Story and Photos Courtesy of Marjorie Borell
Fresh out of college and burning with youthful wanderlust, I stuffed all my essentials into a backpack, waved goodbye to my befuddled parents and headed out my front door into the world.
Among my travels was a weeklong hitchhiking sojourn throughout the small towns, villages and holy shrines of India. On the streets, I marveled at the elegance and sultry exoticism of the woman in their colorful saris, with metallic threads, glistening in the sunlight. But what intrigued me most, were the sparkly, bejeweled rings some Indian women wore on their feet. I had never seen adorned toes before and thought their toe rings were sexy and feminine.
Determined to wear them too, I returned to the US on a mission, to design toe rings that everyone- and anyone – could wear. You see, the problem was that Indian woman could wear toe rings that were wide or embellished with beads and charms because they wore open sandals or could go barefoot much of the year. But in colder climes, people, naturally wear closed shoes or boots much of the year. The challenge was to create a toe ring that could be worn comfortably inside shoes. My version had to be thinner, more flexible, adjustable and with minimal decoration.
Having no jewelry design experience, I sought out local manufactures to produce the “ideal” toe ring design. Not sure where to start, I headed to 47th Street, the famous jewelry district of New York City. There, I was met with every reaction from barely concealed snickers to outright guffaws since no one had ever heard of a toe ring! Indignant but undeterred, I kept at it and eventually found a small workshop on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan where they were at least willing to listen as I explained my idea.
At first, the rather skeptical craftsmen thought I was kidding, then crazy, then just plain weird, but ultimately they agreed to give it a try. A week later, a prototype was created, the die was cast and the Original Toe Ring© was born. The year was 1977.
Extensive the media coverage, and now on Wikipedia, the ensuing years saw toe rings go from a quirky fashion fad to basic jewelry staple. According to Vogue.com, “From an item of cultural significance in India to mass fashion appeal in the U.S., the toe ring first made its way stateside in the ’70s, when Marjorie Borell, an entrepreneurial traveler, returned from India and began hawking the accessory at the Toe Ring Boutique at the celebrity favorite and fashion-forward store, Fiorucci. The Original Toe Ring eventually found its way into such retailers as Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. Vogue.com Market Editor Chelsea Zalopany called it “the anklet’s second cousin.”
Dubbed the unofficial “Toe Ring Queen” I am honored to be recognized as the first person to introduce foot bijou to the United States. But as the appeal of toe rings began to catch on globally, my one-woman “Toe Rings Unlimited” operation couldn’t keep up and I eventually lost control of the toe ring market.
An ever-intrepid entrepreneur, I have since moved on to creating other original, whimsical and occasionally “edgy” accessories such as hand painted fans anchored by chains to be worn as necklaces. Designed to open and close with a quick flick of the wrist – Flix© Necklace fans impart true fan ju-ju.
Added to my portfolio are now Bikerz© bike chain necklaces and bracelets, Ziplings© earrings, Rox© necklaces with of raw, unpolished stones, Boffo© one-of-a kind cashmere berets and, likely more to come. “Every time I have an idea for a statement accessory, I simply can’t help myself.”
For more information, visit: MadeByMarket© on Instagram, www.etsy.com/shop/MadeByMarket or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for additional photos and prices.