TV TRENDSETTERS WORTH WATCHING
Byline: Amanda Meadus
NEW YORK — Finding the next huge accessories trend might take some television-watching — and that’s exactly what many in the industry are doing these days.
Now that the Y necklace, a television-inspired jewelry look, has become a runaway bestseller for retailers around the country, accessories makers are eagerly tuning into popular prime-time programs to see what the next big look might be.
Retailers and vendors point out that TV shows have spawned accessories trends before — there were big boosts in business in chokers and tiny backpacks among younger consumers several seasons ago after the accessories showed up on “Beverly Hills 90210.” The Y necklace and other similar delicate jewelry represents a more significant trend, however. For one thing, because it has appeared on a diverse a group — from the female cast of “Friends” to Katie Couric — it has generated appeal across age groups. Even more important, though, this look was popularized by television costume designers rather than by fashion magazines or designer runway shows. And as the fashion world continues to tout the minimal look, those in the accessories business said they are becoming convinced of the power of TV.
While movies can sometimes have resounding clout in accessories — some observers pointed to the Ray-Bans worn by Tom Cruise in the Eighties picture “Risky Business” as a major boon for sunglasses — recent movies haven’t produced many looks real women can relate to.
“I initially thought there might be some impact from that ‘Jane Austen’ look, the feminine jewelry and accessories that appear in ‘Sense and Sensibility’ as well as other period films like ‘Angels and Insects,”‘ said David Wolfe, fashion director of D3, the trend forecasting division of the Doneger Group, a buying service here.
“The reason they haven’t been more influential, I think, is that they don’t feature the kind of sexy, glamorous stars that women want to emulate,” Wolfe noted. “I am primed to see what happens with Madonna in ‘Evita,’ since Madonna is that kind of star and also since the real Evita Peron really adorned herself heavily with jewelry and accessories of all kinds, right down to the gloves and hats. But that’s a while off.”
Television, in the meantime, is the one medium women have been able to turn to consistently for interesting looks they can incorporate into their lives.
“Real women that want to wear jewelry and accessories are so hungry to see anything new, and they have been somewhat abandoned by the fashion magazines and runway shows, so the television has become more influential than ever,” said Jimmy Moore, co-owner of Fragments, a jewelry wholesale and retail firm here.
“I’m watching more television than ever because I know that’s where women are getting their accessories direction now,” Moore noted. “In the Eighties, there were accessories trends coming from shows such as ‘Dynasty,’ but there were also lots of accessories in fashion shows and magazine spreads. Now, though, the central influence is coming from television, as we’ve seen with the Y necklace.”
Deborah McGuire, the costume designer for “Friends” and a former jewelry designer, said the whole game has changed for accessories makers trying to get their merchandise into the mainstream.
“When I was working as a jewelry designer in the Eighties, my pieces would show up on runways and in fashion magazines, and that was the main mode of getting publicity and expressing trends to the public,” she said. “But that’s no longer the case, and as a result the entertainment world has taken over in that arena.”
Retailers confirmed this trend and said they’ve already seen it spilling into related categories. According to one merchandising executive from Carson Pirie Scott, “There had been such a need for newness in accessories, and the Y necklace really fulfilled that need.
“Even better, because it’s something that our customers don’t already have, they have to buy the earrings that go with the necklaces because the earrings they already own don’t work,” he added.
Sandra Wilson, fashion director of accessories for Neiman Marcus, pointed out that the Y necklace, while wildly popular, has not been the only directional jewelry noticed by TV-watching women.
“We’ve found that some of our customers have also been observant of some of the bigger, bolder jewelry worn on TV by someone like Candice Bergen on ‘Murphy Brown,”‘ Wilson said. “There have been cases of customers coming in looking for a piece of bold jewelry from Stephen Dweck that they saw on Bergen or Paula Zahn [the CBS morning show host], both of whom wear Dweck from time to time.” Neiman’s recently paid tribute to the delicate jewelry look in the January/February edition of its Gold Card newsletter, which featured a drawing for a delicate necklace and earrings set by Dana Kellin. The ad for the drawing stressed that Kellin’s jewelry “shines on cast members of ‘Friends,’ ‘ER’ and ‘Beverly Hills 90210,’ on Andie MacDowell, Melanie Griffith and Jessica Lange.”
Kellin herself, whose television credits include such programs as “Melrose Place,” “NYPD Blue” and “Mad About You,” said that when she started her Los Angeles-based business in 1994, she wasn’t seeking television credits.
“Initially, my jewelry started showing up because wardrobe designers were buying it from the local retail stores that carried it,” she said.
Now, Kellin added, she has begun pursuing television and film stylists, having seen the positive results such credits can bring. Other designers and companies are also taking this route.
Uri Alter, owner of rep showroom Apropo here, said he has started seeking TV publicity this year.
“I’m working on contacting all the costume designers that work in New York,” Alter noted. He personally has appeared on several news segments with local stations, discussing his showroom and showing his merchandise. “Right now, being on television is the best publicity any accessories company can get.”
Beefing up business with Southern California retail accounts is another way of working it, he pointed out.
“One of my lines, Subtle Creature, started making this small, delicate jewelry five years ago, long before it showed up on television, and it was initially ordered by California retailers, and then picked up by the stylists out there, long before most of the East Coast retailers caught onto it.”
Zoning in on the influences coming from Southern California has been key for Moore of Fragments, who said that some of the hottest lines in his showroom right now are produced by Los Angeles-based jewelry designers, including Bettina Duncan, Chan Luu and Wendy Brigode.
“In terms of accessories trends, New York does seem to have lost a bit of its edge to Los Angeles in the last several years,” Moore said. This was apparent, he added, on the canceled television show “Central Park West,” which was styled and shot in New York.
“They really missed the boat in terms of being fashion-forward,” he said. “A lot of the accessories were big and flashy and looked more like something you would have seen on ‘Dynasty.”‘
What’s more, the look that is considered cutting-edge by most New York stylists, stripped-down minimalism, has alienated many consumers, noted Karen Ericksen, co-owner of Showroom Seven, an accessories and ready-to-wear rep showroom here.
“Right now, the television characters look more normal and more real, in terms of accessorizing, than the stories in the fashion magazines do,” Ericksen said.
The costume designers of some of television’s top-rated shows said accessories are one of the best ways they have to establish characters or scenarios and make them seem more realistic.
“The accessories get major consideration,” said McGuire, noting that she gets merchandise from local retailers, as well as from her own apparel and accessories boutique in Pacific Palisades, and sometimes has pieces made for her or designs them herself.
On “Friends,” she said, the characters Monica, played by Courteney Cox, and Rachel, played by Jennifer Aniston, wear accessories that are “very understated,” while Phoebe, played by Lisa Kudrow, has a more “flamboyant” style.
“Their lifestyles and backgrounds are reflected in the kind of jewelry they wear or the handbags they carry,” McGuire said. “The Rachel character, for instance, comes from a wealthy family, so she has a sophisticated orientation that comes through in her jewelry, sometimes more than in her clothing.
“And when Monica was unemployed for several episodes, she didn’t wear much jewelry,” she noted. “When she’s working or going on a date, she tends to wear more.”
Accessories trend-watchers are getting ready to tune into the newest Aaron Spelling creation, “Malibu Shores,” which makes its debut Saturday night on NBC.
The show, which is about the dealings between wealthy high school students in Malibu and their middle-class counterparts from the San Fernando Valley, will feature looks inspired “purely by Southern California,” said Chick Gennarelli, the costume designer for “Malibu Shores.”
“I’m using a lot of fun things, like necklaces and belts made of bottle caps, and nylon or burlap backpacks in bright colors,” Gennarelli said, adding that he is picking up merchandise in boutiques on Melrose Avenue and other trendy areas.
For some characters, he noted, the accessories will be more sophisticated.
“Some of the Malibu girls will be wearing small, clean jewelry to go with their tailored clothes,” he said. “The Y necklaces are still hot.”
The more casual, baggy attire of the Valley kids will be accented with “lots of black leather and silver in belts and jewelry,” he added. “Stacked rings will also be very prevalent.”
One of the key directions in accessories is a more status look, according to stylists such as Kim Roderick, partner in a Los Angeles firm called Studio Wardrobe Inc., which supplies accessories and clothes to a wide range of shows, from “Party of Five,” “Melrose Place” and “ER” to “Roseanne” and “Cybill.”
“We’ve been getting tons of requests lately for more upscale-looking things, like Gucci belts and beeper carriers in exotic skins,” Roderick said. Even the companies that specialize in the ultimate in upscale accessories — diamond jewelry, jeweled minaudieres, expensive sunglasses and other trappings of wealth — are devoting time and energy to getting their things worn by celebrities at heavily televised events such as the Academy Awards.
“There is so much emphasis placed now on television and movie celebrities as style icons,” said Blake Kuwahara, senior vice president and designer at Eyeota, a Los Angeles-based upscale eyewear company that produces the Hanae Mori and Isaac Mizrahi lines under license, as well as its own Kata line. “Look at how successful ‘In Style’ magazine has been. Not only do women follow the trends they see on TV, but they can also read all about celebrities’ personal styles now.”
Actresses have worn Harry Winston’s diamond jewelry at the Oscars for 50 years, said Ronald Winston, president and chairman of the fine jeweler.
“We started doing it before television was even around,” Winston said. “But the fact that the jewelry shows up on TV screens all over the world now certainly doesn’t hurt. Because of the television, the Oscars are like a world event now, and one that we’re part of.”