By  on May 21, 2007

LOS ANGELES — If customers are not sure how to wear Dominique Cohen's jewelry, all they have to do is glance at her.

Casual in jeans and a silk tank during a tour of her namesake store on Robertson Boulevard here, Cohen wore floral lace 18-karat rose gold necklaces in a long strand down her stomach and doubled around her neck. A mix of rose gold bangles and chain bracelets was on her wrist, and a large cocktail ring shone on a finger.

The look, trendy as well as classic and showcasing the multiple ways the jewelry can be worn, is representative of Cohen's brand. It's also strategic, as Cohen cultivates her line with the goal of turning it into a lifestyle brand through two new stores, a deal with Target and a foray into handbags as elements of her expanding reach.

"Our selling philosophy is that there is versatility for your investment," she said. "You can mix and match your pieces and collect them over a 10-year, 20-year span. Many more women are interested now in accessories and having a handbag wardrobe and a shoe wardrobe. We want to be the jewelry wardrobe."

To help customers build that wardrobe, Cohen presents her full range in the branded stores, from earrings, starting at $600, to $35,000 custom necklaces. The Robertson Boulevard location bowed last month. Cohen had an appointment-only atelier on the same street for seven years.

A 1,250-square-foot store in Manhattan, at Madison Avenue and East 65th Street, is scheduled to open in October.

The theme of the Los Angeles space, designed with the architecture firm Studio Davis, is a modern cabinet of wonders. Monochromatic, light wood covers almost every inch of the 1,100-square-foot interior. The same wood rims jewelry cases in the center of the space, although jewelry is also encased in the walls.

"When you are displaying jewelry, visually it has to be pretty simple because you really want people to look at the jewelry individually," Cohen said. "So, we tried to keep it clean and tight."

The Manhattan store will be similarly designed.Another new venture for Cohen is leather goods. She is entering the category slowly with five to six styles for fall priced from $800 to $2,400, but will launch a wider selection for the spring and summer. The handbags draw heavily upon the jewelry. There's hardware resembling Cohen's claw clasps and her versatile approach is translated in the bags' straps that come in varieties such as chain and leather.

"Women are spending more on one bag and wearing it longer because the bags have gone up in price," she said. "If we are going to try to be in the market with Bottega Veneta, Prada, Marc Jacobs and Chloé, we have to have a beautiful bag that is interesting and classic. That is what our jewelry is all about, with a feminine twist, so that is what we are trying to execute with the bags."

In jewelry, Cohen is introducing black gold — actually rhodium-plated 18-karat gold — in fall men's and women's collections that include bangles, cuff links and necklaces in her staple coin motif. She has a theory that gold trends cycle every five to seven years and is pouncing on the black gold trend before others rush into the market.

"The girls who are early adapters will pick up the black gold first and then it will move more mainstream," she said. "It definitely is good for us because it has a little bit of rock 'n' roll to it."

To expand her brand's scope, Cohen needs to reach younger clientele outside of her primary customer base of women aged 30 and over. That's the goal of the black gold collection, the handbag line and the deal with Target. Cohen has agreed to create lower-priced Dominique Cohen jewelry for Target, but declined to disclose details. Her largest two accounts are Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.

Cohen plans to kick off an advertising campaign in select magazines this year to help increase brand awareness. Overall, Cohen's business has doubled for the last several years and she estimated that growth rate will continue this year. To retain customer loyalty, she puts out jewelry in styles that are the brand's backbone. Oft-used motifs are floral lace, coins, bamboo, champagne bubbles and Buddhas. About 70 percent of the pieces are rose gold."These motifs have all been developed with care," Cohen said. "We can take our motifs and translate them to the hardware for handbags and maybe eventually to eyewear. There's longevity and life to that, and it is identifiable and iconic as Dominique Cohen. That's been a very intentional thing."

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