The 92Y welcomed New York’s high jewelry trifecta — Monica Rich Kosann, Judith Ripka and Robin Renzi of Me&Ro — for a panel discussion in conjunction with the Accessories Council on Tuesday night where the women talked shop with moderator Ariel Foxman. Each designer brought their own flair to panel: Ripka, sporting patent leather Louboutins, had the room laughing as she reflected on her 38-plus-year career, while Kosann’s oversize gold charm bracelets clinged away as she explained the importance of mobile and her The Locket app.
With no shortage of shiny baubles in the sold-out room, audience eyes glimmered more than the finery on wrists and necks. The audience, likely mostly VIP clients, listened intently as the designers touched on a number of topics, spanning e-commerce to Hillary Clinton.
Ripka on knowing she wanted to design jewelry:
Judith Ripka: On my first date with my second husband he said to me, ‘How did you know you wanted to be a jeweler?’ Well , when I was very young, maybe four or five, it seems that I took my mother’s charm bracelet, and I cut the charms off. At that time bakeries wrapped their boxes with strings, and I walked up and showed my mother. [I said,] ‘Look I have a new long necklace!’ And it went on and on from there.
On not taking ‘no’ for an answer:
Monica Rich Kosann: When you find your niche and you find what it is that you wanna do — you just have to refuse to give up. When I started, Bergdorf’s actually they told me “no.” I just said, “I’m not taking ‘no’ for an answer.”
Renzi on her evolving aesthetic and design approach:
Robin Renzi: You have to always come up with new ideas and be very true to yourself in your own way and exactly the jewelry you want to make and be true to that aesthetic….but like anything, it evolves.
Renzi on the specialness of fine jewelry:
R.R.: [Fine jewelry] is so intimate. It’s the closest thing we wear to us. It outlives us. Jewelry outlives us forever. I have made jewelry that people are buried in.
Kosann on drawing inspiration:
M.R.K.: Well, I get inspiration from everything, from architecture to museums to fashion trends. My husband, who is my business partner, tells me I have too many ideas. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night. Recently, I found these great fire opals, and I went to the planetarium, and I sat with 300 screaming kids in my seat. It inspired me how to wrap these beautiful opals with these diamonds that were in the sky. There were just so many different ways to find inspiration.
On the celebrity factor:
R.R.: I don’t think you need to have celebrities. I hope you don’t, to do what you love and make a business. Does it help? Absolutely, but only if it’s an authentic relationship. Because quite honestly if you go after it, you give your soul. It has to have some appreciation on both sides.
M.R.K.: I feel very lucky that the press has been putting our jewelry on amazing stars. I think it’s great to see celebrities wearing your jewelry that you didn’t gift or you didn’t plan. I think that’s amazing — to see [that] stars are really my customers.
J.R.: Well what happened to us, we were one of Oprah’s best picks one year and our [phone] lines went down. We weren’t prepared for the thousands and thousands of people [calling us]. I think it is very important to advertise, and I think it’s very important to have your jewelry on celebrities as much as we can.
On a (potential) presidential push:
M.R.K.: We have Hillary and Chelsea Clinton wear our pieces all the time — Chelsea wears it every day. And you think, “oh that’s great! We can get press on it.” One time, they got interviewed and they were talking the whole time about their lucky charms. And they kept referring to their Monica pieces as “their lucky charms.” I’m like, “say my name! Say my name!”
J.R.: Many, many years ago, I was talking to a friend of mine who lived in Washington, and she said to me, “Why don’t you make a piece of jewelry for Hillary Clinton?” I said, “I don’t even know her.” She said, “it doesn’t matter. We’ll get it done. Make the piece!” And I did. I made a piece. My husband actually had to be in Washington. He delivered it to the White House, and we didn’t know it until that morning, but she wore it to the inauguration.