One person’s trash is occasionally Philip Crangi’s treasure.
Three times a year, Brimfield, Mass., travels through a time warp. Every May, July and September, over 5,000 antiques dealers and avid collectors gather for a week on five acres of open fields there for an over-the-top flea market known as the Brimfield Antiques Fair.
Jewelry designer Philip Crangi, 35, is now one of the many die-hards who line up at the fair’s gates at dawn to shop for all sorts of rare heirlooms, such as stuffed birds, old mantelpieces and even used kitchen sinks. But Crangi, who is based in New York, was on a mission this May when he attended the event: to find inspiration for his eight-year-old eponymous company’s four collections, which range from fashion to fine.
“Brimfield is world travel condensed into one location,” muses Crangi, who brought along his sister, Courtney Crangi, and a friend, Susie Cho, as shopping companions for the four-day trip. Courtney Crangi is Philip Crangi’s chief executive officer, and Cho has been friends with Crangi since their college days at Rhode Island School of Design.
Cho is also design director of ready-to-wear line Inhabit.
“This is only my second time here,” says Crangi. “But last year Susie brought me, and I became so inspired. When you’re here, the search engine turns on emotionally and artistically. You see things in a new way.”
Crangi, an antiques aficionado, was raised in Boca Raton, Fla., where there was little history to reference. Everything from the housing developments to the stores was relatively new. Although his parents were both art teachers and his father made ceramics and macramé — “It was the Seventies,” says Crangi, only half joking — the family didn’t have many heirlooms or embrace artifacts of the past. So at a young age, Crangi, who was always drawn to art and design, got his antique fix from his neighbors, literally the Joneses, who were ardent collectors.
“They had antique furniture, taxidermy animals, coffin-plate necklaces, and everything was a little dirty,” says Crangi. “My mother kept an immaculate house, whereas the Joneses’ house had too many cats.”
Crangi’s early fascination with the things of yesteryear has come to life in his jewelry. His fine collections, Steel & Gold and Venetian, retail from $250 to $10,000. The Steel & Gold collection hints at both classical and medieval times. Looks include steel bangles accented with gold studs and a Greek key motif, and blackened-steel earrings in the shape of a shield. The Venetian collection takes its inspiration from 16th-century Venice, with richly hued stones like rubies, black pearls and amethyst in beaded hoop earrings, among other pieces. The Academie collection has a Greek aesthetic, with large hammered oval pendants in doré and blackened bronze embellished with colored stones. It retails from $225 to $490. The lowest-priced line, Giles & Brother, which ranges from $60 to $600, is trendy in feel with base-metal skull earrings and steel acorn pendants, among other pieces. Retailers for the lines include Barneys New York, Stanley Korshak in Dallas, Ron Herman in California and Base in Miami.
“I’m influenced by antique and estate jewelry — eccentric jewelry,” says Crangi, who cites fellow Manhattan jeweler Ted Muehling as a contemporary influence. “But I’m trying to find a lighter approach to design, as opposed to my tendency toward heavy arms and armor. So, I’ve been really into textiles in the past couple of years, especially Jacobean crewel work.”
On day four of the misty New England trip, Crangi, who was fastidious in his shopping, lucked out. He picked up framed black-and-white photographs to hang in his Chelsea atelier; a wire wastepaper basket, a model similar to one he’d regrettably passed over last year; a floral tapestry, and a few key pieces that will influence his collection, namely a men’s rose-gold ring with a black carnelian intaglio of a classical warrior and a cameo ring in black onyx.
Straight after his return home, Crangi went back to the drawing table to sketch, using his new finds as inspiration.
“I want to make things that if I found in a box, I’d freak,” says Crangi. “When I’m creating jewelry, I always think who is going to discover it. Who is going to buy this at Brimfield?”
This article appeared in WWD “A”, a special publication of WWD available to subscribers.