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Wendy Nichol Expands Into Fine Jewelry

After designing a few custom engagement and wedding bands for friends, the designer said a fine collection felt like a natural progression.

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Wendy Nichol placed a leather crown atop her long hair while her Scottish Fold cat, named Tiny Lou — the unofficial mascot of Nichol’s SoHo boutique and atelier, and a perfect foil to the designer’s witchy aesthetic — watched from a careful distance. The adjustable and reversible crowns, which range from $275 to $375, are part of Nichol’s new accessories offering for fall, which includes a foray into fine jewelry.

This story first appeared in the August 5, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“Sometimes I wear new things around just to see what people’s reactions are. And when I wear the crown, people are very taken aback, but I think it’s in a good way,” said the Toronto-born, New York-based designer, whose namesake brand counts Jessica Alba and Jemima Kirke as fans. Since its launch in 2007, the designer has quietly opened two boutiques in New York and continues to steadily grow her clothing and accessories brand.

Nichol’s main jewelry line, comprised of silver, brass and bronze pieces starting at $250, is what initially put her on the map. The self-taught designer created her first piece — a pyramid bracelet — right after her daughter was born. “I would have [my daughter Sofia] in the stroller with me, and I would be like, ‘Come on, we’re going to the jewelry district,’” she said. “I think our jewelry is what we’re known for.”

After designing a few custom engagement and wedding bands for friends, Nichol’s fine collection felt like a natural progression. “I found a third-generation stone setter — his father and grandfather both set for Van Cleef & Arpels,” she said. “Having that resource allowed me to make the pavé collection happen.”

The collection of micro-pavé rings and earrings ranges in price from $850 to $5,000, though earrings can be purchased singularly or as a pair, bringing down the entry price point. Nichol used predominantly black diamonds, her personal favorite, as well as white and champagne, set in 18-karat rose, yellow and white gold as well as platinum and rhodium. Inspiration came from Masonic symbolism, astrological planets and Greek mythology. The collection features her signature pyramid shapes as well as Venus, Sun, Moon and Mercury symbols. “And then, of course, I made a pair of cat ears,” Nichol laughed.

The collection will launch at Barneys New York and Net-a-porter.com this fall and is available now at the designer’s SoHo and NoLIta boutiques in New York as well as online at wendynicholnyc.com.

Nichol’s core collection of leather handbags, which she handmakes with an in-house design team, continues to evolve each season. “Our Bullet Bag, hands down, is our bestseller. We always joke about it — if we cut a black Bullet Bag, it’s usually sold before the bag is done being made,” Nichol said. For fall, the brand’s classic bag shapes were reimagined with updated detailing, like an embroidered Eye of Horus design. A studded version of the Bullet Bag sold out in two days on Net-a-porter.

Next on the horizon could be footwear. Nichol offers a selection of vintage shoes exclusively in her shops; a towering pair of vintage Vivienne Westwood booties, priced at $1,500, perfectly meld with the brand’s Gothic-bohemian aesthetic, with lower-priced options starting at $195. “I would want the shoes to be in the same spirit of my leather goods, with New York City-based production and a real handcrafted element,” she said.

For now, the designer and her team are busy with jewelry, handbags, small leather goods and a tight collection of ready-to-wear, the latter of which is available exclusively at her boutiques and e-commerce site.

“One successful thing you can do as a designer is make something with longevity,” Nichol said. “Because it’s frustrating when you buy something and it’s not relevant [a few seasons later]. That’s really what I’m going for: to create products that have longevity.”

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