Local jeweler’s designs to be featured in 42 Belk stores

by Kelly Corbett
Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Staff photo by Emmy Errante 

Miriam Oehrlein is one of 15 finalists in Belk’s Southern Designer Showcase competition. Her jewelry will be on sale in Belk stores for several months starting in February 2013.

Miriam Oehrlein moved to Wilmington with her family four years ago and became a stay-at-home mom after working as a pharmaceutical representative in Queens, N.Y.

The change in finances and the time she spent awake at night with Annabel, her 8-month-old daughter who is now four years old, fostered a new hobby — making her own jewelry.

“People started to react to the things that I wore,” Oehrlein said.

Originally from Greenville, S.C., Oehrlein was recommended by a friend to enter Belk’s Southern Designer Showcase competition as part of the store’s 125th anniversary celebration.

She was one of 15 designers chosen from 200 contestants who sent in 10 samples and wrote a short biography about their southern ties.

Before she was named a winner, Oehrlein headed to Charlotte to give a 10-minute presentation to Belk buyers followed by a session with a videographer. 

Oehrlein traveled to Charlotte a second time before being told she had already been chosen as a finalist.

“Should I start to make the little flowers?” she asked herself before heading home and doing just that.

Oehrlein and the other finalists were unsure how the mass production process would work, but she received a royalty for her design work and the production company received funds for production and materials.

During three months, beginning in February 2013, 19 of Oehrlein’s pieces will cycle through 42 young contemporary Belk stores, including the Mayfaire store location. Each month, one-third of her Belk collection will fill a case so there will always be something new on display.

Her jewelry can currently be found in Ziabird and Maran Home.

The once hobby has become a way to showcase her love for fashion through her jewelry line, Miriam O, featuring necklaces and earrings with beads, wiring and vintage focal points. They range from $65 to about $200.

“I want to start metalsmithing, but I just haven’t pulled that trigger yet,” Oehrlein said.

She often shops at secondhand shops and repurposes old pins, brooches and clip-on earrings.

“Most of my things usually start with a color palette,” Oehrlein said. “… I take a lot of fashion magazines and look at the colors that they use.”

Standing in her kitchen in black heels, Oehrlein described what she wants her new backyard studio space to entail.

She said she hopes to move from a white table in her dining room to the studio space with white walls and at least one metal wall to attach her materials with magnetic tins.

As part of her rebranding transition, Oehrlein is contemplating adding boutique or gallery lines in her business plan for next year.

“It’s so much more fun than what I used to do,” Oehrlein said.

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