Shannon Saint Clair, who grew up in Horsepasture, shows some of the jewelry she designed. Her pieces now are being worn by A-list entertainers and athletes. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Sunday, June 26, 2011
By ASHLEY JACKSON – Bulletin Staff Writer
Shannon Saint Clair is creating bling for some big names.
Saint Clair, who is from Horsepasture, has designed jewelry worn by singer Beyonce Knowles’ mother, Tina, as well as singers Kelly Rowland, Chris Brown and Mya, who wore the jewelry line on tour.
And it’s not just celebrities who are seen wearing her beaded bracelets with jeweled crosses, crystal necklaces, shimmering earrings and other items.
Thanks in part to doors opened by her husband’s career in the National Football League, athletes sporting pieces from her lines have included Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat, Josh Cribbs of the Cleveland Browns and Vernon Carey of the Miami Dolphins, she said.
Rose, who received the 2011 Most Valuable Player award from the NBA, wore one of Saint Clair’s gameday bracelets, containing sterling silver charms with numbers, letters, sports signs and small picture frames, during the Game 1 Eastern Conference Finals press conference. Wade recently wore one of her sanctity bracelets, which was sterling silver and contained hematite beads, at a birthday party for Chris Bosh, a player for the Miami Heat.
But don’t think all that has gone to Saint Clair’s head.
“It means a lot to turn your dream into a reality and a hobby into a profession,” she said during a recent visit home. Fulfilling a dream is more important than the fame, she added.
Saint Clair, who now lives in Miami, Fla., has been fascinated with art and design since she can remember.
“The designing started when I was a child and my mom taught me how to sew when I was 5,” Saint Clair said.
She sewed dolls, doll clothes, vests and skirts. While “the others kids were outside playing,” she was inside designing, she said.
Saint Clair also used moldable plastic to make earrings, which she sold at local craft shows that she attended with her mother, Constance Shelton. Saint Clair also is the daughter of James Shelton, both of Horsepasture.
During her senior year at Magna Vista High School, she was voted “Most Artistic” by her classmates. After graduation in 1995, she wanted to go to an art institute, but her parents wanted her to pursue something that would provide a steadily paying job, she said.
So Saint Clair went to the University of Virginia to obtain a bachelor’s degree in history with plans of becoming a teacher like both of her parents, who are retired teachers from Henry County Schools. During her freshman year at U.Va., she met her future husband, and that changed her life.
She and her husband, John Saint Clair, both graduated from U.Va. John was drafted by the St. Louis Rams of the NFL in 2000 and the couple moved to St. Louis. There, Shannon became a marketing coordinator for a real estate firm.
When she attended her husband’s football games, Saint Clair would wear tube tops that she had made out of his jersey shorts. Other football wives offered to pay her to make tops for them and by 2003, Saint Clair had begun her own clothing company called Jersey Couture.
The wives’ interest “really gave me the opportunity to pursue my dream to become a fashion designer,” Saint Clair said.
In 2004, she and her husband moved to Miami after he signed with the Miami Dolphins. Saint Clair reopened her jersey sales business there under the name Lavish Couture. Instead of making clothes from jersey, she personalized jerseys that were brought to her with numbers and jewels.
When her husband signed with the Chicago Bears in 2005, the couple moved to Chicago. Three years later, Saint Clair’s jerseys were modeled by other players’ wives in a fashion show in the Windy City.
“The clothing design was unique, but I wanted to do jewelry again,” she said. So in 2008, she and her husband began Shannon Saint Clair LLC, she said.
Two years later, the couple launched a line of men’s jewelry.
Both the men and women’s jewelry lines contain beading, real gemstones and gold and silver chains, which Saint Clair designs and makes on her own, she said, adding that she never runs out of new ideas for designs.
She sells her jewelry online, in spas and boutiques in Cleveland, Ohio, where the couple lived for a short time after John signed with the Cleveland Browns in 2009, and six locations in Florida, including a nightclub, Saint Clair said.
She generates a lot of sales by setting up booths at charity weekends and foundation events, she said.
Saint Clair recently partnered with the United Athletes Foundation (UAF) for its Charity Weekend in New York City, she said. The UAF is a nonprofit foundation founded by NFL veteran Reggie Howard and his collaboration with NFL, NBA, MLB, and WNBA players.
She set up a booth at the UAF’s Floss Magazine Fashion Show on April 29 in New York, where she sold her jewelry to professional athletes and their wives, she said.
During Super Bowl week this year, her jewelry was modeled by players’ wives during a fashion show, and in March, her jewelry line was exhibited during all four days of the Miami Beach Fashion Week. Her sanctity beads collection was featured as well in a VIP lounge for celebrities during the Kentucky Derby weekend, Saint Clair said.
Saint Clair gained even more recognition for her jewelry company by creating a special line that is featured on the Lifetime Network’s cooking show “Catch, Clean, Cook,” she said.
Saint Clair’s designs have gained her accolades as well.
She recently was ranked No. 3 in SOFI Magazine’s The Arts Issue as one of the “33 Emerging Creative Minds You Need to Know for 2011.” She also won the NFL Alumni Association’s 2011 Player Networking Event Active Player Award for achieving the most successful business co-owned with her husband, who now is a 12-year NFL veteran.