NEW YORK — The neon trend is finally fading, and for fall, the latest crop of accessories are embracing their wild side.
This story first appeared in the May 14, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Designers exhibiting at ENK’s Accessories Circuit and Business Journal’s Accessories the Show, held here from May 7 to 9 at The Show Piers and the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, respectively, drew inspiration from animals such as panthers or cats depicted in ancient Egyptian art, with more than 1,000 combined exhibitors present — including Alexis Bittar, Janis by Janis Savitt, Botkier, Elizabeth Cole Jewelry, Nora Kogan, CC Skye, R+Y Augousti, Paige Novick, Jana Feifer, Natalie Frigo and Casa del Rio.
“May continues to be a market that serves a variety of needs for the accessories industry. The exhibitors who fare best are those who fully embrace the changes in the market. The May market is a great barometer of what is really going on at retail,” said Britton Jones, president and chief executive officer of Business Journals, Inc.
For Bittar, panthers were one of the main themes present in his fall collection (and part of his long-standing “Elements” line). The designer’s bangles, rings and pendants comprising brass and oversize gemstones were adorned with gunmetal-hued, crystal emblazoned panthers — and among the most sought after of his pieces by retailers. He cited another selection of $195 to $595 Lucite and malachite, Art-Deco-looking pieces as also being popular for fall, but the panthers were the standout.
“It’s Old World, but contemporary. It looks like estate jewelry,” Bittar said, holding up the $395 gold “Siyabona Reliquary” pendant, containing a panther lounging in a golden tree branch and blanketed with various sized colored crystals and gemstones, encased in a hand-carved, and highly polished, oval-shaped Lucite shell.
“There’s a trend toward a modern twist on romantic fantasy and the overly embellished and encrusted. There’s a swing towards quality and perceived value, and consumers are subconsciously demanding more,” Bittar added.
Cats, both wild and domesticated, have been an inspiration and part of Lower East Side-based Frigo’s offerings since she introduced her collection in January 2010. Her “Playing Cat” ring, made from recycled oxidized sterling silver with cognac diamond eyes, retails for $340, and varying styles of bangles employing the same motif retail from $270 for a recycled brass version with white sapphire to $600 for sterling silver with black diamonds.
A less literal interpretation of the animal trend took form with exotic skin handbags — as evidenced by a plethora of faux, embossed styles and those comprised of authentic Florida alligator or stingray.
CC Skye’s handbags are fashioned from a combination of smooth leather and either python or ostrich embossed leather to give the pieces the luxe look and feel of an exotic without having to pay the price of real skins. Messengers, cross-bodies, clutches and satchels incorporating these stamped leathers have become a mainstay for the designer since 2010, two years after she launched the category (her main jewelry collection launched in 2006), and the majority of the silhouettes retail for under $600.
Feifer, who introduced her line in 2001 with striped and initial bearing leather totes, has now relaunched with an expanded fall collection. She introduced $135 canvas totes with leather trim (her previous totes were all leather and cost almost $400), faux exotics that include python embossed flexible PVC and leather totes and crocodile clutches in saturated reds and blues that retail for $165 to $265.
“I’ve found that you can buy so many great pieces from Zara and H&M, but I just couldn’t find a lot of great accessories in the market at an affordable price point. When I was sourcing my leathers I came across this great skin that was not only approachably priced, but I realized that by combining the leather and the PVC I could make a product that was more affordable to the masses that was still very chic,” Feifer said. Her line is carried at Kitson in Los Angeles, on her Web site and will be available at B.D. Jeffries in Atlanta and New York Look here come fall.
Husband-and-wife design team R+Y Augousti manage to produce mixed-material or entirely skin handbags made from authentic python, water snake, stingray, eel, ostrich or iguana at prices that range from about $495 for a combination python and stingray minaudière, to $665 for a zig-zag printed, structured rectangular stingray and shell clutch, to more than $1,000 for a water snake tote.
Newcomer Casa del Rio, whose handbags are all made from wild Florida alligator, offers classic silhouettes that include small pouchettes, wristlets, clutches with removable crossbody chains and two-toned briefcase styles that range from $400 to $1,800.