KINGSTON — The bright colors, soft leather and nautically-inspired bracelets of the Allison Cole Jewelry brand can be found in nearly 200 stores across New England.
They’ve been spotted on the wrists of travelers on their way to Washington D.C., shipped to eager customers in Louisiana and featured in hundreds of beautifully-curated Instagram posts — and every single one of them was handmade in Kingston.
“I think that’s something that surprises people, that all of this is still done by me,” said Nicole Recomendes, the owner and sole employee of 5-year-old Allison Cole Jewelry.
Recomendes has turned an upstairs bedroom in her Kingston home into a pristine jewelry-making studio. Her workspace is bathed in natural night, meticulously organized and filled with materials like the cotton rope she dyes herself, thin strips of leather and wax cord.
In her peak season — summer — she can make up to 500 bracelets per week to keep up with direct orders and wholesale clients. Recomendes says running her business keeps her busy for at least 50 hours each week.
“My husband and I still say ‘How wild is it that I just made this up and people pay me for it?” she said. “That is what drives me — I still think that is so cool.”
Recomendes’ designs are preppy, nautically-inspired and quintessentially New England. They’re made to be stacked, she wears three or four at a time and are designed around her own personal style with her favorite brands — J. Crew and Vineyard Vines — in mind.
The Hanover native grew up boating with her dad and eating seafood along the coast of the South Shore and said even a stint working for Versace in New York couldn’t kick the peppy, Kennedy-esque feel from her wardrobe.
“I grew up on the water and boated out of Hingham my whole life,” she said. “I’ve always been drawn to that preppy style and I fell right back into it when I came back to New England.”
It was after college and several jobs in fashion that Recomendes left to branch out on her own. She started a resale fashion website called Lily & Tory, but it didn’t take off as she thought it might. From there, she started to work on her own bracelet designs.
“It was terrifying,” she said of her time in professional limbo. “I burned through all of my savings and moved out of the city. It was scary, but I’m so glad I powered through. . . I was driven by wanting to work for myself. I’ve always been crafty and I’ve always loved it.”
Soon, Allison Cole Jewelry was born. Recomendnes says she’s often asked about the name, clearly not her own, and she answers with a smile and slight eye roll.
“Allison is my husband’s last name, which I didn’t take when we got married, so I wanted to incorporate that,” she said. “Cole come from the end of my name, Nicole, but it’s been so confusing for people all this time. I get called Allison a lot.”
Once she had a few solid designs under her belt, she opened an Etsy shop — she laughs at how her original bracelets were made using bungee cord — started selling directly on a wholesale platform and started working with a national sales representative.
Within a year or two, business was booming. Allison Cole Jewelry went from five retail stores to 200, and Recomendes went from making 30 bracelets per week to hundreds. At the start of the pandemic, which hit right at the start of her usually-busy spring season, Recomendes turned an eye to her social media presence, tapping into yet another market.
The @allisoncolejewelry Instagram page is a haven for New England fashion inspiration. It features her designs beautifully styled amid picturesque scenes — a warm cup of cocoa on a snowy day, cuddles with golden retriever, Birdie, and the beaches of Nantucket, Scituate and Plymouth.
“A blessing in disguise was that I had more time to focus on my Instagram – which blew up,” she said. “My sales are double what they were in the same period last year.”
Allison Cole bracelets cost between $20 and $42, and are available on Etsy, at allisoncolejewelry.com and at several local stores, including Three Buoys & A Mermaid in Duxbury and Flair Floral in Plymouth.
Uniquely Local is a series of stories by Mary Whitfill highlighting the South Shore’s farmers, bakers and makers. Have a story idea? Reach Mary at email@example.com.