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WWDStyle issue 02/07/2011

Though the main draw during New York Fashion Week is the ready-to-wear designs, it’s also a high-profile stage for jewelry collaborations. The partnerships are mutually beneficial, helping to complete an outfit on the runway while bringing jewelry designs to a larger audience.

This story first appeared in the February 7, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Among the collaborations for the fall collections that get under way this week are Miriam Haskell for Marchesa, Chopard for Pamella Roland, Alexis Bittar for Jason Wu, Ben-Amun for Jonathan Simkhai and IvanaHelsinki, Janis Savitt for Ralph Lauren, Kara Ross for Tadashi Shoji and Erin Fetherston, Meredith Kahn of Make Her Think for Mandy Coon and Jonathan Goldstein of Bevel for Parkchoonmoo. Also, Atelier Swarovski is working with Cate Adair, Arik Levy and Rodrigo Otazu.

Lizzie Fortunato Jewels has teamed up with Suno for a second season. Designer Lizzie Fortunato said, “It’s good for me to have the challenge of working with someone else and not just being my own single-man operation.”

She created the collection for Suno in addition to her own fall line. Fortunato also has worked with VPL by Victoria Bartlett for five seasons, and said, “The biggest challenge is perceiving someone else’s vision while not being with them day to day and always going back and forth with pictures and ideas — until next week, when we have the samples in a room with all the finished jewelry. I’m constantly worrying: Is this going to work with their clothing?”

Despite the challenge, Fortunato said, “I’ve always had a good experience, but it’s unique that we got on with the designers as well as we did. It’s more about the dynamics. It’s helped overall sales by introducing an entire line and product to retailers and editors.”

Jewelry designer Dana Lorenz of Fenton Jewelry agreed. “You do get a lot of press off of it…and when you partner with other people that are carried in stores, it seems to generate more publicity,” she said. “Someone may potentially buy your main collection as well as the collaboration. You get more attention from stores, and people inquire about your own collection.”

Lorenz has collaborated with Proenza Schouler and Thakoon, but this season is showing her line independently at a presentation instead.

Ali Galgano, founder of online jewelry retailer Charm & Chain, has noticed an uptick in sales after fashion week collaborations.

“I feel like when the two brands really work together and there’s an obvious synergy is when it works,” she said, pointing to Lizzie Fortunato for Suno, Alexis Bittar and Dannijo.

Dannijo is presenting its line in a fashion week presentation in addition to collaborative collections with Vena Cava and Bibhu Mohapatra. Danielle and Jodie Snyder, the designers behind Dannijo, met Vena Cava designers Lisa Mayock and Sophie Buhai at an event and formed a friendship that evolved into a partnership.

“We had a creative meeting, we talked through what they loved, we showed some of our pieces,” said Danielle Snyder. “We definitely created and designed a collection just for their show. I’m always inspired anytime we work with creative people. It colors your creative process one way or another.…It’s more about the dynamics [between the designers].”

Dannijo has collaborated with Trovata, Luca Luca, Bensoni and Walter, among others, and admitted that it’s not always a flawless experience.

“Anytime you’re dealing with creative people, trying to find a balance between your vision and their vision, it should reflect both brands,” Snyder said. “Sometimes, particularly with clothing designers, they feel like jewelry should be secondary to the clothes. They don’t recognize it as being just as important to finish off the look. They want so many designs, but they don’t really want the jewelry to overpower the clothes.…Once the stylist comes in for the show, they could be like, ‘I don’t want this for these five outfits,’ or ‘Can you make this?’…No, we can’t make that, it’s taken us five months to do.”

Even when everything does go smoothly, the benefits are difficult to quantify. “It’s hard to tell in terms of sales,” admitted Snyder.

Anna Sheffield of jewelry line Bing Bang likes to view the advantages in creative terms, as well as exposure. Sheffield collaborated with Marc Jacobs for his spring 2006 line in the fall of 2005.

“Doing the line for Marc was the biggest push for me,” Sheffield said. “It was a really visible, incredible forum, to have my work presented in that way.…There’s no way to really measure the varied benefits from doing collaborative work. It’s putting your product in front of a new type of consumer, so it all comes around in one way, shape or form. I’ve never found it to be a waste of time…but, then again, I’m an overachiever.”

Sheffield, who is collaborating with Lindsey Thornburg this season, added, “It’s not for the weak of heart. It takes a lot of time and attention to go above and beyond what you’re already doing with your brand. There’s definitely always going to be a lot of time spent, and a lot of back-and-forth conversation and revisions and all that.…You have to be nimble.”

Erickson Beamon evolved as a jewelry brand in the mid-Eighties as a result of a need for jewelry for designer rtw shows.

“We started making jewelry only because I didn’t have jewelry for a ready-to-wear show that I was doing,” said Karen Erickson, co-founder of Erickson Beamon. “Collaborations are the core of this brand. I love taking a concept or an idea and turning it into a reality.”

Perhaps because of this history, Erickson embraces the collaborations of fashion week as part of a larger life mantra.

“What in life isn’t collaborative?” she asked rhetorically. “Everything we do is a collaboration: when you get on an elevator and someone has to move to the back, it’s all an exchange. Our life on this planet is a collaboration with the trees.”

Erickson was sure to stress — and perhaps this is the crux of the brand’s success — that the apparel designer dictates the direction of the collaboration.

“It’s never our mutual inspiration,” she added. “I’m working with a ready-to-wear designer, and I believe accessory designers aren’t designing in a vacuum, they’re meant to be worn with clothing.…Women don’t wear just accessories, they start with fabric and ideas and concepts. So if Anna [Sui] is thinking Deco, I’m thinking Deco. You have to work with the ready-to-wear designer. Jewelry is a part of the picture, but it’s never the picture. It’s like punctuation, it helps the sentence, but it isn’t the sentence.”

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