The Founder Of Emi Jay—Kendall Jenner And Hailey Bieber’s Favorite Hair Accessories Brand!—Started Her Company At Just 14

by Julia Oakes

Julianne Goldmark, founder of popular accessories brand Emi Jay, was no average teenager. She began chasing her passion at a young age, starting her business in 2009 in the guest room of her family home—not knowing it would become what it is today. The Daily chatted with Goldmark about what it was like building a brand from the tender age of 14, how she’s mastered the art of trend-forecasting and social media, and why she tapped lockdown as the inspiration for her latest collection—a colorful summer capsule that’s available today!

What was it like launching this brand at just 14-years-old?!
At 14, I was obsessed with over-the-top hair accessories that were just way out of my budget. My mom and I went downtown in L.A. and got a ton of fabrics and materials to make our own, and my friends fell in love with them! We had no intentions of starting a full-on company, but when we realized there were no elevated yet affordable hair accessories on the market, we made it our goal to create them. As a teenager, I struggled greatly in school and always found myself more interested in creative subjects versus math and science—so Emi Jay gave me a way to discover and learn in a different way that excited me.

What was the original goal of Emi Jay and how has that evolved over the last decade?
Originally, we wanted to just make simple and elevated yet affordable hair ties and headbands, without realizing how big the market opportunity was. Women (and men too) put their hair up at least once a day, if not several times. Think about how many times you’ve heard someone say, ‘Do you have a hair tie?’ Once we nailed down the quality, we then made it our mission to design pieces that make people happy. We don’t sell simple plain black hair claws because you can find those anywhere. I want to make sure that the colors and collections are exciting and that the customer experience is perfection. I think our purpose is to make quality products that just add a little something to any outfit, for everyone of all lifestyles and backgrounds.

 

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You started the business from a bedroom. What are some highs over the last 10 years?
To this day, our biggest high has to be [making it on] Oprah’s Favorite Things. To get the Oprah stamp of approval might be one of the best accomplishments as a business owner. We’ve also had some beautiful articles written about our story and some very talented and inspiring people wear our products. But, honestly, I think the highest of highs will always be seeing girls out in the world wearing our pieces. When I see someone I don’t know wearing Emi Jay, I feel incredibly proud of our growth and longevity!

You just launched your most recent collection, Sweet Escape! What’s your favorite piece?
We wanted our summer collections to be ultra-colorful and fun, especially coming out of quarantine! Sweet Escape is inspired by retro nostalgia, warm summer days, and endless adventures. These pieces were designed to be worn outdoors—wherever that may be for you. My favorites are the baby daisies since they can be clipped into braids and the Purple Shroom clip! It took the longest to make because each base clip had to be carved to fit the purple mushrooms perfectly. I swear just looking at it makes me smile! I think people will go crazy for it.

 

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Describe who the Emi Jay girl is.
The quintessential Emi Jay lady loves newness and is always on the go. She loves to treat herself and maybe buy her best friend a gift too. She’s confident, colorful, expressive and she celebrates life to its fullest. Our girls always want the next best thing and we embrace that—we honestly love it!

What makes Emi Jay stand out from other competing hair accessories brands?
Even though we make everyday hair accessories, we’ve modeled Emi Jay after a beauty or clothing brand. We do seasonal collections, monthly drops and collaborations. Modeling our production and marketing similarly to those of our favorite fashion labels is a major part of what sets us apart. We also team up with some of our favorite beauty, swim, and clothing labels to create epic collaborations, which allows us to stand out in a great way!

You’ve since been working with other brands, like HypeBeast and Revolve. How did that come to be?
Through Instagram! The app didn’t exist when we started in 2009, but it’s now proven to be our main communication vehicle. It’s helped us foster a very special community, which led to a collaboration with Matilda Djerf. She’s from Sweden and has the most special taste! Girls look up to her (especially her outfits), so the partnership was a no brainer. A buyer from Revolve saw it on Matilda’s Instagram and reached out. It’s crazy to see the power of this app, especially since we started without it!

 

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Hailey Bieber, Sofia Richie, the Hadid sisters, and Kylie Jenner, among many others, are wearers of Emi Jay products. What makes Emi Jay appeal to such a large following?
Brand loyalty has been a major attribute to our success. I’m always listening to our customers, my friends, and other wearers of Emi Jay so that we can get honest feedback and keep going. We watch their trends very closely so that the accessories can accompany accordingly! Our pieces come in such beautiful shades and textures, so there is truly something for every individual style. Our products are there for you at every moment of the day, no matter what stage of life you’re at, and I think our girls gravitate towards our brand for that reason.

You also recently did a collaboration with Summer Fridays. What was it like working with Marianna and Lauren?
It truly was the dreamiest partnership ever! Summer Fridays is very clean and sophisticated, and has a fun and with-it following. Their products compliment ours, not only visually, but on a day-to-day basis. We share a lot of the same customers, and when we asked our followers what collaborations they’d love to see, SF was one of the top answers. Marianna and Lauren are long-time friends and Emi Jay supporters, so working with them was a dream! It took us no time to decide on a final clip, which is such a testament to our brands being the perfect fit for one another.

 

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A lot has changed in the industry in the last 10 years. How have you managed to keep this business relevant?
Social media has given us so many tools and ways to communicate with our audience. Trends and fads come and go very quickly, so staying on top of what people want has been very important for us! Being in the weeds of it all has proven to be highly crucial—traveling, socializing, and keeping an eye out for what people are wearing, but more importantly finding out what people want. Spending time entangled in it all allows us to stay inspired and roll out continuous new products!

Where do you pull inspiration for prints and textures in Emi Jay products?
As I mentioned, immersing ourselves in the thick of it all is where we find the most inspiration. I love seeing what my girlfriends are wearing, what colors they are loving, and the boundaries they’re willing to push. For Sweet Escape, we noticed everyone wanted more brightness coming out of quarantine, so we pulled some of our favorite Pantones and shapes to create the perfect high summer collection!

What pieces can you personally not live without and why?
My hair is up in a Big Effing Clip pretty much everyday! I personally can’t get work done without having my hair clipped up, and our BEC can hold my thick hair up without falling for hours. It also doesn’t give me a headache, which is a game-changer for girls wanting a tight and sleek look. I also can’t live without my ribbed cotton and silk scrunchies—they’re super soft on the hair and perfect for sleeping.

What brands and founders inspire you as you continue growing Emi Jay?
Apple is my number one. I’ve watched almost every keynote since I was 13! They’ve changed our world and revolutionized the way we communicate, but that goes without saying. I find myself constantly researching about Glow Recipe and their story. Sarah Lee and Christine Chang were on Shark Tank and have since successfully developed affordable Korean beauty. They introduced a huge market to the U.S., making K-Beauty a staple in stores around the country. I also have always admired Juicy Couture. I just read Pam and Gela’s book! Their story forever inspires me, and we’re always pulling a lot of old school Juicy packaging and products as inspo for Emi Jay!

 

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Tell us about your upcoming collections.
Every time we shoot a campaign our team makes fun of me because I always say, ‘This is my most favorite collection we’ve ever done.’ But seriously, our Holiday collection is what I’m most focused on and excited about right now. The pieces will be every girl’s Christmas dream—inspired by very special nostalgic looks. I can’t say much more, but we’ll be announcing it this fall!

What’s in store for Emi Jay in 2021?
We have the most magical things coming—and some great collaborations. I won’t be able to give away everything though! I can share that our next partnership is with Frankies Bikinis! We made the most gorgeous claw clip—it launches in July with their swimsuits and clothing to match. Francesca is one of my closest friends, so working on this little project together is super special to me! It may be my most favorite piece we’ve made to date and we’re beyond excited for everyone to see it.

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