The Taylor Swift fans who made home-crafted jewellery sales fly

by Admin
The Taylor Swift fans who made home-crafted jewellery sales fly

During the opening weekend of Taylor Swift’s run of sold-out summer concerts at London’s Wembley Stadium — the latest leg of her record-breaking Eras Tour — the queues to buy official merchandise stretched for hundreds of metres outside the venue. But the most coveted souvenirs were being exchanged for free.

“When Taylor sang ‘make the friendship bracelets’, we took that seriously,” explains Julia Ducret. She worked with friends to prepare more than 300 friendship bracelets — made of brightly coloured braids and plastic beads, spelling out Taylor Swift lyrics, songs and album titles — to hand out to fellow fans — or ‘Swifties’ — at Wembley.

Ducret, a recent university graduate, was far from alone in feeling that the lyric — from Swift’s song “You’re on Your Own, Kid”, on her Grammy-winning 2022 album Midnights — had struck a chord.

According to the online craft store Etsy, searches for friendship bracelets surged 22,000 per cent following the March 2023 launch of the Eras Tour in the US, as millions of Swifties raced to share them with fellow fans.

“The impact was really immediate,” says Dayna Isom Johnson, trends expert at Etsy, where 77 per cent of UK-based sellers are women — more than double the proportion of the country’s female small business owners. Between the start of the tour and December 2023, friendship bracelets of all types had notched up $5.5mn in sales, globally, on the platform.

Watching the trend develop via social media platform TikTok, where there are more than 5mn tour-related videos, English teacher and Taylor Swift fan Coral Mack realised the jewellery skills she had learnt from her mother could be in high demand.

“I thought: I can take this skill and I can help everybody else, and we can all do this in a community, together,” says Mack.

“When Taylor sang ‘make the friendship bracelets’ we took that seriously,” – Julia Ducret © Craig Gibson 1636 42bb 9aa8 afeaa0964503
Coral Mack trades on Etsy as The Bejeweled Club © Craig Gibson 479a 49d5 bff1 f775f8e907a7
Gabriele Alicata traveled from Italy to see the Eras Tour in London © Craig Gibson 706a 43b0 a378 86bd80c1bfd0
Lauren Hulett Bedford previously viewed the Eras Tour in Paris © Craig Gibson

Encouraged by a friend to whom she had gifted a set of beads to thread her own bracelets in preparation for the tour’s European leg, Mack began trading as The Bejewelled Club on Etsy in August 2023. After sharing her friendship bracelet bead kits on TikTok — each one colour co-ordinated to the aesthetic of Swift’s albums, including 2014’s 1989 (pastel blues), 2019’s Lover (rainbow-coloured) and this April’s The Tortured Poets Department (grey) — Mack’s sales skyrocketed.

$5.5mnGlobal sales of friendship bracelets on Etsy between April and December 2023

By the start of the Wembley run of concerts, Mack had dispatched 1,092 bracelet kits, totalling £20,000 in sales. “I’m quite emotionally attached to jewellery,” says the designer, for whom the friendship bracelet represents a rebellion against societal expectations of what womanhood is supposed to look like.

Growing up in Newcastle in the 2000s, Mack helped as her mother — a civil servant and part-time jewellery designer — spent her evenings making bracelets to sell at local weekend craft fairs. 

“I didn’t really get to see my mum express herself, she had to go to work, dress a certain way, fulfil all these roles throughout the day,” says Mack. “But, then, on an evening when she was making these bracelets, I got to see that creative expression.”

“It was something that always stuck with me; that you can sit and make something beautiful out of a few beads and that can empower you further when you turn it into a business, as well.”

Johnson has tracked how Swift’s every move has created fresh jewellery trends, including a 25 per cent increase in sales on Etsy of watch chokers following her appearance at the 2024 Grammy Awards in a vintage Concord watch refashioned as a choker by jewellery designer Lorraine Schwartz.

At Wembley, friends Victoria Watson, a trainee lawyer, and Alyssa Bridson, a graphic designer, arrived from the Isle of Man wearing matching watch chokers, and brought friendship bracelets that they had spent months threading from kits bought online, to share with fellow concertgoers.

 “She has such a distinct style for each era,” says Bridson. “[The watch choker] was so prominent, so we had to do the pearls, the chokers, the watch.” To her, the friendship bracelet represents a celebration of female togetherness. “It’s about girlhood and sharing that creativity. You look around and see the effort people have put into their costumes.” bfd5 41f0 8e08 4127d33c103f
Alyssa Bridson (left) and Victoria Watson (right) spent months threading friendship bracelets © Craig Gibson f528 4f0d 8d61 4965603c6d2e
The friends took inspiration from Swift’s 2024 Grammy Awards red carpet look © Craig Gibson b99f 4235 9198 5c5a7da317bd
Jamie Wedgwood fashioned a friendship bracelet costume from noodle pots © Craig Gibson ba00 4699 bd17 3a51f549b0a7
Kat Leyton previously viewed the Eras Tour in California © Craig Gibson

Standing next to her outside the stadium on Wembley’s Olympic Way — wearing a green velour costume inspired by the woodland aesthetic of Swift’s 2020 album Evermore — student Kat Leyton from Kent agrees.

“Friendship bracelets aren’t so much about what they look like, it’s what they represent: it’s friendship and community,” she says, signalling to the fellow Swifties around her. “We had never met before and now all of a sudden we’re going around together and that’s really what it’s about.”

Leyton, who had already seen Swift on the Eras Tour in California, followed her to Wembley as friendship bracelets trended.

For Kat McKenna, author of Look What You Made Me Do: The ultimate guide for Taylor Swift fans!, such dedication represents the increasing globalisation of fandom. 

As in previous tour stops, all of Swift’s Wembley dates last month were live-streamed on TikTok by concert-goers to thousands more fans watching at home. Buoyed by seemingly insatiable demand, this June, the video sharing platform announced it would allow Swifties to collect “digital” friendship bracelet beads and share them with fans online.

“Fandom before social media was private until you actually arrived at the live show or until you were wearing the concert T-shirt, ” says Ole Obermann, the global head of music business development at TikTok. He hopes efforts such as the platform’s in-app Eras Tour experience will reinforce the cross-migration of fan culture between the online and real world.

Recalling seeing how empowered her mother felt when wearing her own jewellery, Coral Mack feels the same way when she meets fellow Swifties wearing the friendship bracelets made from her kits. Inundated with kit orders as fans prepare for Swift’s return to Wembley in August, she now intends to continue her jewellery business long after the tour wraps this December.

“It really matters to me that I’ve managed to make a business out of this . . . It’s empowered me to think that this is something special and it can help you to form a community,” she says.

“I’m just going to remember it in a different way now.”

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