It started with shoes, as many fashion love affairs do. Besotted with kitten heels and strappy sandals, Moira Anne Rubino tried to sell shoes to her kindergarten classmates. Her wardrobe was limited to play clothes, but that didn’t stop her.
Forty-odd years later, it’s easy to imagine Rubino as a 5-year-old fashionista. She creates the beaded bracelets and necklaces in her Moira Anne line at a Newtown Square studio, selling them at Coco Blu, Boutique Sorelle, Blue Octagon and other local shops. The chunky, colorful pieces have been worn by cast members of Bravo’s Real Housewives, NBC10’s Tracy Davidson and Fox 29’s Karen Hepp. And her “game changer” bracelets have been spotted on Villanova University head basketball coach Jay Wright and Philadelphia Eagles players Corey Clement and Rodney McLeod.
“Moira balances bold colors and interesting designs in ways that compliment casual, daytime outfits and formal evening wear,” says Haverford artist Dori Desautel Broudy. “They’re wonderful statement pieces and unique, but also classically elegant.”
Rubino’s path to success has been as circular as her bracelets. Though she intended to pursue fashion merchandising, she ended up with degrees in marketing and finance. Accomplishing that took stints at two colleges, including night school—something Rubino now chalks up to attention deficit disorder. “I believe there is a whole generation of us—particularly women—who were undiagnosed,” Rubino says. “When I look back, I realize that it chartered my life.”
ADD may have limited her academically, but those challenges instilled a tenacity that powered Rubino through the rest of her life. At first, her 20s appeared to be charmed. She went into corporate recruiting before becoming a human resources vice president in Texas.
Then tragedy struck. Rubino’s mother, Kate Dougherty, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that’s difficult to treat. Rubino was one year into her high-powered job when she moved to King of Prussia to help care for her mother. For six years, Dougherty underwent a variety of treatments, including chemotherapy and limb salvage surgery. But the cancer spread to her brain, hip and lung. She died in 2006 at the age of 52.
“Mortality motivation” is how Rubino describes the impact of her mother’s premature death. “What was I doing with my life?” she asked herself. “Was this what I wanted for myself?”
In her personal life at least, the answer was “yes.” Rubino married her husband, Mark, in 2004, becoming a stepmother to Abby, who was 4 at the time.
Rubino was less enthusiastic about her career. She resigned from her HR job to become a consultant. Her work included a project for Ralph Lauren Corporation. By then, Rubino was raising her son Christopher, who was born in 2008, and she felt her creative muse stirring. She took a jewelry making class at the now defunct Summer Studio in Avalon, N.J., intending to make pieces for herself. But people noticed her jewelry and wanted it. By 2014, Rubino was selling her pieces in a handful of boutiques.
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Her big break came in 2015, when a buyer for shoe company Jack Rogers asked to see Rubino and her jewelry. Bracelets and necklaces in tow, a nervous Rubino hopped on a train to Manhattan. The buyer immediately put Rubino at ease. “But he told me to have more confidence and to charge more money,” she recalls. “He said Jack Rogers couldn’t sell items for $28 on Madison Avenue.”
Rubino kept her fundamental designs but upgraded the stones and her jewelry’s price point. Jack Rogers picked up Rubino’s jewelry, keeping it in its flagship boutique for three years. “I was thrilled,” she says. “I knew then that I was really on the right track.”
But with that high came a serious low. Rubino was diagnosed with Stage II melanoma. Although it was caught early, the cancer was widespread, requiring three surgeries on her thigh and two on her back. “Because my mother’s cancer was so extensive and fatal, my diagnosis knocked me for a loop,” she says.
It didn’t knock her out, though. Instead, Rubino added a charitable component to her burgeoning jewelry line. Every May—Melanoma Awareness Month—Rubino donates a portion of sales to the Melanoma Research Foundation. During October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Rubino dedicates a percentage of profits to Breastcancer.org. She also creates signature pieces for organizations like Gene Spotlight, which raises funds to research genetic diseases, and Starfish Equine Rescue in New Jersey. It’s a lot of work and money to donate, but Rubino doesn’t see it that way. “It feeds my soul,” she says.
That soulfulness is imbued in her jewelry. “I love her sense of strength, creativity and genuine desire to improve the lives of people,” Broudy says.
Rubino’s creative energy appears to be boundless. She has segued into painting, and starting in October, Blue Octagon in Wayne will sell her work.
Now in its fifth year, Rubino’s line includes her signature beads, plus seashells and other materials. One thing that hasn’t changed is her use of bold colors. “They go to the right side of my brain and trigger energy, happiness and motivation,” she says.