Cystic fibrosis survivor breathes life into Hattitude Jewellery

Hattie Dunstan is a fashion designer and Cystic fibrosis survivor. She's the owner and designer of Hattitude Jewellery. Photo courtesy of: Hattie Dunstan.
Hattie Dunstan is a fashion designer and Cystic fibrosis survivor. She’s the owner and designer of Hattitude Jewellery. Photo courtesy of: Hattie Dunstan.

Six years ago, Hattie Dunstan, now 28, underwent a double lung transplant that saved her life.

“I was born with Cystic fibrosis and diagnosed at six-months-old. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that affects your lungs, eventually ending in end stage lung failure and needing a double lung transplant to keep living. I underwent a double lung transplant when I was 22.”

Hattie says her parents, family and friends were her biggest support, along with her entire community.

“It made me feel like I wasn’t fighting this giant battle alone. It was truly amazing all the support I received and I will NEVER forget it. My mom and dad were down every day at the hospital with me. My mom would read to me because I couldn’t focus after the surgery and my dad would give my swollen feet massages. My older brother was a huge support. When I had a breathing tube in, he would translate my hand gestures to my parents because they couldn’t quite understand my dramatic gestures. I was truly lucky.”

Since the surgery, Hattie’s life has changed drastically.

“Before my surgery showering and getting dressed felt like I had run a marathon,” Hattie says. “I was on oxygen 24/7. Life was so incredibly hard and I had lung envy of all my girlfriends going out dancing at 22. I couldn’t even pick up my cat’s water dish bowl to re-fill it without gasping for air. Every ounce of energy went into doing treatments, taking pills and surviving until the next day. Today, I play on sports leagues, see a personal trainer, run my own business, hike with my dog and am getting married this summer.”

Now, Hattie is inspired to put her goals first and live to see all of her passions fulfilled. She is the owner and designer of Hattitude Jewellery, breathing life into vintage jewellery, making and up-cycling one of a kind accessories.

Read more about Hattie, the self-taught jewellery-maker and Cystic fibrosis survivor, below:

1. What continues to inspire you to put your goals first and live to see all your passions fulfilled?

Being able to take a deep breath and know that I wasn’t even able to walk up stairs before has changed my life. I try to enjoy all the little things and REALLY live life because you never know when it can be taken away from you. I even park at the FAR end of the parking lots now just so I have the satisfaction of walking those extra steps. You can also usually find me taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

2. How old were you when you realized you wanted to make a career out of making and up-cycling jewellery? 

I was 15 when I first started my jewellery company and fell in love with marketing and fashion. I then went to university for marketing and after university tried to figure out a plan to take Hattitude Jewellery full time.

3. What about vintage jewellery inspires you and encourages you to share traditional styles with new twists with your customers? 

I’m a vintage girl through and through. People always tell me I was born into the wrong era. I think the roaring 1920s and the flapper women are my favourite. Most Halloweens you can find me dressed as a flapper. So it was only natural that I take inspiration from past generations. I also love the idea that each piece of jewellery holds so much history (sometimes 100 years worth!) and tells a story for future generations to enjoy. I really love that my company is being eco-conscious. With so many new products and new clothing in the fashion world, I’ve always loved the idea of being a little more green and taking something old and repurposing it and recycling it into something new to love and wear.

4. For three years, you’ve been in the wedding industry – creating accessories for brides and grooms to be. What’s your favourite part about this? 

I love love love the styled shoots. I love creating and designing sets and jewellery and outfits for every single type of wedding. Bohemian, vintage, modern, Kate Spade inspired, Victorian, Caribbean. I love the opportunity to work with so many other talented entrepreneurs in so many different ways. The wedding industry is a joy to work in because everyone is always so happy. All my brides are all SO excited and so happy and just thrilled. Their love and excitement just shines through when we have our jewellery consultations and it’s really special to be a small part of their day.

5. What has been the best part of your journey with Hattitude Jewellery so far? 

It’s been amazing to watch Hattitude grow from seed beads and fishing line selling at farmers markets to my elaborate designs being published in multiple magazines and online wedding blogs.

6. What has been the hardest part of this journey as creator, designer, owner and entrepreneur? 

Not giving up. It’s been hard when you have slow times in your business, or you can’t quite seem to get things going the way you want them to, or you’re trying to break into a new niche. It’s so much about patience. Entrepreneurs I think are addicted to the highs. We have SUCH highs but then we have some real lows. It’s hard to find a balance. You just have to be patient and wait for that next high, because it’s usually  just around the corner.

7. Your brand is active on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram – how does social media improve your sales and customer retention? 

Social media has been amazing for my brand. I now teach instagram workshops to other creative entrepreneurs. Marketing is my favourite business hat to wear in my company so I’m super passionate about finding new innovative ways to make myself stand out from the crowd.

8. What is your favourite social media platform and why?

Instagram is by far my favourite platform. I love browsing through photos and finding inspiration and staying in contact with the brands and people I love. Although, Snap Chat is becoming a close second, because it’s just so silly and fun!

9. What was your first job and what was one of the most important lessons it taught you? 

Hattitude was actually my first job. My dad told me to apply for a summer job when I was 15 and after some Googling we found a government summer program that helped young entrepreneurs start up their companies. I was the youngest applicant back then to ever be accepted and so my summer company and mentorship began. I had no idea that it would eventually lead to me taking Hattitude full time. Back then it was called Hattie’s House of Beads! It led me down the path I choose for university, marketing management.

10. What is a day in the life of Hattie like?

I’m a huge book worm. My friends are always asking me for book recommendations and usually in our book club, everyone complains because I’ll have already read the book they want to choose for the next month. I love hiking with my fiancé and my dog Melvin through the Bruce Trail in Caledon. I’m also a HUGE cottage girl. I always make sure to book off a couple weeks in the summer to head to my family cottage on Georgian Bay. It’s so important in rejuvenating my soul. I don’t think there is any place on earth like it.

11. What advice do you have for other designers and entrepreneurs working their way to where you are? 

I’m the face of my brand and I think with so many fashion customers deciding to shop local and really becoming conscious about who they’re buying from, it’s important to have a face to your brand. Let your customers know what you’re all about as a company and business. They want to buy from a real person, from a real company they can identify with. If you’re true to your brand, the right type of people for your company will be attracted to you and success will follow!

In mid-April, Hattitude Jewellery released their 2016 look book, History and Her Story. See more, here.

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