Mirror, Mirror: Main Line jewelry designer's red-carpet-season opportunity

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Kat Mittman Kobak in her Bryn Mawr studio. Her jewelry among the Hollywood red-carpet swag is good publicity. (CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)

Kat Mittman Kobak planned to design jewelry for this year's Grammy Awards attendees by personalizing her signature silver, sparkling, beaded choker.

But then, three days before the pieces were to be shipped off, Kobak's publicist got the names of exactly who would be getting Kat Designs baubles: Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Miranda Lambert, and John Mayer. The dainty necklaces with edgy panther and arrowhead charms weren't quite right anymore - especially now that Mayer was in the mix. Kobak would have to start from scratch.

"Well," Kobak said as sunlight streamed through her 400-square-foot studio nestled near the garage entrance of her Bryn Mawr home, "let's see. Maybe I'll give John a leather bracelet. I'm thinking something long for Miranda. The choker could work for Taylor - but I'd have to add something else. I don't know what to do for J. Hud; I've got to research her."

Kobak, 44, who has built a name for herself on the Main Line, crafting mixed-metal beaded jewelry that is as New Age as it is rocker chic, did three back-to-back all-nighters to make sure the bling arrived in time. Then again, what accessories designer wouldn't? If a necklace, a scarf, a belt are photographed - or, even better, Instagrammed - while worn by a Hollywood A-lister, a fledgling brand can go viral.

"This is an opportunity, so yes, we are going for it," said Kobak, who sent the four different looks to Los Angeles early last week in time for Sunday's Grammys.

In January, Kat Designs was OKd by Hollywood Swag Bag - the company that organizes and delivers gift bags for anyone from TV show hosts to new celebrity babies - to go in 40 bags during awards season. Kobak paid a onetime, $1,500 fee that covered shipping and marketing costs.

So far, actresses Julianne Moore, Reese Witherspoon, Viola Davis, and Tina Fey were gifted a Kat Designs 32-inch necklace and matching choker in bags for the Screen Actors Guild Awards. And the Grammy nominees got theirs Sunday.

Thirty-two additional celebs will be treated to Kat Designs confections in their Oscars bags. Kobak is planning to personalize a double-strand pearl choker for those recipients. But if she gets word which Oscargoers she's designing for, she'll make last-minute adjustments to them, too.

"They are beautiful and unique, something celebrities would definitely want," said Lisa Gal, owner of Hollywood Swag Bags in Los Angeles, which selects the goodies for gift bags given to guests at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills. It's pretty much a given that SAG, Grammy, and Oscar nominees and presenters will stay there.

But it's not a given that the celebrities will keep their posh freebies, let alone love them enough to take pics of them or - gasp - on them.

"That's the Holy Grail," Gal said. Still, Kat Designs' inclusion among the swankiest of the swag is good for at least some publicity by the blogs and glossies that cover red-carpet glamour ad nauseam. This year's red-carpet swag bag - an Olympia USA rollable duffel - boasts goodies valued at $4,000 and includes Kiehl's lip balm and pore tightening cream, Gevitta Vitamin Spray, Garrett Popcorn, and Adopted iPhone cases.

A little luck along with her connections led to Kobak's new role as mompreneur.

After receiving her law degree from Nova Southeastern University in Miami (her father, Norman Mittman, is a well-known lawyer in the Philadelphia area), Kobak worked in New York selling gym memberships before moving back to Blue Bell to prepare for the bar. When she excelled at her yoga and pilates classes, her teachers asked her to sub for them. Kobak never took the bar, but instead built up a clientele at Main Line Fitness.

After the birth of her son, Luke, three years ago, she decided to shift careers. When she saw that her babysitter was making bracelets, she decided to try it and began going to bead shows.

At the same time, beaded jewelry was getting trendy. Runway designers were taking mixed metals and precious stones and mixing them with skulls, arrowheads, and even emojis for a dark and moody feel. Some of those same pieces were also sprinkling in spiritual elements, incorporating evil-eye beads and red strings - a kabbalistic tradition to ward off misfortune.

The owner of Barre Focus Fitness, where Kobak was taking a class, asked whether she could sell some of her pieces from the studio. Now, her jewelry - which ranges in price from $45 to $250 - is sold in boutiques in Colorado, as well as TownHome in Center City, First Impressions in Lafayette Hill, and Rowen in Narberth.

"She has something in her collection that everyone likes," said Jordan LeWinter, owner of Rowen. "The charms can be worn in the front as a pendant or at the base of the neck, you know, for a little sex appeal."

At a holiday party in December, Kobak met publicist Robyn Ungar, who is friends with Rachael Leah Honowitz, a Lafayette Hill native, who worked at People magazine in New York before moving to Los Angeles to run a celebrity-gifting company of her own. Honowitz partners with Gal's Hollywood Swag Bag for red-carpet projects. Ungar connected Kobak with Honowitz.

Kobak and her husband have invested about $25,000 in Kat Designs, and sales last year were close to $100,000. Kobak is hoping the red-carpet season will leave her with lots of social media momentum that will lead to more sales - and enable her to train an apprentice.

Her goal is to make Kat Designs a boutique, made-in-America brand.

"This is only the beginning," Kobak said. "I want to stay small. I want to stay special."

 


For more information on Kat Designs, go to www.katdesignsllc.com.

ewellington@phillynews.com

215-854-2704 @ewellingtonphl

 

Elizabeth appears at 8 a.m. Fridays on WURD (900AM) with Solomon Jones.