Kate Rutter doesn't have bad hair days. Her go-to accessories are her handmade, expressive headbands: leather bands dressed up with feathers or turquoise chunks, textured and lacy fabrics that wrap like bandeaux.
"They tame my wild hair and make me feel girly in my jeans-and-T-shirt look," says Rutter, the creator of the Tied Up and Tousled headband line.
Rutter started designing and wearing her own headbands as a fashion student at Kent State University in 2006. Not until 2010 did she begin to explore the possibility of turning her headbands into a business. Rutter's brother Bobby saw her headband portfolio and urged her to do something more. Last year, she started Tied Up and Tousled, producing each headband in her Akron studio. Her sister, Anne, heads up the website and social media while Bobby runs the business back-end.
Headbands have grown more sophisticated with the use of fabrics such as suede, silk and leather and adornment materials such as sequins, feathers and jewels. Prices for Tied Up and Tousled headbands start at $20 for a silver braided piece and go up to $50 for a gypsy pendant that also doubles as a necklace.
"Headbands are a culmination of art and expression and design and hair, so it just made sense for me to explore that area," says Rutter, who is also a hair stylist.
The 27-year-old begins the creative process with treasure hunts at antique shops and thrift stores, where she'll find a piece — say a vintage locket — that inspires her. A lot of these found items end up on her bands, making most of her designs one of a kind. Producing an actual band could take 15 minutes, an hour or days, especially if she puts a piece aside to gain fresh perspective before revisiting it. She makes about 35 headbands during a busy week.
"It's the effortlessness of them," Rutter says. "You sling on a headband, and it really tells something about your personality. It's an easy way to define your style and give you a bit of edge."
Rutter's headbands, especially the spring 2011 Native American-inspired Lost and Bound and soft-chic Pretty Please lines, are multifunctional. You can wear them four different ways: the standard across the head and tied at the nape of the neck; hippie-style across the forehead and tied in the back (Rutter's favorite); over the head with a ponytail; or across the part-line and tied so the band sits like a tiara.
"If you don't want to brush your hair, you put a headband on," Rutter says. "You look like you tried a little harder."