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From metal to artistic embroidery, new accessories designers are working in a wide variety of mediums.
This story first appeared in the October 18, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Backstory: It’s quite nice when a hobby can turn into a career, as Nicole Whisenhunt found with her embroidered jewelry collection. The American-born Whisenhunt’s art and design interest was piqued while taking art history and color theory courses along with her Consular of Diplomatic Affairs studies in the Philippines, from which she draws her inspiration. “My work translates concepts through the overall character of the collection, by using colors, materials, patterns or techniques that I feel best project how I want to interpret the motif,” explains Whisenhunt.
The collection: “Embroidery has no boundaries,” she says. “We have executed pieces using materials such as brass, exotic skin, semiprecious stones, pearls, crystals, laces, chains, everything” on pieces ranging from earrings, neck pieces, cuffs and rings to belts and vests, all produced in the Philippines. In the future, Whisenhunt is looking to expand the brand into bags, bridal accessories and even coats.
The stats: The collection wholesales from $115 to $1,100 and is available at vivre.com.
Elisabeth Bell Jewelry
Backstory: Growing up on a farm in Connecticut and taking care of orphaned and injured animals at the local Audubon Society inspired Beth Kaltman’s love of nature, and even after a stint of modeling for, among others, Tommy Hilfiger, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s, that hasn’t changed. “I was always inspired by the beauty around me,” explains Kaltman. “The woods, the animals, the harmony you feel with nature. This line is a way for me to stay connected to the pure world that I grew up in. It is also a reminder of a world that exists outside of our own.”
Kaltman began designing jewelry with macaroni necklaces before graduating to friendship bracelets and eventually working with druzy agate before enrolling at the Jewelry Arts Institute in New York and studying under Bessie Jamieson, who created the jewelry replicas in the Metropolitan Museum of Art store.
Collection: Produced in California, the pendants are exact replicas — in 14-karat yellow, rose, white gold, black oxidized sterling silver and platinum — of claws and talons of animals including a peregrine falcon, great horned owl, wolf, Komodo dragon, leopard and African lion, some with pavé diamonds, and come on leather cords.
Stats: Wholesale prices range from $75 to $1,000 and the collection is available at ElisabethBellJewelry.com.
Mods & Rockers
Backstory: Former employees of Judith Leiber, Geraldine Morley and Yana Ostrova, who worked as creative director and design director, respectively, wanted to design a collection for the “chic urban woman” that plays off the juxtaposition of the contrasting Sixties pop-culture movements that make up their name, Mods & Rockers. “We loved the idea of combining two contrasting ideas into one unique look,” explains Morley. “Handbags that could be luxurious, made with the finest material and still be fun are very important to us.” The bags themselves are playfully named after the designers’ favorite songs, including David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel,” Blondie’s “Rapture” and Hot Chocolate’s “You Sexy Thing.”
The Collection: Seven evening bags in structured shapes that are very Mod in their minimalist lines come in a variety of materials that give them their edge, including Swarovski-studded suede and metallic Ayer snakeskin. There are plans to expand to larger styles next season.
The Stats: Wholesale prices range from $395 to $895, and the duo is targeting specialty stores in city markets, along with e-commerce.
Backstory: On their first business trip together, designers Sofia Casares and Alejandra Albarran happened upon a beautiful villa outside Milan and had to stop. When they knocked on the door, it was answered by Alessa Casati, a relative of Luisa, Marchesa Casati, an heiress, celebrated eccentric and fashion icon, and, after hours of conversation, the brand was named. Wanting to preserve and support the artisan craftsmanship in their native country of Mexico, Casares and Albarran set up shop in the small town of San Cristóbal, where the Mazahuas Indians knit the accessories. “Every piece of the collection is made by Mexican artisans who have the knowledge of centuries. What we are trying to do is use their great talent and apply it to modern and innovative design,” explain the designers.
The collection: Organic cotton and metal are woven in a variety of styles including bibs, vests and a poncho. These pieces are sold separately or over a cotton T-shirt.
The stats: Wholesale prices range from $79 to $182 and will be sold at Curve.
Backstory: For many years, designer Amy Berardi launched luxury European brands in Latin America for LVMH, the last being Kenzo. During her travels marketing other collections, Berardi was taken by the quality of shoes she came across in Brazil. “So I was inspired to do something different, and this time around I wanted to create a brand made in Brazil for American women,” explains Berardi. “I suppose it is my way of giving back to Brazil.” An exhaustive search found a manufacturing partner up in the mountains, where the collection is produced under the local Footwear Union’s “Amanhã Mais Feliz,” or “A Happier Tomorrow.” It has a recycling program, through which 68 percent of residual by-products are made into reusable products, with the rest stored under strict standards.
The Collection: “I want my shoes to reflect confidence, vivaciousness, savviness…traits which I find to be the most endearing of the Brazil woman,” says Berardi. There are styles of shoes ranging from embellished fish-skin ballet flats and d’orsays to color-blocked and mixed textures on stacked pyramid heels and bovine leather sandals, all using chrome-free vegetable dyes.
The Stats: Wholesale prices range from $65 to $166, and the shoes are being sold by Showroom 212 in New York.