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Omelettes and Oatmeal at Gemma with Metalskin's Alicia Halegua

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Introducing Racked National's newest feature, The Breakfast Club, wherein we convince all sorts of people in the fashion industry to eat breakfast with us and, totally beknownst to them, we plonk a tape recorder in the middle of the table while they eat.

Today's Breakfast Club victim is Alicia Halegua, the founder and designer of Metalskin, a New York-based line of leather and exotic skin wrap bracelets worn by celebrities including Alessandra Ambrosio and Nicole Anderson.

Halegua: I started this company after working in personal shopping for years. When people want to spend money—when they want to heighten their look or elevate their look—they're going to buy accessories.

You can throw on a white Hanes T-shirt, blue jeans, a pair of flip-flops or high heeled shoes, and throw on a necklace, throw on a bracelet, throw on a great pair of earrings. Those accessories are really going to be the things that someone stops you for and says, "That's so cool, what are you wearing?"


Alicia Halegua, left, and friend Callie, right.

The idea to create the perfect wrap bracelet came about long before I actually started the company. It seems like a very basic product, but the thing is, there are so many components that come into it. Like, do you use filler—they call it the hand of the bracelet—do you want it very stiff, do you want it flimsy? So I researched lining—our lining is vegetable dyed, organic lining, so there's nothing that goes into your skin. The process is more expensive, but it was a big thing for me—a lot of people cut corners and they don't even think about what's in the leather that's touching your skin.

I also wanted to find nickel-free snaps. Even though I wasn't doing an "organic line"—because I'm using genuine leather and exotic skins. I researched the perfect snap. And then, do I want to make the edges square, do i want them round? Just playing around with all aspects of design components, putting them together, creating a sample, and making it work—does it fly off, is the snap too strong?

I had problems. You go through tons of hiccups before you get to the final product.

Color is also a big influence. I'm from Miami, so when I came to New York, my wardrobe changed. It was short and sexy and colorful, but here I have blazers and black and navy blue and coats—I'm covered up. But I didn't want the brand to be so black and white. I wanted it to have a punch of color.

All the bracelets connect, so you can snap them all together and create a crazy belt. You can do whatever you want with them. There's definitely room for creativity.

I have tons of ideas, but it's really hard starting a business. But if you spread yourself too thin and you branch off into too many directions and avenues too quickly, you start to dilute what the focus of your business really is.


For me, the focus is wrap bracelets, and I really want to reinforce that. I want to create wrap bracelets for older women, for younger women; I want to broaden the spectrum of wrap bracelets before I go into making sandals or making handbags.

When I started I didn't know anything about business. It was really hard because you ask around and everyone gives you different answer. You get toyed with a little bit.

At that time I was working out of my living room—it was a nice apartment but not conducive to running a business and packing and shipping and taking orders. The business was kind of treading water.

And then i started to think—I want a family one day. And i started to think, what do I do? Do I bring in a partner so it lifts a little bit of the weight? My friend from college, David, ended up joining as a partner in January, and it's great. He's a great friend, he's a great partner. I trust him.

We're hopefully going to launch men's soon?it will be the same thing we're doing for women, but different styles. David's really going to be spearheading and owning the men's thing. because I really want to focus on women's. We've had guys try to squeeze them on themselves, and try them on. David's going to be a really integral part of that development.

Metalskin, the name, is derived from the actual components that make up the product, which is metal and skin. We started with 90% skin and 10% metal. Now i'm just doing metal jewelry with leather—75% metal, and 25% skin. We're taking the name and digging deep into it and exploring all the different opportunities to build out a collection beyond leather but still keeping leather as an integral part of the design.

It's exciting to think that this all started as just an idea.

· Metalskin [Official Site]
· The Breakfast Club, full series [Racked]

Gemma

335 Bowery, New York, NY