FEMALE FOCUS: CAROLEE AT 25

Byline: Karen Parr

NEW YORK — Carolee Friedlander plans to celebrate this year’s 25th anniversary of her costume jewelry firm, Carolee Designs, by celebrating women who, like herself, have made their mark.
Friedlander — sporting a navy pinstriped suit, her signature cropped blond hair, black Gucci loafers and silver Carolee bracelets — fits the bill of a successful businesswoman of the Nineties, a woman who has built what industry sources estimate is a business currently ringing up $50 million in annual sales.
As part of the anniversary hoopla, she is putting together a top-of-counter photo book called “25 Women Celebrate 25 Years of Carolee.”
“It’s kind of a cross section of friends and businesswomen,” Friedlander said.
The book will feature photos of outstanding women in various fields, including Diana Brooks, president and chief executive officer of Sotheby’s, and Linda Ahlers, president of the department store division of Dayton Hudson Corp.
While the women will be pictured wearing Carolee jewelry from the past and present, the book is not a catalog.
“Women love looking at other women and learning from them,” she said. “It’s aspirational and inspirational.”
The book will be displayed in a minimum of 200 department store doors this fall. In September, the firm is planning a party in New York with the 25 women participating.
In addition to the book, there will be special “retrospectives” in about 25 to 30 doors. They will be in-store installations that will include popular pieces from past Carolee seasons, such as a handmade glass collection.
The last anniversary piece is a catalog entitled “The Best of Carolee,” which will be featured as a top-of-counter display and also be sent to customers by the participating stores.
Friedlander said the catalog will include “some of our favorite pieces from the past and some new for 1997.”
Jewelry from the past includes resin pieces that look like horn and handmade teardrop-shaped pearl pieces.
The anniversary promotional materials will also be in some of Carolee’s accounts outside the U.S., such as Harrods in London, Mitsukoshi in Japan, and The Bay in Canada.
A percentage of all fall sales will be donated to Breast Cancer Research Foundation, a New York group.
The feminine theme of the anniversary is reflected in the company’s employment roster. Of approximately 300 employees, about 85 percent are female, according to Friedlander.
Friedlander said she believes women really drive the company. What they have as a group, she said, is “the ability to work effectively as a team, to be supportive, to see a common goal.”
Some of those goals include finding distributors in new markets. Right now, the firm is negotiating for distributors in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea.
South America is another area it will be exploring.
In addition, Friedlander wants to get into the duty-free market and will attend upcoming trade shows for that niche — one in Singapore in May and one in Cannes in October.
“The duty-free market is tied to the international market,” she noted. “We think there’s a big opportunity for us in that piece of the international market.
“International is one of the fastest-growing areas for us,” she said.
Summing up her career so far, Friedlander said, “If you can adorn women and bring them a certain amount of pleasure, and if you can put together a team of talented and dedicated people who can provide that, that’s a nice achievement. That’s just fine.”

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