Seattle Gal Finds Success in the NYC Fashion Scene

From her Seattle roots and early career as a dancer with the PNB, fashion designer Amanda Brotman has brought elegance and femininity to her collection of high-fashion handbags and jewelry at Amanda Pearl.

From the sparkle and magic of the Pacific Northwest Ballet stage to the luster and glamour of specialty handbags and jewelry, Amanda Brotman expresses a style that is feminine and exquisite, but unique to her.

She puts herself into every piece she designs, because everything that she creates brings her joy. “All the things I’m attracted to and inspired by have crystalized into ‘my style,'” she said. “They are feminine and glamorous, and most of all they make me happy. I want to put it all into a collection that makes people happy, something they will enjoy.”

‘Pearl’ is Brotman’s signature bag (Bianca is made in the Pearl design), and “it was the very first one that I designed and developed. It’s a delicate thing that hangs off of your wrist — the perfect cocktail bag because it’s hands-free and delicate. But for me, it wasn’t just a bag, it was kind of a jewel-like sculpture.”

The feminine feelings in her designs have some root in her initial career choice: the ballet. Brotman began dancing with the Pacific Northwest Ballet right after her high school graduation. When she experienced a foot injury in 1998 that made it impossible for her to continue dancing, she decided to attend Barnard College in New York to study art history.

During the summer prior to her enrollment at Barnard, she went to Paris for a Parsons program in fashion design and fashion history. After completing her studies, she attended an alumni event where she met Jen Kelly, a fellow Barnard alumnus. Kelly asked Brotman to begin work the very next day at Marc by Marc Jacobs.

In 2007, after four years at Marc by Marc Jacobs, Brotman began working with friend and designer Erin Fetherston to bring her design collections to the New York fashion scene. “It was one of those serendipitous things,” Brotman said. “It was a great experience to have — something I knew that I would want to do myself in the future. It was great to learn from someone else.”

In addition to her experiences with other designers, Brotman’s family and Seattle upbringing have a strong influence on her creativity; she designed the Fall 2011 collection for Amanda Pearl based on her roots in the Pacific Northwest. “Seattle is a great city with interesting people and things going on,” she said. “I remember visiting galleries, the Seattle Art Museum on the weekends. Modern art has always been an influence.”

In the fall of 2007, Brotman began working with factories in Italy and New York to prepare an Amanda Pearl collection and samples for presentation to buyers and fashion editorial venues. “I developed every frame and every piece of hardware down to the smallest piece, because all of those details are really important for the final product,” she said.

After a successful introduction of Amanda Pearl at New York Fashion Week in February 2008, Brotman set out to market and sell her collections on the retail market, which has been far from easy. “Literally everything that can go wrong, will — it’s almost a joke,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve learned to be a lot more laid-back, because you can’t control everything.”

“Barring the economy, it would have been tough anyway,” Brotman said. “Stores think, ‘Why would anyone take on this no-name brand that may or may not be here tomorrow?’ That was already working against me. So when the economy tanked right around when I launched, that really hit me hard.” She added, “It’s hard to even get people to see me as a collection. It takes quite a few years to establish and prove yourself before people are willing to bite the bullet.”

Brotman says perseverance is what brought her to where she is today. “I won’t give up. I’ll keep pushing forward, building, trying to put all these little pieces together to build this brand, this business,” she says.

Find Amanda Pearl handbags and jewelry at Mario’s and {far4}.