Costume Institutes

With September tomes on the newsstands, fashion magazines are giving readers a firm reminder of what's on trend for fall.

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With September tomes on the newsstands, fashion magazines are giving readers a firm reminder of what’s on trend for fall. And it’s hard to miss the larger-than-life costume jewelry by Louis Vuitton, Lanvin and the like piled on throughout the pages. But there’s good costume outside of the four-figure price range. Stores including J. Crew, Club Monaco, Ann Taylor, Ann Taylor Loft, Talbots and private labels, such as Victor Alfaro for Bon-Ton, have revved up collections that offer the impact of the designer trend without the price tag.

This story first appeared in the August 18, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Consider Club Monaco’s Fleur de Lys collection, introduced for fall. As the company’s first “statement jewelry” capsule collection, the line, which includes demonstrative cuffs, gold chain necklaces, some with oversize rhinestones and leather straps, and charm bracelets — all bearing a fleur-de-lis motif, derived from Club Monaco’s French-Canadian heritage — is intended as a big, bold extension of the store’s fall “downtown aristocrat” theme. “We thought jewelry is the one category where we could really take that theme to the ultimate level,” says Robert Page, Club Monaco’s vice president of accessory design, who was inspired by heirloom objects and Forties’ costume jewelry. “Any time we do something that’s this emotional and out there, people really react to it.” That’s true, it appears, even if the price point (up to $279 for a dramatic grosgrain ribbon necklace) is a little higher than usual. Says Page: “We rushed the collection to our new store in Honolulu, and we sold the most expensive piece within the first day.”

Ann Taylor, which is taking a more modern and chic direction, also reacted to the jewelry explosion on fall runways and saw an opportunity to expand the jewelry collection. “The statement pieces are very significant in a status way that appeals to our client,” says Natalie Levy, Ann Taylor’s senior vice president, general merchandising manager. Thus, fall and holiday are about imposing necklaces, brooches and cuffs ($24 for earrings, $78 for necklaces), which will get bigger and better space within stores come September. Likewise for Ann Taylor Loft, where Diane Holtz, executive vice president, merchandising and design, says, “Jewelry is our number-one focus.” She adds that Michael Giannelli, Loft’s new senior vice president of design, was charged with kicking the fall and holiday collections up a notch. The result is bigger cuffs, layered necklaces and chunky pearls that come at a slightly increased price point: $30 to $50, rather than $25 to $40. “We felt that accessories weren’t always on-trend, and there’s no reason for it,” says Holtz. “The most important thing for us is that the pieces feel collectible, that they’re special and timeless. In a recession, people aren’t buying things to wear once or twice. They want to wear things over and over again.”

Talbots, which reports that jewelry is 41 percent of its accessories business, is investing heavily in vintage-inspired bracelets, increasing its offering by 95 percent from last year, for fall-holiday. Meanwhile, Victor Alfaro’s clothing and accessories collaboration with Bon-Ton has resulted in a vast fashion jewelry collection, also vintage-inspired, estimated at 300 to 400 pieces.

J. Crew also saw instant results from the designer trend in March. “It was great for us,” says Jenna Lyons, J. Crew’s creative director, noting that Crew was well-stocked with statement jewelry before the collections. “When people see things on the runways that we already have in stores, there’s an immediate opportunity for them to purchase. We’ve seen a huge surge of people buying really quite large pieces and pretty dramatic pieces. We’ve always had success with that stuff, but for sure the level of pickup on that was much quicker than we’d expected. More people than we ever thought are buying it.”

Indeed, J. Crew has been a leader on the costume jewelry front, consistently offering some of the strongest collections at vertical retail of late. A recent lunch-hour trip to the company’s flagship on New York City’s lower Fifth Avenue saw considerable interest over the jewelry displays. “They’ve really upped their game,” says Jasmine Avilez, a stylist and an apparent J. Crew jewelry enthusiast, decked in J. Crew’s starfish earrings and fall’s Art Nouveau cocktail ring, made a beeline for the jewelry cases in pursuit of a cabochon turtle bracelet. “You have to get it now, or it will be gone,” she said of her purchase ($135.47 with tax). “Right now, this is on eBay for over $200.” Two-hundred-sixty-five dollars, actually.

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