By  on March 7, 2005

DALLAS — Gerard Yosca has been designing jewelry for 23 years and business has never been better.

The designer is enjoying a peak in popularity as his exotic wood jewelry and colorful brooches have struck a fashion chord.

“Business is great,” said Yosca, appearing as guest designer at Fashion Industry Gallery here in late January.

He said sales last year rose almost $4 million and he’s aiming for a 20 to 25 percent increase in 2005. Long known for colorful fashion jewelry, Yosca’s knack for anticipating and hitting trends has been on a roll.

Since Yosca’s wood jewels were introduced last September at Tracy Reese’s spring runway show, they have been bestsellers.

“Wood is a new semiprecious material,” Yosca said. “Semiprecious stones have gotten so inexpensive that they are losing their meaning and many are dyed to look good. But wood is wood, and everyone can appreciate its vibe.”

For fall, he’s working with bronze and sculptural metals mixed with feathers.

“It will continue to be very mixed up,” Yosca said. He calls it “repurposed jewelry,” meaning jewelry that looks like vintage pieces that were taken apart and put back together, such as a button necklace or an earring composed of pearls, a cameo and an enamel flower.

“By mixing things around, you amplify,” he said. “When you wear something unexpected, it looks young. Kids don’t have the Labor Day rules. They have a different set of values and it’s charming. If you only wear fabulous real jewelry, you look old.”

The second fall delivery will move into burnished gold, along with bronze and dark metals. The palette will be toned down and will include smoky indigo, brown, deep blue greens, plum and burgundy.

“I’m moving a little Russian, which is more real ornate as opposed to ethnic ornate,” he said. “You might still pile it on, but it has to look like you are piling on fabulous, not just stuff. It will have more of a suggestion of sparkle, as opposed to bright sparkle.”

Yosca produced long ropes of colored Lucite beads for Nanette Lepore’s fall runway show in February and did jewelry for Reese’s show again, but he couldn’t say whether those pieces will be sold under their labels or his own. His motivation for collaborating with the designers was to get his work in front of editors and buyers.“For American designers, the whole concept of runway jewelry is kind of new,” he said. “Think of how many people don’t show anything….Tracy is unusual for a young designer to actually accessorize her looks. Most of them don’t do that. In Europe, everybody accessorizes. It adds polish.”

Though the business is under his name and he gets all the press, Yosca is not a one-man show. The designer’s wife, Susan, whom he met while teaching advertising at Parsons School of Design, runs the business and also designs.

Specialty stores are the lifeblood of Yosca’s business and his only major store account is Saks Fifth Avenue. The company sells to 546 boutiques nationwide, including Fred Segal in Los Angeles and Scoop in New York.

“We have stores we’ve been selling to for 20 years,” Yosca said. “Small stores know how to sell things.”

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