The Rise of Rustic Cuff

Tulsa-based jewelry designer experienced meteoric success.

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Photo by Marc Rains

Photo by Marc Rains

Rustic Cuff, a business started in 2011 by Tulsa native Jill Donovan, has exploded into a fashion phenomenon. Donovan’s time in the spotlight wasn’t always smooth sailing, though – in 2004, after making it onto The Oprah Winfrey Show, she was shamed by etiquette experts for re-gifting. Donovan buckled down, got creative and proved that with hard work, life comes full circle – Oprah wore a Rustic Cuff on the cover of the March 2014 issue of her magazine O, and one of Donovan’s cuffs was named as a part of Oprah’s Favorite Things 2016.

Although it seems that Donovan was born to design, she didn’t start out in fashion.

“I was an adjunct law professor for eight years. I was a terrible attorney,” she says with a laugh. It took a sabbatical for Donovan to develop her love affair with jewelry, and in 2011, Rustic Cuff was born. She had zero employees for a full year. Today, she oversees 220 people.

With her highly expanded staff, it would be easy for Donovan to delegate her design tasks, but her passion pushes her to create.

“I design about 80 to 90 percent of all the bracelets, and I usually design between midnight and 3 a.m,” she says. “That’s the only time it’s quiet.” The loveable noise-makers in Donovan’s family are her two daughters, Peanut and Ireland.

When asked about the cultural obsession with these bracelets, Donovan realizes the jewelry is only one part of a larger picture.

“It’s not just about the bracelets,” she says. “These people want to be a part of a community. They stand in line and make relationships. This is about connections – people connecting with other people.”

Donovan is dedicated to these connections – so much so that she often goes to great lengths to speak with her patrons.

“There are TVs in the showroom, and sometimes I Skype in and play games with the customers. I make them do funny things and then give them free jewelry,” she says. “When I’m in the store, we never make any money. I love talking to these people, and I just can’t charge them.”

Donovan credits the wonderful people within the city of Tulsa for making it a pleasure to come to work each day.

“Doing it in a town like Tulsa brings me more joy than any other city could. I never want to leave,” she says. “I call us a small, large family at Rustic Cuff.”

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