Kwiat may be celebrating a century in business, but the brand is still relatively new to consumers.
Founded by Sam Kwiat in 1907 on New York's Canal Street, where the Diamond District was first located, the corporation started as a diamond dealership, eventually moving on to create private label diamond jewelry.
"My [great] grandfather became known as the diamond dealer's diamond dealer," said Greg Kwiat, chief financial officer. "He was one of the founding members of the Diamond District on 47th Street."
Now a fourth-generation family business based on 47th Street, the company has grown significantly, with 15 and 20 percent increases the past two years, respectively, and hit the $100 million mark in retail sales in 2006.
In 2001, Kwiat made a push to brand its name among consumers to become a go-to jewelry firm on par with heavyweights like Tiffany & Co. An emphasis was placed on bridal, from engagement rings to wedding bands, in addition to important diamond necklaces and one-of-a-kind pieces.
In addition, a black-and-white ad campaign shot by Patrick Demarchelier hit magazines such as Town & Country and Harper's Bazaar. A new color version is slated to bow in June books.
"For growth, it's critical to be a brand," said Kwiat of consumer push.
The line is carried in 250 doors in North America, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and jewelry stores such as Mayfair, which has four retail locations on Long Island in New York.
In 2008, Kwiat will focus on opening international accounts, namely in Europe, Russia and the Middle East.
Kwiat, which translates to "flower" in Sam Kwiat's native Polish, tapped a 25-year veteran of Tiffany and Harry Winston, Janice DeBell, to be its director of design in 2004. DeBell took the brand forward with styles like elegant emerald, diamond and onyx sautoirs, and Art Deco-inspired cuffs.
The company has also made a significant push to bejewel celebrities on the red carpet. Natalie Portman, Jennifer Hudson, Mark Wahlberg and even the cast of "American Idol" have been photographed wearing Kwiat jewelry.
To celebrate its 100th year, Kwiat is bracing to open its first flagship. The 1,000-square-foot store is located at 725 Madison Avenue along the stretch of heavy hitters that includes Bulgari, Fred Leighton, Graff and the soon to open Leviev. The store is slated to open for the holiday season and will carry everything from basic diamond studs to one-of-a-kind pieces. Prices will range from $1,000 to more than $1 million.In addition, DeBell has designed the Decades Collection of 10 pieces of jewelry to celebrate 10 decades in business. An Art Nouveau tiara with 21.86 carats of diamonds has blooms of rose-cut diamond petals, while a pair of weighty yellow gold earrings marks the indulgent Eighties.
Mayfair will unveil the Decades Collection at a trunk show on July 21 and 22 in its store at 73 Main Street in East Hampton, N.Y. The retailer is also expanding its Woodbury store to accommodate a Kwiat Couture Bridals Salon.
"What is special is that they've held true to the integrity of being a family-owned operation even as huge as they've gotten," said Lauren Kulchinsky, buyer and vice president of Mayfair. "It's a pleasure to do business with them. You feel very special working with them and the design itself is incredible."
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
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