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WWD: You’ve been designing jewelry for nearly 30 years. Why did you now decide to venture into other categories such as eyewear?
This story first appeared in the August 4, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
David Yurman: I never think of them as other categories. It’s another form of human adornment. Where else can you adorn the body? The face, the eyes, the temples. I think it’s the new accessory — even though I hate the word accessory.
WWD: What were your inspirations for the eyewear line that launches this fall?
D.Y.: Our design apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. We wanted to fuse eyewear with jewelry. The jewelry on the glasses is our jewelry. It’s our stones, our initial designs and it works — no pun intended —within our framework.
WWD: Was fit a concern with the frames?
D.Y.: We had people on staff test it. It’s in keeping with the way we make bracelets, the way a cuff fits or the way we balance earrings. There’s not a piece that we make in our [jewelry] shop that I don’t have at least three fittings with our assistants.
WWD: Did your son, Evan, director of men’s, have input into the men’s eyewear?
D.Y.: What he did that I thought was brilliant is that there is a subtlety and classic nature to the men’s glasses that I think is cool. It’s somehow reservist. He was able to build a relationship with Zeiss [a top lens maker] and uses the lenses in all the designs, not just some. Evan is kind of a connoisseur and he’s very authentic in his choices.
WWD: Did Evan always have a liking for the family business?
D.Y.: No, no, no. He had a disliking for the business, if anything, because it took too much time away from us being around. From [ages] 10, 11, 12, he’d correct my drawings at the kitchen table. He’d have little critiques of my work. He’s always been most decisive when it comes to style. At five or six, Sybil and I had just come back from a party at Martha’s Vineyard and he’s looking at her and says “City dress, country shoes, mom.”
WWD: Do you see yourself in him?
D.Y.: He’s my clone.
WWD: What was the experience like, making a fragrance?
D.Y.: Eighty-five percent of what [Sybil and I] chose was the same family of essences. We really just kind of love the same smells and that’s where the art comes in. That part took a long time. At one point, we were thinking this isn’t going to happen: Take it up, take it down, throw it away, start again. Then the most bizarre thing: We went to a creator of scent. He read about the brand, saw our jewelry. He said, “I’m going to make a structure of a fragrance that has a certain sense of solidity, family and a complexity [like that] in the jewelry.” At the end of the day, Sybil was the ultimate design director. If we didn’t please Sybil, we’d go back to the drawing board. So it was “Did we make Sybil happy?” And it took a while.
WWD: When you started collaborating with David Lipman nearly a decade ago on an ad campaign, you stepped out of the box for a fine jewelry firm.
D.Y.: [The ad campaign] was a big financial risk. I never felt like I was just a jeweler. I came to jewelry, not from a family of jewelers, I came from making sculpture. I had these visions of things to wear and how do we make this work. I made belt buckles, I designed a compact for Estée Lauder — although they don’t remember it — 28, 29 years ago. I look at form as it relates to the body. Sybil’s the marketing genius.
WWD: The new campaign, shot indoors for the first time, is a bit of a departure for your brand.
D.Y.: It’s about portraiture. This is some of Peter’s [Lindbergh] best work. He’s a great portrait artist. I have a head shot and it’s a great shot. We were shooting Ed Burns and Peter said, “Put a shirt on, let’s take a shot.” Then he said, “This is the ad.” He was serious. [But it turned out not to be the image for the campaign.]
WWD: Would you ever consider featuring yourself in the campaign?
D.Y.: No, no.
WWD: Ralph Lauren did it.
D.Y.: Did it work? I guess everyone knows who he is. I don’t think I’d like it. I have enough people that know who I am.
WWD: How is the progress going on your new Madison Avenue flagship?
D.Y.: It’s one of the ultimate luxuries to be able to look for the best architect, from retail architects to home architects. We’ve chosen someone but we haven’t signed yet, so I shouldn’t say. But this husband-and-wife team, we have the same philosophy. We’ve told them about what we do, but this is his world and we have to stand back.
WWD: Are you worried about the state of the economy?
D.Y.: Of course, we’re concerned. We’re doing amazing and it’s like, “Ooh, a challenge.” Things are twice as expensive, gold is incredibly expensive. People are being pinched, but they still want things. Life isn’t worth living if you can’t participate in the food of life.