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Engineering senior creates defensive fashion

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Engineering senior creates defensive fashion

CW/ Joe Will Field

CW/ Joe Will Field

CW/ Joe Will Field

CW/ Joe Will Field

Kendal Aldridge, contributing writer

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Lauren Gwin’s background in martial arts taught her more than just self-defense. The common emergency situations she prepares for in training are why she innovated jewelry designs for her business, the Artemis Company.

With its slogan, “Dress to Protect,” Gwin started the Artemis Company in order to create a product for women that would empower and protect them. The Artemis Company started as a way to make self-defense products more marketable by turning them into a fashionable accessory.

“I got the idea for self-defense products integrated into women’s accessories my freshman year at The University of Alabama,” Gwin, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, said. “I saw a need that the traditionally accepted self-defense tools, such as pepper spray and tasers, weren’t meeting.”

An advocate of sexual assault prevention due to her personal experience in high school, Gwin was inspired to create self-defense products that doubled as accessories.

“Being a survivor of sexual assault myself and having connected and researched many other survivors’ stories, it makes me feel very honored and fulfilled to be able to take something terrible I’ve been through and turn it into something to help prevent that from happening to other women,” Gwin said.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, each year women are the victims of more than 4.5 million violent crimes, including approximately 500,000 rapes or other sexual assaults. The Justice Department estimates that one in five women will experience rape or attempted rape during their college years, and less than five percent will be reported. Gwin attempts to combat these statistics with her products.

“I wanted to create a product for women that would empower them and make them feel safe in their daily lives,” Gwin said. “These products were designed to be easy to use and readily available if you found yourself in an emergency situation.”

Gwin’s coursework in mechanical engineering provided her with the 3D drawing skills to personally craft each piece of jewelry in her collection. Her designs are created using 3D CAD software, which allows for her designs to be 3D printed. Gwin troubleshoots her designs with the printed 3D renderings until she comes up with a product ready for the market.

“Every product marketed toward women are usually pink and plastic,” said Lily Prater, a sophomore majoring in creative media. “Lauren noticed this issue, and instead of just complaining about it, she did something. She took action. She has created hardcore jewelry for hardcore, real women.”

The Artemis Company has three collections of jewelry available: the Artemis, Blanca and Lusasul collection. Each collection is distinct and includes rings, necklaces and bracelets.

Blanca and Lusasul were Gwin’s two inaugural collections. For the Lusasul collection, Gwin worked in partnership with a jewelry brand of the same name based out of Mexico City. Lusasul is able to create the prototypes through the use of 3D printing. The pieces included in this collection are stainless steel.

“I think this jewelry gives women an extra layer of protection while being fashionable,” Valencia Winston, a supporter of Gwin’s business, said. “One of my favorite pieces is the ring, the two-finger ring that can be used to jar someone in case you’re being attacked.”

The sharp edges found on many of the rings and bracelets serve as defense mechanisms that can be used to strike an attacker. Other weaponry is embedded in the necklaces, like the spike hidden under a tassel in one of the designs, as well as another that magnetically detaches.

Gwin met Winston at the EDGE, a local business incubator that provides support for entrepreneurs in the West Alabama area. The Artemis Company receives resources from the EDGE.

“[Being] an entrepreneur is an enormous amount of work,” Winston said. “A desire to be entrepreneur is giving [a piece] of yourself. It’s like parenthood, growing the business from the ground up. It takes hours of work and dedication. To do that and be a full-time student is amazing.”

Collaboration is an essential part of entrepreneurship. In her second collection titled Blanca, Gwin partnered with designer Sherri Fairbairn. Fairbairn designed bracelets including a leather cuff with a pyramid-shaped gemstone. The gemstone not only placed for aesthetics, but can double as a self-defense tool. In addition to the bracelet, Fairbairn also designed the tassel necklace.

“I think her products are fabulous for women exercising and walking alone,” Winston said.

Her most recent collection, titled Artemis, is designed by Gwin herself. All the pieces in this collection are made of fine-grade copper and plated in gold or silver. This collection is available for presale on her website.

Sharing the name of her company, the term Artemis was selected in reference to the goddess from Greek mythology. As the goddess of chastity, Artemis is known for seeking justice against the men that tried to rape her.

“Artemis was our namesake inspiration because she embodies the strength of women to independently protect themselves,” Gwin said.

Gwin has plans to expand her company by developing other types of accessories, including shoes and handbags. She also hopes to expand her business to be featured on online platforms such as Amazon and Wish.

“It’s women like Lauren who make society notice issues like sexual assault,” Prater said. “Lauren is truly an inspiration. I am so honored to know a woman who has taken her story and created a masterpiece.”

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Engineering senior creates defensive fashion