When former US First Lady Michelle Obama wore the VOTE necklace at the virtual Democratic National Convention last week, the designer of the necklace couldn’t be more delighted.
“I was honored when Michelle Obama‘s stylist asked for one,” said Chari Cuthbert, the Jamaican founder of BYCHARI, the jewelry brand, in a statement to the New York Post, about the VOTE necklace, which she originally designed for the 2016 election.
But Cuthbert said she had no clue whatsoever that Mrs. Obama would wear it for her much-anticipated speech at the convention, according to Black Enterprise magazine.
“We had no idea where she was going to wear it. We just knew that she wanted it,” Cuthbert told The Daily Beast. “It was surreal. I sat at my desk and cried. To see her wearing my necklace, it’s insane.
“I never imagined that something I’m so passionate about could mean so much to so many,” she added.
“The response has been incredible, and I am beyond honored and humbled that Michelle Obama wore my design,” Cuthbert later tweeted.
According to The Daily Beast, 36-year-old Cuthbert was born in Miami to Jamaican parents.
A self-taught artist, she quit her job and moved to Hawaii in 2012, and later Los Angeles, with $100 to start her business, Black Enterprise said.
“I have no formal training in jewelry; it was a self-taught journey that was fueled by my passion,” Cuthbert told E! Online.
“I started BYCHARI with only $100 and had no business starting a company,” she added. “Yet, I was determined to work for myself and build a brand I could be proud of and, in return, empowered other women.”
According to CNN, the necklace was the top-trending search on Google during the final hour of the convention.
The news outlet also noted that “during her tenure as first lady, Obama often championed small, culturally diverse fashion and accessories designers.”
“There is something so subtle and beautiful about jewelry. I love how each piece, and how it’s worn, tells a story about the woman who wears it,” Cuthbert writes on the BYCHARI website.
Writing in Newsweek on Aug. 22, Cuthbert said she grew up in Jamaica before moving to California in 2002.
Then, in 2012, she said she moved to Hawaii “on a whim.”
She said she worked there as a photographer for the first year, with jewelry as a hobby on the side, “and then I slowly worked up to the point where I decided to start a jewelry business.
“When I started BYCHARI in 2012 I had to open a new bank account with just $100,” she said. “Eventually, I built a little website and was selling to local stores.
“But, as the business started to grow, I found I was flying back to Los Angeles a lot to get supplies and materials,” she added. “So, in 2016, I decided it was time to take a deep breath, a big leap and go back to live there.”
Cuthbert said that, in one of the first office spaces she had in LA, a PR company down the hall was working with a suiting company who had created affordable business wear for women.
She said Mrs. Obama had worn one of the company’s suits, “and I remember that PR team saying to me, ‘Chari, imagine if Michelle Obama wore one of your necklaces.’
“It was really always the dream,” she said. “She was first lady at the time, and she is still now someone that so many of us aspire to be like—a woman with a powerful voice, poise and class.”
On July, 21, Cuthbert said Michelle Obama’s stylist, Meredith Koop, reached out to her company online, “asking if we would be able to make a ‘VOTE’ necklace for Michelle using our custom original spaced letter necklaces.
“When I saw the email, I just sat at my desk and squealed,” Cuthbert said. “Michelle Obama is, and has always been, the person I would most like to sit down and have dinner with.
“Shortly after we sent them the ‘VOTE’ necklace, Meredith’s team reached out again about our large hoop earrings, and we just did the same thing and sent them out as quickly as we could. But I had no idea when she would wear either piece,” Cuthbert added.
“I was always planning to watch the Democratic National Convention, and I had it playing on my computer in the background, while I was working on Aug. 17,” she continued. “When Michelle Obama came on, I stopped to watch it and immediately all these texts, DMs and calls started coming in, because people had seen she was wearing a BYCHARI necklace.
“I actually had to rewind her speech to watch it again properly, because as soon as I saw she was wearing my necklace I was floored and just immediately started sobbing,” Cuthbert said. “It was a combination of happy tears, shock and having all my friends and family reach out to me with love at the same time.”
She said it was “really was such a surreal moment to see my necklace on Michelle Obama. She was also wearing our earrings; so, it’s a really exciting moment for me to think about. It has been very cool to see the necklace in particular come back again in 2020 and have such a strong, immediate impact.”
Cuthbert said it has “certainly been a life changing, pivotal moment for my business.
“We received more orders in the four days after Michelle wore the necklace than we received in the whole of the fourth quarter of last year,” she said.
As of Aug. 21, Cuthbert said her company had received more than 4,000 orders for the ‘VOTE’ necklace.
“My operations manager and I sat down and discussed how we would tackle this surge in orders,” she said. “She has gotten everyone organized, but it’s been crazy. Our major issue currently is that we keep running out of invoice paper!”