You could say Kali Hawk takes accessorizing to the extreme.
Hawk, the founder of California jewelry line H.Crowne, is known for her signature pieces — crowns featuring large jewels and ornate metallic configurations, each one taller than the next. In a short amount of time, she has managed to hook Hollywood royalty, with an ultra-famous client list that includes singers Beyonce and Taylor Swift and tennis superstar Serena Williams. Her accessories have appeared in popular publications such as Harper’s Bazaar and Paper.
She also carefully crafts pieces for the rest of us — and considering H.Crowne has more than 41,000 followers on Instagram, the general public is excited by what she has to offer — with price points ranging from $160 to $6,000. But she says the celebrity orders comprise about 70 percent of her sales.
Perhaps it’s in part because she understands them: Hawk is an actress herself, with roles in a number of big films. She can be spotted in “Bridesmaids,” “Couples Retreat” and “Fifty Shades of Black,” as well as on television shows like “New Girl.” She has her own significant online audience, too — on Instagram alone, she has over 677,000 followers.
Hawk attributes H. Crowne’s popularity to small strokes of luck mixed with hard work. But she says success would be impossible without the attention she gives to each piece she sells. “I care about these items, about people feeling good in these items,” she says. “You can tell these were made by somebody who cares about what’s being made, and cares about the people wearing them.”
Hard Work, and a Hand from Fate
The New York City-born Hawk grew up in a stylish household — her mother was a buyer at Bloomingdale’s, while her father worked in merchandising for Barney’s. She was also precocious, having entered high school at age 12, then starting at SUNY Purchase’s art program at age 16. But it was acting that motivated her, and inspired a cross-country move to Hollywood.
It was there, while padding her IMDb page with starring and supporting roles on screens of all sizes, that she became an avid jewelry collector. As her collection grew, so too did her curiosity. “You can’t help but learn about the jewelry that you purchase,” she says. “And as I learned more, I got more into ordering custom pieces.”
Hawk began receiving more praise for the pieces she designed than the ones she purchased, and saw an opportunity. “It was like a sign that I should do this,” she says. Initially, she considered trying to team up with a well-known brand. However, “I remember once meeting with a publicist who told me that she didn’t think I was famous enough for any brands to collaborate with — so I created my own,” she says. “Sometimes it takes those kinds of discouraging conversations to open up doors to even greater encouragement from the world.”
She launched in November 2015 using money earned from her acting career as startup funding, and decided to forge relationships with celebrity stylists as a way to get her foot in the door with top-tier clients.
Of course, she didn’t think she’d get her first break from longtime Madonna stylist Bea Åkerlund. But “at the time I was starting up, [Åkerlund] was creating her own … showroom with brands and items she liked.” Not only was the timing right, but the location as well — that showroom was in the building Hawk had just moved into. Wasting no time, she loaded her jewelry onto a cart and brought the lot to her new neighbor for consideration.
It worked — Madonna was H.Crowne’s first client.
Remaining Open to Possibilities
Her eye-grabbing crowns and other jewels quickly caught the eye of other A-listers. But maintaining customers at that level of prominence required more than coincidences, Hawk says. “If you have a vision, you have to give it everything you have,” she notes.
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In the beginning, she ensured the level of quality she wanted by hand-making items herself. But as demand grew — significantly and quickly, she recalls, thanks to the high-profile exposure — she knew she would need to shift gears. She began searching for manufacturers who could make the items to her specifications.
After finding the right makers and adjusting prices to cover the cost of manufacturing, she was able to scale up and accommodate a broader range of clients. Each step forward, however, came with feelings of fear. In fact, she says that was her biggest challenge of all — letting go of that fear.
Hawk likened running her business to having a child. “You bring them into the world, you try to navigate a way for luck to happen. You can try to control that. But … if you put real energy, time and focus into what you’re doing, it’s going to happen — you don’t have to control every element, every step.”
She’s carrying that confidence with her as she contemplates H.Crowne’s next steps — including expanding her new subscription box service and, further down the road, bringing on some of the investors she is presently meeting with, whom she hopes can both advise and fund future growth.
“Even though I’m on an entrepreneurial journey, being in the fashion business and making accessories for people, it’s a spiritual thing,” she says. “Everyone talks about faith — you need to have it.”