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WWD A issue 07/19/2010

All In the Details

This story first appeared in the July 19, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.


As an architect, Los Angeles native Elena Coleman was always focused on the tiniest details, a trait that would serve her well in her second career as a jewelry designer.


“I’m obsessed with geometry and angles and I love making models,” Coleman said.


After working for architecture firm Marmol Radziner in Los Angeles, Coleman moved to New York, where she worked at Roman and Williams. During her spare time, she began making necklaces from vintage chains, which landed in the online newsletter Daily Candy.


“All of a sudden, stores were calling to place orders,” said Coleman. “Eventually, I knew I had to choose.”


Coleman took jewelry-making classes to supplement the soldering, water-jet and laser-jet cutting skills she acquired in architecture school and moved back to Los Angeles last year, where she launched her first TomTom collection for spring. The fall line has evolved from a feminine layered look into bold yet light metal pieces inspired by Pre-Colombian and Mayan warrior armor, body paint and pyramids. The geometric pieces come in gunmetal, brass, oxidized silver or 18-karat gold-plated silver finishes, some accented with wood and dark crystals. The collar necklaces are pieced together individually to allow each part to lie comfortably on the body and have a sense of movement.


“They are statement pieces, but they are also very easy to wear,” Coleman added. Retail prices range from $90 to $350. Tomtom is available at Ten Over Six, Milk and Vieve in Los Angeles; Wva, Old Hollywood and Hayden-Harnett in New York, and Selfridges in London.


Marcy Medina


Next: Reviving the art of passementerie >>

Anna e Alex’s Artisanal Approach


They may have spent their formative years, professionally speaking, at one of the world’s most famous jewelers, but when Alessandra Sales and Anna Neri decided to set up their own business, Anna e Alex, they looked far beyond precious gems.


Sales, a former external relations director at Bulgari, and Neri, a former international marketing coordinator at the luxury jeweler, chose instead to focus on traditional artisanal techniques such as passementerie and materials like vintage crystal drops, semiprecious stones and Murano glass beads.


“To us, luxury is about having an authentic piece made by artisans,” Sales said.


Much of the Anna e Alex collection is based on passementerie, the art of making ornamental trimmings from braid and cord. Over the centuries, passementerie was traditionally used for home furnishings — such as chandeliers, lamps or sofas — and is still used to make the gold braiding for military uniforms and embellishments for couture clothing.


Sales and Neri rely on small workshops near their Rome design studio to do the passementerie work, which they later embellish with gold, silver or beading. Their color palette is bright and varied, using some 300 shades, including 25 different reds, and will personalize designs for customers.


The jewelry sells on the company’s Web site, annaealex.com, and through about 70 retailers in Europe, including Luisa via Roma in Florence, Spazio Del Cima in Milan and Eleven Monte Carlo in Monaco. This summer, they began testing Anna e Alex in the U.S. at Carleen Ligozio in Southampton, N.Y., and Laureen Gabrielson in Sag Harbor, N.Y.


Prices range from 180 euros, or $225 at current exchange, for a pair of earrings, to 600 euros, or $750, for a customized necklace. Sales and Neri, who founded the company in 2006, recently opened a showroom in Milan on Via del Gesù and are looking to expand internationally over the next few years.

— Samantha Conti


Next: Inspirations from medieval Sweden >>

Chain Reaction


Designer Fannie Schiavoni, known for her line of tough body jewelry and accessories, might have been based in London for the past five years, but she still draws inspiration from her hometown, the Swedish island of Gotland.


The techniques she’s used to work up her collection of chain-mail gloves, capes made from metal feathers and cagelike body adornments are modeled on the methods used by a museum in Gotland that re-creates the armor medieval soldiers wore when the island was invaded by Denmark in the 14th century.


While she may be looking to the past for inspiration, her fans are decidedly modern. Lady Gaga was shot for the British music magazine Q this year wearing piles of Schiavoni’s chain-mail necklaces and body harnesses, and the designer has also made pieces for Rihanna, including the chain-mail leggings and harness the singer wears in her “Rockstar 101” music video.


“It’s really interesting when you see how [artists] wear the pieces,” said Schiavoni, who studied fashion design technology at the London College of Fashion. “When [the collection] is onstage, it comes to life. The chains have a great gravity to them and they drape really well.”


Alongside accessorizing pop divas, Schiavoni is also working on her own spring collection, which she plans to show during London Fashion Week in September, after receiving sponsorship from the British Fashion Council’s New Generation support project.


“I’m experimenting with electrolyzing — when you color aluminum using electricity,” said Schiavoni, who noted that her studio resembles a workshop more than an artsy designer’s space. “I don’t have a jewelry education, so it’s always an experiment.”


Schiavoni has also added a line of men’s necklaces and gloves for fall.


— Nina Jones


Next: Wearable weaponry >>

Bullets, Spikes & Things Not Nice


A traveler was stopped under the suspicion of transporting “replica bullets” across state lines upon going through airport security recently. Scores of TSA officers, the performance of a residue test and 10 minutes of explaining later, she was free to go. The ammo in question: Assad Mounser’s Space Oddity Necklace.


Designed by Amanda Assad, the necklace is riddled with multilayered chains, studs, bullets and agate slices. “Everything that I’ve been doing has this rock ‘n’ roll edge,” said Assad. “That’s why you see the bullets and spikes come into play, which also fall into the military trend, but for this season, I made it about the women behind the glam-rock gods.”


These include the Veruschka Collar, a $195 silver chain necklace with stainless steel bullets and black arrowheads with military colored pearls, and the Hall Cuff, a $119 silver-plated bracelet with rounded hammered spikes, gunmetal pearls and white leather gems.


Dana Lorenz of Fenton and Fallon has a well-documented affinity for spikes, too. “I’ve used spikes every season, but this time we actually soldered them onto the pieces and the ends of chains so they were more rigid and stand on end,” said Lorenz. “Spikes are a really pure shape in terms of geometry and we use a lot of pyramids, too — the square-but-triangular shape. It’s an easy way to give something a bit more structure and a more geometric feeling, but also be punk and very street at the same time.”


The Vanishing Micro Spike Ring wholesales for $55 and the Crystallized-Swarovski elements and brass Vieuphoria Bib is $145.


“I’m very peaceful,” said Gia Bahm, founder and designer of unearthen, whose four-year-old brand is centered around necklaces created from rock crystals such as amethyst, topaz, green tourmaline and spider quartz paired with vintage-looking bullet casings.


Bahm said it was a visit to a crystal store in New Hope, Pa., that peaked her interest in raw crystals. “I think it’s a destructive thing, a bullet, and it’s violent, and being able to make it into something that’s not by taking a raw crystal to it is changing it into something that’s beautiful and peaceful,” she said. Necklaces start at about $155, and a small gold quartz necklace, created from a 22-caliber bullet casing, a 14-karat gold chain and a piece of quartz soldered to it, wholesales for $175.


For Dannijo’s Danielle and Jodie Snyder, the collections they conceptualize and design draw on their own personalities. “Jodie is classic and sophisticated and i’m a little more rock ‘n’ roll and bohemian,” said Danielle. “The rocker edginess comes through in my aesthetic. Our pieces aren’t weaponry, but they have this slightly bold aggressive feel.”


For fall, the duo’s pieces have an urban-warrior vibe, such as gunmetals, oxidized silvers, little spikes on bracelets and stackable cuffs with entangled mini chains. Prices range from $38 for a ring to $385 for an elaborate necklace, but the majority of the collection hovers around $88 to $258.


Meredith Kahn, founder of Made Her Think, used to incorporate a plethora of swords, daggers and “things you could actually kill with” into her pieces, but she now sticks to designing pieces that are more defensive in nature.


“My pieces are more protective against what a weapon would do,” she said. “I do things that are more on the defense, more armor and shields. I think that as a culture we’re extremely violent and because of the media and the press it’s been glamorized. People pay attention to it more and I’m not violent. I’m not into that.”


Made Her Think is comprised of three lines with varying price points: fine semiprecious, contemporary and the higher end Black Label that’s just two seasons old. While the contemporary rhodium Blade Ring or Pistol Guard Cuff are $55 and $85, the Double Knuckle Helmut from the Black Label – a pave ring covered in rough cut diamonds – is $2,400.


Rachel Strugatz

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