prior, Golden had purchased an extravagant Marni necklace, which had all but reached out and grabbed her. “It was made of leather, oversized, whimsical and my absolute favorite piece,” recalls Golden dreamily. “Everywhere I went, people would comment on it, and every time I wore it, I felt amazing.” Wanting to add similar pieces to her wardrobe—while avoiding the staggering retail price—Golden came to her usual conclusion: “I’ll just make it.”
Because of her years spent decorating homes, Golden had a stash of leather samples, which quickly became the medium for her new venture: Goldenwear leather jewelry. That was nearly four years ago, and what started as a single necklace has since expanded into an ever-evolving inventory of hundreds of unique, handmade pieces.
Golden’s creations are as diverse as their recycled mediums. Single-stranded 48” necklaces with assorted links and accent beads go for $175 each. Visually heavier bib pieces typically start around $225, and are adorned with everything from pearls and beads to natural turquoise and stones. Golden also makes flower pendent necklaces ($125) with agate, and uses smaller stones in many of her cuff bracelets ($75–250).
More recently, Golden has moved into waistpacks and handbags ($250–575), though she notes that due to the more involved production process, “I really have to be in the mood to make one.” Her vibrant, multi-colored magnetic flower ‘pins’ and expertly crafted business card holders are some of her best sellers at around $35, and make great gifts for those looking for something handmade but still fairly ubiquitous.
Although most of the leathers Golden works with these days are taken from sample books donated by furniture showrooms like Hirshfield’s, Golden does additionally purchase ‘exotic’ leathers like crocodile and stingray; and she’s been known to spend hours scouring antique and consignment shops for vintage brooches and necklaces to repurpose into her designs.
Despite Golden’s very specific and high-impact design aesthetic, she prides herself in the fact that her designs can be worn with just about anything. According to Golden, “you could be wearing a black cocktail dress, a velvet blazer or just a plain white tank—it doesn’t matter—as long as you believe in [what you’re wearing], you’re never ‘out’,” she says.
In fact, the only rule of that Golden follows in her creation process is this: She has to want to wear the piece—because if she doesn’t want to wear it, she won’t make it. “I didn’t ever want to make this a business,” explains Golden, “and I didn’t want to ever take an order; I worked for 32 years as an interior designer for other people, so I wanted this to be my true passion. I don’t make anything just for inventory—well, except the credit card holders because really, how many of those do I need?” she adds with a laugh, “but I don’t make anything that I wouldn’t want to own.”
Because of her huge personal investment in her work, parting with her creations has been difficult. The first year was the hardest, according to Golden who reflects on the difficulty of the thought of having to sell any of her creations. “But then I started looking like the TV show Hoarders,” Golden recalls with a laugh, “and I figured, well I guess I need to part with some of these…”
Golden has since had multiple trunk shows, both locally, at high-end boutiques like Fashion Avenue 2 and Guild, and in Las Vegas at Neiman Marcus. On November 3, Goldenwear will also be featured at Maiden Minnesota, an annual charitable shopping event held at the Graves 601 Hotel featuring more than 35 local female entrepreneurs. This will be Golden’s second year at the event, which is designed to highlight Minnesota’s vast pool of creative talent and emerging artistry.
And though her business undeniably has the potential for great things, Golden has resisted her friends’ and family’s suggestions to further expand into the overwhelming world of retail sales. “I want to be there to talk to the people who are interested in my pieces,” explains Golden. “I like picking out a piece that would look great on someone and I want them to understand what’s behind these pieces—and the fact that I haven’t had a manicure in 4 years!” she jokes. “I know that [my jewelry] isn’t for everybody, but to me, it’s something special—so I continue to make the pieces that I want to wear and own, and if somebody wants them, then they can wear and own them, too. And if they don’t, well then I get to keep wearing them!”
And so far, that’s Golden’s only plan for the future. “I don’t know what the next step is going to look like,” she admits, “but I certainly don’t see an end to this.”