‘Knockout’ Founder Kate Davis Discusses Self-Defense, Female Empowerment
By Lauren Johnson
I’ll never forget the time I got my first job in high school, working at a Jamba Juice in a large, popular, busy mall in suburban Orange County, California. It wasn’t exactly memorable for the fact that I came home smelling like a produce store, or for the hours spent washing blenders and taking orders from impatient customers. Rather, I remember it for the first moment I became fully cognizant of my need to be aware, and the implications of not being aware. Before my first late-night shift, my dad sat me down and talked to me about different self-defense tricks that I would need as a young woman who would be walking to her car after 10pm in a deserted, empty parking lot. Many women can identify with the feeling – the “put your keys between your fingers and keep them balled up in a sharp-edged fist by your side,” the “call me when you walk to your car,” the “lock your doors as soon as you get in and don’t sit idle” talks.
New York City-based jewelry designer Kate Davis had exactly these conversations in mind when she designed her stunning, sleek, minimalist line of “Knockout” rings. Boasting a “collection of rings designed with self-defense in mind — each with an elegantly versatile edge that transitions from sleek to sharp in an instant,” Knockout rings come in a variety of shapes and styles that can complement any wardrobe.
I recently had the chance to sit down with Knockout’s effervescent founder and creator to discuss the inspiration behind Knockout, her experience with jewelry design, and the challenges of being a female entrepreneur.
Q: How and when did you first get into jewelry-making?
Kate: I have loved making jewelry since I took a jewelry-making class, using beads, in 1st grade with a teacher who encouraged and inspired creativity, but I officially started making jewelry in early 2015. My friend and I took a wax carving class in Brooklyn, and I fell in love with the physicality of the medium. After working at a computer all day, it is a gift to be able to work with my hands without a screen in front of me. We live in such a virtual world, but there is something within each of us that responds well to doing work with our hands.
Q: How does the process of wax carving work?
Kate: First, I make the piece in wax, carving it by hand. My caster then uses the “lost wax process” to surround the wax in plaster, melt out the wax, and fill the vacant space with metal. From there, the piece can be filed, polished, and made into a mold.
Q: What inspired you to make Knockout – a jewelry line specifically dedicated to women’s self-defense rings? Can you explain Knockout’s “origin story”?
Kate: Initially I just made rings for myself. I loved the creative process and the architectural shapes I was able to bring to life. When my friends started asking for their own, though, I began to think about what I was doing as a real business. Through wearing the rings myself and conversations with my friends, I started to realize that the rings were making us all feel more confident and empowered – not just as fashion statements, but also as ready tools for self-defense if needed. That’s when the light bulb went off in my head that I can make something of beauty that takes the place of keys held between fingers at night. I know the rings hit home when I see photos on Instagram of women (and some men!) wearing the rings all the time. And by that I really mean all the time, day through night, every day. I can’t tell you how much I love seeing that.
Q: How do you choose the designs for Knockout rings? Do you consult any self-defense experts, or is it purely the fact that getting “knocked out” with a pointed metal object could do some serious damage? Can you explain your different designs and the purpose/function behind each one? Are some to be used differently than others?
Kate: For the first three rings (TKO Jab, and Hook), I sat down with wax and made shapes that I loved. The idea is that the sharp edge, if needed, would provide a quick shock that would give someone time to get out of a bad situation. It’s not meant as a fighting tool, but as something to empower the wearer who can move through the day with some added confidence.
Q: Have you heard any stories of women having to actually use the rings in self-defense?
Kate: Luckily not, but I’m not in touch with all of the buyers who wear the rings. Of course if any Knockout customer has any questions about how to use the rings, the door is always open, and you can email us at email@example.com. We’re thinking about making how-to videos down the line, as well!
Q: What challenges, if any, have you faced as a creative entrepreneur? How about as a creative female entrepreneur?
Kate: Great question. I think I really had to prove myself to others as not just a hobbyist, but as a creator. Because I didn’t formally study jewelry, I have been learning a lot about the business side through the process. How to manage my records, where to get the pieces made, what costs are reasonable, how much to charge for something that I made, and where to try to sell them are some of the key questions I’ve come up against. It’s a fascinating moment to be a female entrepreneur because I think people are opening their eyes to how powerful women can be and how important it is to have female voices at the table. I see women coming together in really amazing ways to support each other and collaborate. Recently I did a photoshoot with photographer Lara Callahan and model Whitney Madueke, both of whom I connected with on Instagram. I had nails done at Chillhouse, which the awesome Cyndi Ramirez founded, and the final photos were spectacular. I also think talking with men about the brand is important because men need to hear about the experiences of women feeling uneasy walking home alone at night or going somewhere unfamiliar. My brand and these conversations are just a starting point for changing that reality for women, but it will hopefully empower and open some important lines of communication between men and women, so we can discuss these issues openly.
Q: What – and who – inspires you?
Kate: I have so many inspirations! People who inspire others through their work are incredible. I have a particular affinity for fitness professionals like Nike trainer Ashley Guarrasi, who empower women and present a really healthy and powerful self image. I love seeing brands that give back, and that inspires me to do the same. A portion of all my sales goes to SAVI (Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention) at Mount Sinai, and they inspire me as both a designer and a person. When someone is assaulted and goes to the ER, a trained volunteer comes to stay with that survivor for the duration of the time to be there with that person in whatever capacity necessary, whether it is to listen, be present, or to explain any questions or requests from doctors, police, etc. They do incredible work with survivors, and are comprised primarily of highly trained volunteers (in addition to their core staff).
Q: Do you have plans to expand Knockout into other types of jewelry? (necklaces, earrings, etc)
Kate: I am thrilled to share that three new styles just dropped. They are titled Strike, Edge, and V. My next step is to venture into earrings, which will have similar styles to the rings. They won’t have the same functionality of the rings, but the aesthetic will work well with the architectural component of the brand.
Q: What can we expect to see from Knockout in the future? What are your goals for Knockout, as both a product and a brand?
Kate: My dream for Knockout is to venture into the self-defense realm and co-host events with trainers to teach self-defense classes geared towards women. Krav Maga offers self-defense classes for women, but there are very few places that appear in a Google search that provide these classes in New York at the level of a Soul Cycle or Rumble Boxing. I want women, femmes, and anyone else who wants to feel empowered to have the tools to feel confident and powerful. There will definitely be more rings, and I would love to include some self-defense tips from professionals in my branding. Also, giving back is fundamentally important to me, so I want to keep selling rings, giving to SAVI, and finding ways to partner with amazing organizations with a similar mission.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
Kate: I love connecting with our amazing Knockout customers and supporters – we couldn’t do it without you! Please continue showing us how you rock your rings by tagging us on Instagram @knockout.nyc. Our DM inbox is always open for any questions or feedback.
To browse Kate’s online shop and purchase your own Knockout ring, click here.