Style File

Jessica Underhill Has Slow and Steady Intentions for Her Growing Jewelry Line

The Seattle-based designer is adorning women with organic, eco-friendly pieces from her Rou collection one wood grain at a time.

By Elizabeth Podlesnik March 7, 2019

The Orah earring by Rou, $88.

Image: AJ Ragasa

Though born in Baltimore, Jessica Underhill grew up in Seattle, a city where the fashion savvy jewelry designer says she's proud to craft her line Rou, a small capsule collection of five earrings and a necklace mostly derived from recycled wood. Underhill loves having full, creative control over every aspect of the business so she can remain intentional and keep a slow but steady pace as Rou evolves over time.

With a degree in communications, Underhill's career quickly took a turn into the world of fashion retail. Working among beautiful clothing and designers over the years, she discovered a deep love for jewelry and set out to teach herself the ins and outs of designing. Although there is no actual significance behind the name Rou, says Underhill, it's beautiful to write and even more beautiful to speak the organic name, which represents fluidity and timelessness and could become or morph into anything. —EP

I have been with Glasswing for a little over five years now. The shop has been a huge part of my life and can be credited as one of the things that bled into my desire to have what Rou is now. I have the privilege of working with an amazing, creative team every day. As a manager and partner of Glasswing Shop and our just opened greenhouse, I also partake in the buying side of things, primarily focusing on the store's jewelry selections. The business we have created at Glasswing has completely been built off the idea that we want to work with small brands that are creating with their hands. Seeing and working with people that are doing that lit a fire in me to do it myself.

Jewelry is a personal expression of yourself. When I'm creating these pieces I'm thinking about what I love, but also at the end of the day what someone is going to be excited to wear. With a long-standing background in fashion and retail, I believe I have a keen eye for understanding women and what they like.  I think the idea of combining these natural elements—the wood and the stone—seems very different and special, organic and natural. My customer base is looking for slow fashion, something they can wear today and five to ten years into the future. Pulling inspiration from my own wardrobe, the Rou woman is always on my mind.

The Luna earring is a modern disk style composed of black walnut wood, $58.

Image: AJ Ragasa

Each piece is created out of recycled wood. We have taken pieces that are normally considered scrap and turned them into beautiful pieces of art. It's important to me that our process is sustainable and environmentally conscious. I work alongside my Partner Andrew Reisert, a Seattle-based woodworker, who has been a huge part of my inspiration. Listening to him talk about the beauty of wood and working with this element with your hands is what drove me to this point. Reisert sources and cuts the wood and from there, it's all hands on for me. Each piece is smoothed and polished to perfection until it is refined and wearable at my home on Capitol Hill. 

Rou was established in early 2018 and was only sold online and in-store at Glasswing, which again, was intentional. I had an amazing outlet and customer base in front of me that I was able to experiment with before stepping into the realm of wholesaling to other stores. It's amazing to be able to envision something, create it, and then show it to customers and get immediate feedback. Due to the growing success of the line, I started selling at the Frye Art Museum store this month. Like Glasswing, it's a very unique place to sell product and remains one of my favorite places in town. I also just stocked at a beautiful store in Missouri called Floc5 and Company.

Underhill's jewelry line ranges from $58 to $110. Visit her in person at Glasswing or see her inspiring Instagram account for more.

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