Mother, daughters have built Robinson jewelry company Sabika piece by piece
By JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
Published: Friday, July 19, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
A sparkly necklace, shiny earrings or a bracelet embellished with bling is like a light switch being turned on the minute a woman places it on her body.
That's the image owners of Sabika jewelry want to bring to life with their line of baubles.
“We want women to feel beauty, confidence to light up when they wear our jewelry,” says Karin Mayr, founder of Sabika, a multimillion dollar affordable luxury jewelry company based in Robinson. “We make the pieces dramatic. We love to play with matte and shine. Our philosophy is that every piece goes with jeans or a dress or pretty much anything a woman wears.”
At a media preview this week for the company's fall/winter line, Mayr and her daughter, Alexandra Mayr-Gracik, 31, vice president of marketing and design, discussed their vision for the latest collection. The two beamed with excitement when showing off the necklaces, bracelets and earrings displayed throughout their new 12,100-square-foot headquarters, which opened in October 2012.
Employees are allowed to choose their office decor. Mayr says she wants each employee to be surrounded by what fits their unique style.
“I wanted to create a home away from home,” Mayr says. “I wanted to give this office a warm feeling. We spend a lot of time here, so I wanted it to be nice.”
Having a new facility hasn't kept Mayr from forgetting where she came from. She still keeps track of sales by hand to show how far the business has come.
“It is a reminder of who we are and where we have come from,” says Mayr, a native of Austria who started the business in 2001 when she was 50 years old.
She spent part of her early career as a liaison between American fashion houses such as Donna Karan, Armani A/X, Banana Republic and leading European textile mills.
Sabika is located here because her husband, Konrad, got a job in Pittsburgh. He has since become vice president of operations and finances at Sabika. They have two other daughters, Miriam, who lives in Austria, and Kerstin, who is vice president of sales and field services.
“I would never be who I am today if it weren't for Pittsburgh,” Mayr says. “People in Pittsburgh have made me feel like I have value. It is an awesome city, so welcoming.”
Sabika is available exclusively through home trunk-show parties. Unlike some high-pressure home party models, at Sabika parties, there is no presentation to sit through, no games and no laborious review of products. Guests simply try on the jewelry while enjoying the company of their friends. Prices range from $29 to $259. The artisan-crafted jewelry pieces have been sold in all 50 states.
The company also participates in raising funds for local charities. In 2012, Sabika raised more than $290,000 for Komen for the Cure and the National Breast Cancer Foundation through Sabika Pink parties.
Sabika uses customers and real people models versus professional models for its catalog.
“We like to use everyday people, customers or individuals we meet along the way,” Mayr says. “We want to make the woman who wears our jewelry feel a little prettier, feel a little more confident.”
Mayr knows trends and helps her daughter translate those trends into everyday fashion that women will wear.
“I have specific women in mind when I design,” Mayr-Gracik says. “We do not follow jewelry trends. We follow fashion trends.”
Mayr-Gracik loved to draw as a child and attended the Fashion Institute of Vienna, which is where she discovered her love for jewelry.
“Jewelry is a way to express your personality,” she says. “A woman can tell a story when she mixes and matches pieces because she does it based on what she likes to wear and what makes her feel fashionable.”
All their collections can be interchanged with previous pieces. The fall collection is focused on colors, some created with Swarovski crystals. Some have multi-colored stones.
“We try to make pieces that are timeless,” Mayr-Gracik says. “Coming up with new pieces is fun for me.”
“Sometimes, people will stare at my neck,” Mayr says. “They can't stop looking at it because it is very intriguing.”
Every fall, they incorporate pearls into the collection. The metals they use look good with all skin colors. They also create pieces that bring out a woman's eyes or hair color. Multiple pieces can be worn together.
WPXI-TV anchor Darieth Chisolm wears Sabika.
“I absolutely love Sabika,” she says. “It has been my signature style for the past nine years. It's timeless, classy, elegant and just enough ‘bling' to make a girl happy. I've know Karin Mayr and her family for years, and I'm so proud of what they've created for women around the world and in Pittsburgh.”
The family works well together because they can accept constructive criticism and all share the passion to create beautiful jewelry.
“I am the middle child ,so I am the peacemaker,” Mayr-Gracik says. “My mother always taught us to be accepting and adaptable. We have our moments, but a solid foundation is there and we respect each other's opinions.”
Mayr says her humor has helped in this venture.
“We had hard times in the beginning, but I never let that get me down,” Mayr says. “There are people who say you should dream, but I say stop dreaming and start acting. I love it. There are tough days, but you learn to overcome those tough days.”
What Mayr and her family are doing is not easy, says Audrey Guskey, associate professor of marketing at Duquesne University. They must have a great mother-daughter relationship, she says.
“It is really amazing,” Guskey says. “I am surprised at how big they are. It is a cool concept that they have. It is not always easy for a family to work well together, but you see they have shown how to do just that. It takes a lot of dedication and commitment and a blend of talent.
“And, for someone like me, who loves to support local businesses — especially locally owned women's businesses — I am interested in learning more about Sabika,” Guskey says.
Mayr-Gracik says, “I would say to someone who isn't familiar with us to try a piece on and when you try on the right piece for you, you will know.” “I love to see that moment when a woman tries on a piece of jewelry and her face lights up.”
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