Swanky Belts

Nancy Zylstra wants to “dress every woman from head to toe,” and with her line of fashion accessories, she can do just that for every Fairfield County woman (and man). 

Seven years ago, when Zylstra’s two daughters were becoming more self-sufficient, she knew she wanted to give her life a jump-start, so she returned to the field she had worked in: fashion. Zylstra started her business as Swanky Belts from the loft space above the garage at her Fairfield home.

Buoyed by her friends’ and family’s admiration of her designs, Zylstra recognized the need for beautiful accessories in the women’s market and decided to start her first line.

Her mainstay belt buckles showcase an ornamental piece such as a cross, fish or horse, which is heavily gold-plated and then set into a background of semiprecious stones. Belt straps are made using imported leathers, and then all her products are made by hand in the United States. The result is a classic but modern and versatile accessory.

She has cyclical workers to help her fulfill orders during busy times; otherwise it’s a one-woman operation. Her belts may be found throughout Fairfield County boutiques, the Hamptons, New York City, Florida, and the Cape. She also does a lot of business in the Caribbean and with the Ritz Carlton Boutiques.

Her main focus has always been on the buckle, and she began with just basic brown and black leather straps. Today, her office has a rainbow of colors to choose from with all the season’s hottest shade trends, including distressed black and pewter.

A customer shopping on a budget can start with one classic buckle and strap, then purchase extra pieces over time, since all buckles and belts are interchangeable. Some much-loved and collected classics include the cross buckle paired with a basic black strap for a casual look, which can then be interchanged with a brightly hued strap for an entirely different look tied to the season.

“They’re like a piece of jewelry — jewelry for your waist. They’re not mass-produced."