I tried this 90s throwback bead kit from celeb-fave designer—here’s what happened
Susan Alexandra’s DIY Bead Box is just like summer camp and I'm obsessed.
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
If I had it my way, 90s fashion would literally never go out of style. More specifically, summer camp fashion. I'm talking DIY tie dye, shorteralls (overalls, but shorts!), and most importantly, all the beaded, knotted, and otherwise handmade "jewelry." I was the absolute queen of summer camp arts and crafts, and my mom still has the "artwork" to prove it.
So when my favorite handbag and jewelry designer, Susan Alexandra, dropped a DIY bead kit I had to try. Here's what happened.
What is Susan Alexandra?
Susan Alexandra was founded in 2014 as a hand-painted jewelry brand. The brand has since evolved to include an array of beaded masterpieces ranging from handbags to earrings to dog leashes, and select pieces are now carried by Nordstrom. The brain behind the brand that is “dedicated to bringing joy and sparkle to everyday life” is Susan Korn, an Ohio-born, New York City-based artist who draws inspiration from everything around her including food, animals, and most recently Cinderella.
I bought my first Susan Alexandra bag as a gift to myself for graduating from my gastronomy Master’s program (basically food anthropology). After two years of speed reading, late nights, and long essays, I figured I deserved it. I was drawn to these bags in particular because many designs feature my favorite subject: food! Since then, my collection of Susan Alexandra goodies has grown—from this fun charm necklace to these rainbow earrings that make me smile every time I wear them. And the brand has also grown immensely.
These bags, jewelry, and more are perfect for any age, and have been spotted on the likes of Katie Holmes’s daughter Suri Cruise and supermodel Gigi Hadid. Susan Alexandra creations can run anywhere from $65 to $500, depending on the item. But the designer runs sales multiple times a year on select styles (which is precisely how I bought my first bag) that are worth keeping an eye on.
Why do people love Susan Alexandra handbags and accessories so much?
Korn is known for her vibrant designs as much as she is known for her innovative approach to fashion. She staged her debut New York Fashion Week show in 2018 inside a bagel shop, and the following year she threw herself a second bat mitzvah for the occasion. Pre-pandemic, Korn hosted her most epic NYFW show yet with a full-blown musical.
With an emphasis on slow fashion (as opposed to fast fashion) and ethical practices, all Susan Alexandra products are made sustainably by women in New York City who are all paid fair wages. According to its website, this brand is committed to “creat[ing] a space of inclusion, open conversation, and advocacy.”
What is the Susan Alexandra Bead Box?
The DIY Bead Box is a kit for at-home beading, curated by Susan Alexandra. This box is ideal for curing quarantine boredom, crafting elegant beaded jewelry, and reliving your 90s summer camp memories (assuming you and I have this last thing in common). If, also like me, you're bored of putting together puzzles and making sourdough bread, Susan Alexandra's Bead Box could be a nice change of pace. Here’s what’s inside the kit:
- Elastic cord
- Two hand enameled floral clasps
- Susan Alexandra Signature Beads
How it works
The Susan Alexandra Bead Box comes with fairly basic instructions, plus a supplementary video on the brand’s website. This kit comes with enough elastic cord to make at least two adult-sized necklaces, but could make more if you decide to make bracelets or anklets using scraps. It only includes clasps for two pieces of jewelry, Korn suggests that sturdy knots may be used to make additional jewelry.
The instructions were very easy to follow, though I highly recommend watching the instructional video before you start. I liked that the beads came in a wide range of bead sizes, shapes, and colors, plus they were super high quality—they're the exact beads use to make Susan Alexandra's bags, jewelry, and more! The clasps were especially lovely; They're hand enameled floral clasps, which are exponentially better than anything a summer camp counselor ever provided me with for jewelry making. My finished necklace was sturdy and elegant, if I do say so myself.
The only things I didn't like were the slippery elastic, which couldn't have been avoided. (As a summer camp jewelry-making veteran, I can tell you that this sort of elastic will literally always be slippery.) I also found it a bit difficult to sort the beads as I worked, and since there's such a variety of beads, it would've been helpful if they came in the box already sperated.
Is the Susan Alexandra Bead Box worth buying?
If you're craving 90s summer camp nostalgia, or maybe you're looking for a new DIY project to get you through the winter, this bead box is absolutely worth it, whether you're an existing Susan Alexandra fan or are entirely new to the brand. I had a blast making my first of two necklaces and I'm already looking forward to making the second at a later date and gift it to a friend.
At $65, this bead box is among the least expensive items on the Susan Alexandra website. And you get to make two beaded necklaces, fancy signature clasps included, that would likely run you about $100 each if you purchased them pre-made. Obviously, this DIY version requires a bit of elbow grease and creativity, but it's a true bargain in the realm of Susan Alexandra and a more affordable way to access the brand.
The Bead Box a win all around and since it's simple to use, it would also be a great activity to do with your kids, though I recommend sticking with ages 8 and up. And while the rest of the Susan Alexandra offerings (bags, jewelry, and more) might cost more than you'd typically spend, your money is supporting a small, sustainable woman-owned brand, which is definitely worth it in my opinion.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.