When it comes to communication, teenagers often go one of two ways—radio silent or eager to voice their thoughts. Claire Lancaster, 16, has chosen the latter, and she’s using her creative voice to enable other people, young and old, to express themselves through 212 west (tagline –“the spoken life”), a jewelry line that she developed with her mother, Pat Lancaster.
Through 212 west, shoppers can customize 18- and 28-inch necklaces with metal-cast, pewter bars (plated in bronze, copper or pewter), which are stamped with words that are reflective of the buyer. Options include more than 50 words, highlighting life in the Midwest (boat, lake, Minnesota), personal convictions (courage, faith, love, peace and pride), athletic pursuits (golf, run and sail) and more. By stacking three of the bars, in any order they choose, customers create a unique piece. “It’s special to wear,” Claire says. “And [it] shows the world who they are.” Part of her design inspiration came from lockets. While they may be a staple in many jewelry boxes, Claire felt they missed the mark in terms of expression. “The person who is wearing [the locket] knows what it means, but other people don’t know what’s inside,” she says.
Claire was around 13 years old when she began mulling the idea of creating a jewelry line, so she crafted a conceptual sketch that she felt would broadly resonate with the public. “The necklace is about something that is important to you,” she says. After navigating the world of retail, Claire and Pat were nearly ready to launch their products. One of the company’s final elements to come to fruition was its name—212 west, which is inspired by U.S. Highway 212. “That’s the road we take home, and we thought it was a nice metaphor,” Claire, who lives in Eden Prairie, says. With Claire, a sophomore at Benilde-St. Margaret’s School, serving as the creative force and website model, Pat handles the day-to-day operations, including marketing and shipping. “It’s been a fun experience to work together, and I really rely on her for the creative,” Pat says.
What began as a web-based company in April 2016 has expanded into brick and mortar locations, including The General Store of Minnetonka. Jenny Putnam of the General Store says 212 west is one of their favorite lines. “We love the mixed metal option that 212 west provides,” she notes. The line is also available at Good Things in White Bear Lake and venues in Rochester, Minn.; Iowa; North Dakota and Ohio. One piece even made it to last September’s New York Fashion Week around the neck of runway and print model Lyoka Tyagnereva, according to Pat.
“We want to just keep going,” Claire says. Leather bracelets are available, and future products could include keychains, choker necklaces and dog collars. “We want to get into colleges,” she says. (212 west has a licensing agreement with North Dakota State University.)
Pat and Claire are proud to note that their products are made in the United States, and their patriotic tone carries through to their commitment to supporting Operation Freedom, which assists returning war veterans and military personnel transition from active duty to civilian life. Each time a purchased necklace includes the words America, Troops or Veterans, $5 is donated to the non-profit organization. “It’s important to us,” Claire says. “It’s in our morals.” With a grandfather who served in the U.S. Air Force, Claire has extra incentive. “We love our country, and we want to honor the people who make it great,” she says.