VENICE BEACH, Calif. — If her parents hadn't pushed her, Irene Neuwirth might still be teaching horseback riding instead of designing jewelry that sells for tens of thousands of dollars.
"All I ever wanted to do was ride horses," said the 32-year-old Neuwirth, who was once ranked fourth in the nation in her division. "But I was making like $9,000 a year and my dad said, 'Find something else that you love.' Now he jokes that I'm the breadwinner."
Eight years ago, Neuwirth began beading as a creative outlet and sent a package of 10 necklaces to Barneys New York with a magic marker note that read, "Hope you love it." The store subsequently placed an order and Neuwirth's goods became bestsellers. Two years later, Neuwirth got a financial partner and began to grow her business.
"Sales quadrupled the first year, and have been doubling ever since," she said of her company, now six years old.
She began taking metalworking classes and learned how to carve wax molds, skills that allowed her to move beyond beading to create chains and pavé diamond settings for her natural stones. Each of Neuwirth's pieces is based on groups of single-colored stones that she allows to dictate the direction of her designs.
For fall, she's especially taken with pale green opaque chrysophase, rose of France amethyst and boulder opal. Large, rose-cut diamonds also play into the collection.
For the most part, Neuwirth sets her stones in matte 18-karat yellow gold, which lends a modern feel to the long cabachon chains, bangles and cocktail rings. She's also started to incorporate micro pavé-set diamonds into her pieces, whether they're covering a ring made from a flat, irregular boulder opal or delicately framing the petals of flower-shaped earrings. Platinum is used sparingly, while rose gold is a favorite.
Wholesale prices range from $1,500 to $10,000 and up. Neuwirth designs about 40 new pieces each season, but keeps classics such as the cabochon chains and the flat gold hanging earrings in her collection.
"It's important not to throw out everything, especially since my customers like to mix pieces from different seasons and they'll look for a particular style again," she said.Last November, the 12-person company moved into a 4,200-square-foot townhouse in Venice Beach, the artsy enclave where Neuwirth grew up — she still lives three blocks away.
Neuwirth's contemporaries include other independent jewelers such as Renee Lewis, Devon Paige McCleary, Dean Harris and Yossi Harrari. While she personally pounds the pavement to get each new account, Neuwirth believes it's earned her loyalty with her stores.
"Retailers have taken risks on me, but it's had a spiraling up effect," she said.
Women buying for themselves make up 99 percent of Neuwirth's customer base because her pieces have such a fashion-meets-luxe appeal.
"Men tend to not want to spend $17,000 on a necklace without a diamond," she said.
In this, her fourth year at Couture, Neuwirth says she's happy to add just one new store with each show.
"I'm in 29 stores now, and I'd be happy to stay that way and grow those relationships," she said of her accounts such as Jeffrey in New York, Elaine 23 in Dallas and Meridien Jewelers in Aspen, Colo. "But I finally feel like I'm ready to grow internationally."
EXCLUSIVE: @tomford is opening its first-ever beauty store. The boutique, which opens November 20 in London’s Covent Gardens, was designed with the over-the-top glam Ford is known for. Read the full story on WWD.com, link in bio. #wwdbeauty #wwdnews (📷: Simon Wagner) #TomFordBeauty
New York-based DJ @harleyvnewton threw a party to celebrate the holiday collection of her dress and pajama line @hvn at the Ladurée Beverly Hills. It Girls @katebosworth, @rashidajones and more joined in on the fun, which included cocktails, croque monsieur sandwiches and a photo booth. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA.com)
For the holidays, @Burberry partnered with 20-year-old artist @blondeymccoy on a series of three outdoor murals in downtown Manhattan. The murals are McCoy’s interpretation of a Christmas eve party, the idea of charity and the spirit of family. His third mural, pictured here, is the most personal. The image depicts McCoy’s grandparents and father in London’s Trafalgar Square in the Seventies. “My work often features lots of sentimental objects.” #wwdeye
For spring 2018, designers applied bold colors and cartoonish motifs on everything from sneakers and belts to key chains. See all the top men’s accessories trends on WWD.com. #wwdtrends (📷: George Chinsee; Prop Styling by @rnasti; Market Editor: @luiscampuzano)
The @dior-sponsored @guggenheim international gala pre-party has a history of drawing cool-girl musical acts to serenade the crowd –– and last night was no exception. @haimtheband performed songs both new and old, and lured a star-studded audience with the likes of Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Mamoudou Athie and more. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
In a partnership between the @metopera and the @englishnationalopera, “Marnie” was born. The opera, with costumes sponsored by @mrporterlive, is an adaptation of the 1961 thriller by Winston Graham. Arianne Phillips, who created the costumes, is no rookie: She’s styled Madonna for her tours and created costumes for a myriad of films in the past. Read WWD’s interview with Phillips, where she talks about her inspiration for the opera’s costumes on WWD.com #wwdfashion
@barneysnyc took a different approach to their holiday windows this year. Instead of Christmas decor, Barneys tapped @thehaasbrothers to tell a story of positivity, gratitude and inclusivity via heartwarming silliness and humor. “It’s about kids and it’s about coming together and being family and loving each other,” said Simon Haas. #wwdfashion (📷: @joshuascottphoto)
Beauty influencer @kandeejohnson makes her foray into hair care with a collaboration with @ogx_beauty — making it the first time that OGX has teamed up for a product creation. The collab includes shampoos and conditioners in three scents. At 39 and a mom, Johnson is a different profile than the emerging social media stars, but is considered one of the pioneers of the digital beauty influencer world. Read WWD’s interview with her on wwd.com, including the strangest beauty product she’s ever tried #wwdbeauty