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Philip Crangi’s 18-month-old niece, Coco, uttered her first word recently: “juju,” as in jewelry.
This story first appeared in the June 23, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The daughter of Crangi’s sister, Courtney, who is also president of his namesake company, toddles around her uncle’s jewelry workshop, marveling at the metalsmiths at the bench and the finished product.
It seems fitting as Coco is the sole heir to Crangi’s business and now the recent Council of Fashion Designers of America award winner is gearing up for growth.
“I feel a real connection to the work that I didn’t feel before and I didn’t even know that I wasn’t feeling it,” said Crangi.
The Manhattan-based firm has made several marked changes in its infrastructure in order to improve its offering, distribution and marketing. In March, the brand separated from its longtime showroom Metropolitan Design Group, bringing sales in-house. The company is also streamlining its primary and subbrands. There is also talk of opening the first Philip Crangi store, in New York.
Such changes are projected to result in a doubling of the firm’s sales. Although the company declined to provide financial details, the collection is sold in 350 doors, most of which are in the U.S.
The past 12 months have been pivotal for Crangi, 37, whose jewelry comes off as part antique, part contemporary, with its unlikely combinations of hammered steel with gold rivets. The Boca Raton, Fla., native, who studied jewelry and light metals at Rhode Island School of Design, has been working at the craft of jewelry making for 14 years. He was a runner-up in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and was tapped by Gap to create a capsule collection of fashion jewelry for its Design Editions. His jewelry has been shown on the runways of 3.1 Phillip Lim, Shipley and Halmos and Vera Wang, with whom he collaborated on a special collection of antique rhinestone jewelry that drew rave reviews.
“I love a good collaboration,” said Crangi, adding he isn’t moved by trends so much as his own mood, which he dubs darkly glamorous and subtle.
Crangi’s primary line is Philip Crangi Jewelry, comprising fine jewelry incorporating steel, gold, diamonds and some gemstones, ranging in retail price from $750 to $15,000. Giles & Brother, which is named after the two Crangi siblings’ nicknames, is the fashion line and sells for $50 to $850. Gone is the bridge line, dubbed Academie, which offered doré bronze and stone-laden pieces and has been folded into Giles & Brother.
Bringing the sales in-house has helped the duo streamline the two collections, and now they are able to do exclusives for certain stores and control production, which is mostly done in the New York headquarters or in a Rhode Island factory.
Carrie Chapman, senior accessories buyer for Barneys New York, which carries the fine line in its flagships and Giles & Brother in all of the Barneys Co-op locations, said: “We…love watching Philip grow. His collection is modern and edgy, but it has a wonderful heritage to it. He seems to draw inspiration from many disparate sources — Greco-Roman, Baroque, history and art, but also punk, and this mix comes across in his collection.”
The Crangis are on the hunt for a boutique of their own. The designer is eager to explore other categories such as home goods, but requires the environment to express himself.
Courtney Crangi said she would like to grow the company’s number of doors for Giles & Brother and double the revenues of that segment. To help in this plan, the firm tapped Bloomingdale’s former fashion director of women’s contemporary, Anya Deweerdt, as head of sales.
“We’re geared up now to do a much bigger volume,” said Courtney Crangi. “Ninety-five percent of our production is in-house.”
There are also plans to grow distribution internationally, but no distributor has been signed.
“Now I feel more than ever in my career that I can do anything I want,” said the designer. “I have something to say and people want to hear it. That’s scary, but it’s kind of amazing.”