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The Woman Behind the ‘Hot Girl Summer’ Necklace

May 26, 2024


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Taylor Sade is the founder of Vertigo, which sells chokers, pendants and belts made of beads that look as if they were plucked from the beach.

By Sophia Herring

By day, Taylor Sade, 24, is a marketing manager. But after work hours, she hand-strings beads and stones on her bed in her Lower East Side apartment, cradled next to her two Himalayan cats. Those creations eventually add up to Vertigo, the buzzy brand behind the accessory draping the necks and waists of many young women this summer.

“I’ve always loved solitary activities,” Ms. Sade said in an interview from her studio, pointing to a stack of puzzles and knitting equipment sandwiched between tattered books in her living room.

That do-it-yourself quality applies more broadly to the bohemian appeal of Vertigo. The brand sells a collection of chokers, pendants and belts made of oversize beads that look as if they were plucked from the sand. The accessories, which cost $120 to $380, are often dark-hued but also glint in brighter colors, and they’ve shown up on many bikini-clad beachgoers — an embodiment of a self-assurance often associated with a “Hot Girl Summer.”

Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, a contributing editor at Vogue, said Vertigo inspired a feeling of nostalgia and evoked a bygone era that’s hard to place. A Vertigo girl is someone who “didn’t shop at Hollister and might not have been popular because of it, but she knew what was cool decades before the rest of us,” Ms. Karefa-Johnson said.

Ms. Sade said she had never strung a bead before starting the company in the summer of 2021. At the time, she was searching for a creative respite from her full-time job and recalled watching videos about how to string necklaces. “I literally just went onto YouTube one day — it sounds so silly,” she said.

For the first six months, Ms. Sade sourced materials from Phoenix, where she is from and where her family lives. Her mother would video chat her daughter as she visited local jewelers in her stead. “I’d be like, ‘I want this jade, not that one!’” Ms. Sade said. “Then she’d ship over a box, and I’d Venmo her.”

No pieces look exactly the same, because each stone, bead and jewel varies in color and shape. “The styles are one-of-a-kind and made in very limited quantities, adding a sense of individualism,” said Brandon Tan, a stylist and fashion editor for GQ. “These days in the fashion landscape, that’s extremely desirable.”

This quality has helped land Vertigo in Sports Illustrated, a Victoria’s Secret ad and a Frankies Bikini billboard in SoHo. In a shoot in May for Mirror Palais, a women’s wear company, Emily Ratajkowski wore one of the pendants, featuring a large lapis doughnut-shaped stone tied as a choker. The campaign garnered millions of views on Mirror Palais’s Instagram account, which helped put Vertigo on the map, Ms. Sade said. Vertigo has also caught the eye of several celebrity stylists, who have requested accessories for their clients like the model Gigi Hadid and the TikTok influencer Alix Earle.

Ms. Sade keeps her operations relatively modest, though she no longer relies on her mother for help. Instead she negotiates with Arizona-based lapidaries via email and over the phone, accumulating one box at a time in her studio apartment (which is all she has space for, she noted). Recently, she started sourcing more ornate options like fossilized coral, opal eye and green jade from Indonesia.

While hesitant to expand the company, Ms. Sade said she hired an intern in April to help her string beads. “My problem is, I don’t trust anybody else to execute my vision,” she said.

Ms. Sade oversees the entire process of creating a Vertigo accessory and attributes the brand’s success to her attention to detail, down to the very last moment the product ships from her home to the next.

“I have people directly messaging me, ‘This is the most beautiful package I’ve ever received,’” she said. “And it literally sounds like a joke, but it’s because I spent five minutes wrapping your suede cord into a bow!”