Q&A: Karen Erickson of Erickson Beamon

Since launching 25 years ago, Erickson Beamon has become an international name in fashion jewelry, bedecking celebrities from Madonna to Michelle Obama.

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Since launching 25 years ago, Erickson Beamon has become an international name in fashion jewelry, bedecking celebrities from Madonna in her “Like a Prayer” phase to Michelle Obama during her speech at the Democratic National Convention. Founders Karen Erickson and Vicki Beamon are also known for linking up with major designers, such as John Galliano and Oscar de la Renta. Last week, Erickson discussed handmade beaded baubles and the looks she partnered on at Zac Posen, Tony Cohen and Anna Sui.

This story first appeared in the September 15, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

WWD: How has the fashion jewelry market changed since you began?

Karen Erickson: I think people are more educated now, it has evolved. It’s crossed over into becoming a necessity for women’s wardrobes where they use accessories to define and empower themselves. Jewelry is really important to their individuality.

WWD: What do you enjoy the most about collaborating with designers for the runway?

K.E.: The rush, the pressure, the deadlines. Show season is an exciting time of year. This is the only time I don’t need an alarm to wake me up. It’s like a first day of school.

WWD: Are certain pieces selling better than others in this economy?

K.E.: Erickson Beamon has always been a necklace house, so that’s been really strong for us consistently. But everything is doing really well. We are always targeting the international market and our international business is growing at such a rate, especially in the Middle East and Russia. But our domestic business is great, too.

WWD: Erickson Beamon dressed celebrities for decades. Now it seems like every other brand has jumped on the bandwagon. Is it still important to you?

K.E.: For us, celebrities have been wearing Erickson Beamon since our first season, so that hasn’t really changed our life that much. When you make a beautiful product, everyone who is artistic will respond to the craftsmanship and the make. We used to send things to the Rolling Stones and to [David] Bowie, so as long as there have been celebrities and we’ve been making jewelry, we’ve been dressing them.

WWD: How did Michelle Obama end up wearing your brooch during her speech at the Democratic National Convention?

K.E.: Anna Wintour had a party for Michelle. It was a Vogue fund-raiser and my daughter Mandie went and she and Michelle started talking about jewelry and about Ikram, one of the best stores in Chicago. She and Ikram are friends and I’m from Detroit, and I’m also a staunch Democrat, so we made the brooches with Michelle specifically in mind and she bought them at Ikram.

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