LOS ANGELES — Since its debut in 2001, jewelry brand White Trash Charms has helped fuel the current craze for quirky precious-metal charms, even getting celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Shoshanna Gruss and Christina Ricci to don pinup girls and lightning bolts around their necks.
This story first appeared in the August 4, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Keen on keeping the brand dripping in irony, founding designer and rock stylist Brooke Dulien and her crew are now adding luxury home goods, with items such as plush terry towels retailing for $7.50 to $49, velour bathrobes for $170 and a floral-musk candle called Bianca for $44, all available only in that favorite rock ’n’ roll shade of black to appeal to women and men.
The home collection bowed at the signature boutique here on Hillhurst Avenue and in the coming season is expected to follow the jewelry’s global route, which counts Colette in Paris, Brown’s in London and Flip in Munich, and stores throughout Japan among its retail accounts. Already the candles have been selling at 15 stores nationwide, including Amy Chan in New York and Kitson in Los Angeles.
“Home accessories are just as important as those for your body,” said chief executive officer Eliza Kiara. “We believe in paying attention to the aesthetics in all aspects of life.”
The new line comes as the company redefines itself as a “luxury goods brand,” continued Kiara. A new gold “WTC” logo aims to that end.
“The company started and took off in such a whirlwind,” she said. “We were first recognized as a trendy line, but we want to go the opposite direction and establish ourselves as timeless.”
A classic is always relative and every generation defines its own. A 14-karat gold guitar pick etched with a lightning bolt for $513 at retail or a sterling lighter pendant for $138 are aimed at resonating with the fashion crowd, young and old, raised on rock.
“The line has a following,” said Lisa Cruz of the Kitson store on Robertson Boulevard here. “Most people who shop for White Trash are into music or even work in the industry.”
Bestsellers are a medallion designed to look like a vinyl record album and an audio cassette emblazoned with the words “mixed tape.” Only two remain of the dozen candles the store recently received.
Like Cruz, Patricia Field merchandise manager Sushi Sakai believes the product moves as much due to design and quality as its irreverent brand name.
“It has attitude,” Sakai said. “It’s better jewelry, but not old and musty.”
The store began carrying WTC not long after Field accessorized Sarah Jessica Parker in the lightning bolt on “Sex and the City” in the 2001 season. Last week, she worked round the clock to frock and fit Kelly and Sharon Osbourne for their trip to Elton John’s estate.
Dulien grew up in Newport Beach, the seaside Los Angeles suburb, and she segued her music obsession into a job as video coordinator at A&M Records in Hollywood, where she met a stylist who she would eventually assist. She had her first charm, the bolt, hand cut when she couldn’t find the right accessory for a swim shoot.
Orders from industry friends followed, as did editorial credits.
While the company declined to give volume, Dulien said sales increased 250 percent in the first year and are expected to double in 2003, thanks in part to e-commerce sales and the new home line. The home line is expected to account for 10 percent, and is projected to rise 20 percent next year.
The 750-square-foot signature store opened in November and has since been a magnet for the brand’s fans, who also place custom orders. Among the most outrageous was a large Puerto Rican flag studded in rubies and sapphires for Jennifer Lopez. The shop stocks the White Trash Charms universe, including Dulien’s experiments in apparel and accessories, such as the leather girl-scout neckties launching this week. It also carries clothes and jewelry by other designers: Grey Ant, Scott Thomas, Karen Walker, Waris and Han Cholo. As for home, another three candle fragrances will launch by the end of the year.