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Broken English Speaks Jewelry’s New Language

Her senior thesis, called "Location, Location, Location," explored retail success in the Los Angeles area. Brentwood scored remarkably high. And, four years after her graduation from the University of San Diego, that's where Freedman decided to open...

Laura Freedman’s college degree paid off.

Her senior thesis, called “Location, Location, Location,” explored retail success in the Los Angeles area. Brentwood scored remarkably high. And, four years after her graduation from the University of San Diego, that’s where Freedman decided to open Broken English, a tailored jewelry store in the upscale neighborhood’s Country Mart, home to Calypso, James Perse and City Bakery.

“I had no idea that it [the thesis] would come back into use later,” said Freedman, 28, who worked at West Hollywood glitterati mainstay Kaviar and Kind and keeps her own bling to a minimum. “It happened that that was the right place at the right time.”

The 400-square-foot jewel box is more an art gallery than baubles outlet, Freedman said. She cobbled together Italian, French, American and English jewelry cases, with the store’s central features being a beveled glass Art Deco countertop case, two Sixties-era Hermès chairs and an Italian chandelier from the Fifties. The store also is filled with personal touches: artwork from a friend named Butterfly, a ship in a bottle picked up at a San Francisco store and a toy carousel from an antique show.

“It’s very eclectic, almost like a store you would see in Paris,” said Freedman, who designed the space. “It’s a mix between Deco and midcentury — all very clean and tasteful. The cases are spectacular, but the focal point is the jewelry.”

In a nod to Freedman’s belief that jewelry, like music, is the “language of love,” she took the store name from the title of Marianne Faithfull’s 1979 album. She said the jewelry carried at Broken English, which starts at around $85 and reaches $40,000, are works of art. In choosing the pieces, Freedman has been careful not to overlap with designers stocked heavily at other competing Los Angeles area shops and luxury department stores.

“I’m not looking for someone who’s copying what has already been done,” Freedman said. “I’m looking for people who are cutting-edge and at the forefront of what they do. I see myself really representing them. I look for designers who are very hands-on. I don’t want someone who mass produces pieces.”

This story first appeared in the May 21, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Designers at Broken English include Opal Stone, Jeffrey Alters, Cynthia Wolff, Cynthia Desser, Darlene de Sedle, Tito Pedrini, Jill Alberts, Vicente Agor and Pamela Froman. Although Freedman touches a range of price points, the store skews toward more expensive 18-karat and above pieces, many with precious stones. She hopes to generate $1 million in first-year sales.

Froman, whose 18-karat yellow, white and pink gold diamond hoop earrings have been selling briskly at Broken English since the store launched last month, is convinced Brentwood needed this kind of fine jewelry shop. The Los Angeles-based designer’s hoops range from $2,300 to $3,500 at Broken English.

“The customer in Brentwood is a great, fashion-forward customer — someone that is not looking for the typical jewelry you find everywhere,” she said. “It is a great place to be because that shopping center now is a great place to hang out, have lunch, go buy your kid a toy and buy earrings.”