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In the past decade, Dean Harris has gone from fledgling jewelry designer to an award winner. Now he’s taking his business to another level with a deal with Target and expansion into e-commerce.
This story first appeared in the August 20, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Harris — who is known for creating organic jewelry combining traditional gemstones such as rough-hewn tourmalines and diamonds with unexpected materials like fossilized pinecones and ammonites coated in pyrite — sells his fine jewelry to stores such as Barneys New York, Mario’s in Seattle, Jeffrey in New York and Max’s three locations in Colorado. The line for Target is not a departure aesthetically for Harris, but is a new price point for the New York-based designer.
Harris’ signature collection, handmade by him and a few artisans in his Manhattan studio, is in 18-karat gold and sells from $450 for a simple gold ring in his vine-like signature style to $39,000 for a brown diamond ring in red gold.
The Dean Harris for Target collection, which hits stores this week, ranges from $19.99 for Heart Vine earrings to $249.99 for a Double Oval Vine necklace. The Dean Harris for Target collection will be in Target stores until Dec. 26. While he is the third jewelry designer — after Dominique Cohen and Subversive’s Justin Giunta — to create a line for the big-box retailer, he is the first to use precious metals such as sterling silver. Target is also testing its highest-priced fashion item with his $249.99 necklace.
“Everyone is a little scared of the economy right now,” said Harris, who also designed the packaging and displays for the Target collection. “I see the situation as an invitation to create better-quality pieces that are affordable.”
Coming from a career in costuming for TV and later fashion public relations, Harris never saw himself as a jeweler. But he took a shot at designing on his own and took several classes on jewelry making. The result was being awarded the Council of Fashion Designers of America Perry Ellis Award for best new accessories designer in 2000 and he was also a finalist for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2004. He counts Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz as fans of the line.
“I believe that anything could be jewelry,” said Harris of his ongoing hunt for materials. “It’s an adventure. I’m always intrigued by what I find, things that are unusual.”
The e-commerce component on his Deanharris.net launches this month and will feature special styles and limited editions that are not available through his wholesale accounts.
Harris anticipates that both the Target and e-commerce initiatives will boost the firm’s sales and brand awareness, but was unable to quantify the specific increase in sales.
He said the Barneys New York customer shops at Target and won’t be put off by his doing a line with the mass merchant.
Harris is also collaborating with Derek Lam on jewelry for his spring runway show in New York next month. In the past, he has collaborated with the likes of Marc Jacobs, Doo Ri and Ralph Rucci.
“His work has a clean modern organic feel with the use of interesting stones,” said Stephanie Lee, buyer for fine jewelry and watches at Barneys New York. “Dean has always been a leader in working with interesting raw stones with an organic edge.”