Fans of the colorful and quirky String Tings say they generate joy.
Does your phone really need a strap?
Or perhaps you do — at least that is what some of the reviews on the String Ting website say. “Makes me happy every time I see it,” one buyer wrote, of the Heavenly Sky, a phone strap featuring blue beads mixed with miniature puffy white clouds.
And: “I needed a pick-me-up, and who would have thought a cellphone charm would be the remedy?” wrote another, of the Rainbow Sherbet Wristlet, a combination of multifaceted crystals and round beads.
It seems the gleaming, beaded straps bring joy.
“The phone is kind of an extension of our central nervous system at this point; it’s an attachment and an external brain,” Rachel Steed-Middleton, 39, the brand’s founder and designer, said during a recent video interview. “I think there’s something fun about dressing it up. It’s so omnipresent, why should it just be like a brick?”
Hailey Park, 26, who works in fashion in Tokyo, discovered String Tings in spring 2022 at a pop-up event at the Shibuya district branch of Nubian, a popular clothing store.
“My String Ting is Cancer Moon Beam Zodiac,” she said. “I chose it because I love the baby pink, baby blue and crystal all together. Although I’m a Pisces and this is for Cancer, it gives off Pisces vibes, too.”
String Ting was born in London’s Peckham neighborhood in the early months of the pandemic, when Ms. Steed-Middleton decided she and her family should set up a charity initiative: “I wanted to make sure that my daughter and my stepkids understood that we were really lucky.”
With neighbors joining in, they began stringing beads, selling the straps in the area and donating some of the proceeds to charities working to assist frontline workers, fight hunger, and care for senior citizens.
“I think beads are a universal childhood memory, and people tend to just love them,” she said.
Ms. Steed-Middleton, who grew up in Canada and has a background in marketing, sent samples to celebrities, and some reciprocated with posts.
Dua Lipa, for example, received a Here Comes the Sun strap, a mix of multicolor beads and evil eye accents, and she wrote in an Instagram article that she loved it and noted that the company supported SOS Children’s Village, an Austrian organization that houses orphans. A couple of members of Blackpink also shopped the site.
Tings, as the straps are nicknamed, have found particular favor in Asia and the United States (the company ships internationally), and, Ms. Steed-Middleton said, the company now has collectors in both locations.
“I’m self-funded and started with literally £70 worth of beads,” Ms. Steed-Middleton said of her initial $85 worth of supplies, adding that the company now has 11 workers, mostly part-timers, who create 3,000 to 5,000 straps a month. The Tings are priced from about $40 to $185.
Last year the company made more than £1 million in sales, she said, adding that, since its inception, String Tings has donated more than £35,000 to refugee, homeless and individual cause charities, including the Spring Community Hub in South East London, Care4Calais and Choose Love.
During the interview, Ms. Steed-Middleton gave an informal video tour of the office in the South London neighborhood of Camberwell, even though the company was moving to a larger space in Camberwell this month. The office had an area for beadwork; stacks of blue boxes, to store completed Tings; and an area for shipping preparation. There was also an appearance by her dog, a fluffy Havanese pup named Nike, who is featured on the glittery stickers that come free with each Ting order.
Tings feature materials such as Swarovski crystals and Miyuki beads in acrylic, glass and resin (Ms. Steed-Middleton visited one of Miyuki’s factories in Japan in 2022). The pieces are strung by hand on satin cord and “if it breaks, we will restring it for you,” she said.
The best sellers, Ms. Steed-Middleton said, include the Midnight Request Line, an all-black combination of small beads and puffy hearts (which Rosé of Blackpink has). And while the business started with wrist straps, the company now offers cross-body Tings that are 65 centimeters (almost 26 inches) long, along with beaded bracelets.
As for gifting, she said, “there really is a Ting for everyone in your life.”
The company also has several collaborations, such as the limited-edition Esther Bunny look from the Korean American artist Esther Kim. Introduced in October, it includes a quirky bow and flower charm, and comes in pink, purple and white color schemes.
Ms. Steed-Middleton said she still really enjoyed making Tings. “It’s nice and fun to see how people use them, the different ways that they pair them with phone cases and with their outfits and how it becomes part of their persona,” she said. “It’s just quite fun.”