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'Noise Girl' Turns Hardware into Jewelry on the Lower East Side

LOWER EAST SIDE — What's a girl to do with 30,000 hex nuts?

The hardware order isn't unusual for jeweler Chelsea Van Houten, AKA street style blogger Noise Girl, who's building a name for herself with a line of tough girl bling.

"I wanted it to look super masculine," said Van Houten, 22, who spent four "nightmare" months in her East Village apartment last year nailing down her designs through trial and error.

The chunky bracelets and necklaces are created by weaving rope, in a range of colors such as cream or neon pink, through bronze and silver toned hex nuts.

Now sales both online and in stores are taking off, landing Van Houten on Lucky Magazine's list of “Fashion Kids on the Rise” last month and creating a need to find a manufacturer to help her expand production.

"I wanted to make statement pieces that weren't gold and [didn't] cost a million dollars," said Van Houten. She also had to find a balance so it didn’t "look like it was from a hardware store."

Van Houten began to get known four years ago when she started the Noise Girl blog, photographing street level fashion and the nightlife scene around the city. Her photos were picked up by other well-known bloggers such as Mr. Newton, which led to her building her own loyal following.

Van Houten stumbled upon her jewelry idea while working for other industry startups to make ends meet.

"I just started braiding and knotting and I came up with that design," she said, of something that started out as a simple creative outlet at the start of 2011.

Van Houten saw the potential in what she created early and pulled together a business plan with the help of her father. She extended the Noise Girl brand and website last summer to include bracelets starting at $50 and a long necklace going for $140.

"Now I sell in about five or six stores in the city," said Van Houten. She rattled off a list of Noise Girl stockists including cutting edge fashion joints like Blake Scotland on Clinton Street and Dagny and Barstow on the Bowery.

While Lucky Magazine may have crowned her one of fashion's "young guns," life is far from glamorous for a jewelry designer who plaits every piece together by hand.

"If someone orders five pieces online I'm in for the next few days," said Van Houten, who recently moved to the Lower East Side. One accessory can take between 30 minutes and two hours to make.

Recent requests for thousands of the accessories in Van Houten's line has prompted a hunt for a manufacturing location, which she hopes to secure in a Midtown factory.

"I want to go in and check up on the pieces to make sure everything is being made how I would make it," she said.

As for expanding her designs, Van Houten is sticking with the "Hex Collection" for the next few seasons, but has started a course in jewelry design at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

"I am taking classes in soldering metal, something I never used to do," she said.

However, Van Houten said her inspiration will always come from where it all began with the Noise Girl blog – on the streets of New York.

"I love the people watching," she said, while at the Lost Weekend café on Orchard Street.

Van Houten pointed out the accessories of customers who, unbeknownst to them, could become a muse for another collection.

"I don't think I ever would have felt the urge to start anything if I wasn't [in New York]," she said.