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Inspiration Point: Costume Drama

For fashion jewelers, confidence — rather than the runway — rules.

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Special Issue
WWD Accessory issue 08/15/2011

After dominating the runways in a major way, beginning in 2008, bodacious baubles receded a bit due in part to a minimal movement. Yes, a statement necklace or cuff still exists (especially from the likes of Oscar de la Renta or Yves Saint Laurent) but not to the same degree. “There isn’t the excess like there once was,” says Alexis Bittar. One might think that the costume jewelry industry would have taken a hit, but, according to these leaders, that’s far from the case.

This story first appeared in the August 15, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Alexis Bittar: “Minimalism is key right now, but the total swing back to 1990s Calvin Klein-rooted minimalism is not going to happen. The consumer isn’t going to stop buying because she didn’t see it on the runway. What happens on the runway doesn’t affect me at all. My work has to be done when [the fashion designers’] is done because we launch in September when they do.”

Pamela Love: “Thematically the runway has an impact, but I’m not looking at jewelry on the runway to see what’s happening. I do a presentation every season, much like a clothing designer, but this year I showed my first resort and pre-fall seasons. The buyers were the ones asking for additional seasons.”

Justin Giunta: “The runway doesn’t affect my work at all, even when I do collaborations. You find that you are working from the same inspiration point as designers, whether it’s Rachel Roy or J. Mendel. It’s a synergy thing.”

Karen Erickson, Erickson Beamon: “We were born from the catwalk in 1983, but the bulk of business isn’t because of the runway. I would say maybe it’s 10 percent of what we do. There is no reason women need to chase Phoebe Philo. It may be the barest of times, but our shop is still full of jewelry, and what our women want is more, more and more.”

Roxanne Assoulin, Lee Angel: “Women may not be wearing 14 pounds of jewelry like they were in 2008, but they’re still wearing it. I do five seasons a year and the buyers always want more. What do they say, it’s 2 percent of the world that buys runway? We’ve got the whole other 98 percent of the world going on here.”

Paige Novick: “Costume jewelry has evolved aesthetically. Even though it is a minimal time, the fine jewelry customer is looking for something to fill the gap between traditional costume and fine because the prices of gold have gone through the roof. I’m [developing] my collection so it fills this new space.”

Dana Lorenz, Fenton/Fallon: “It’s hard not to be influenced by the runway. There’s a natural flow where things become a little bit affected by what’s happening, like with minimalism. Things become more streamlined and we react by making things more streamlined. Buyers are responding to the runway, and they’re looking to see an inspiration that their customers can relate to.”

Danielle Snyder, Dannijo: “Minimalism didn’t affect us [during the fall market] in a negative way from a business or branding standpoint. Even though jewelry wasn’t all over the shows, we were still able to collaborate with Vena Cava and Bibhu Mohapatra. We even did our very own New York fashion week presentation.”

Anton Heunis: “I watch the runways, but it’s not something that I consciously follow. What I do see is the trends that get carried over for more than one season. Now there’s a minimalist moment happening. You can see that fashion is going in a certain direction, but you can’t follow it blindly. I learned how to adjust. It’s not just about a piece, it’s taking something and making it accessible.”

Lisa Salzer, Lulu Frost:
“Because statement necklaces went away for a bit, it gave us the opportunity to be more creative with what we do. We have this signature style, the 100-year necklace. Each piece uses elements from 1860 through 1960, so it’s this tour of costume jewelry history on one necklace. It has a concept. Even though the market was and is saturated with statement necklaces, there’s a way to do it now so it’s a lot more fun and intellectual, a conversation piece.”

Kara Ross: “If I were paying attention to the runway  I’d be way behind the eight ball, instead of ahead of it. Fashion jewelry became statement because of the price of gold; people wanted to work in lesser metals. A lot of people tried to get into it if they weren’t in it. That’s what we saw in 2008. Luckily, we were ahead of that. I’ve always been doing it. As a jeweler, I can’t be affected by the shows, I just have to do my work.”

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