Byline: Jeannie Chen
NEW YORK — The crowd on the dance floor parts as Leeora Catalan passes through. With her wild hair and a T-shirt graffitied with Diana Vreeland’s image, Catalan is obviously the woman of the hour.
“Are you having fun?” she repeats excitedly, scanning the party thrown for Noir’s latest collection in December. As designer and co-owner of the company, Catalan has made this question her mission statement. Indeed, Noir is known not only for its vivid accessories line, but also for the wild theme parties that introduce each collection.
The airbrushed spring line inspired Catalan and her team to assemble a graffiti bar at which guests line up to have personal items painted. A manicurist applies acrylic nails to the willing in a corner booth, while break-dancers get ready to take the stage. “This is our little Noir world,” says Catalan, 36, of the Eighties-style free-for-all.
This small fashion planet is actually the product of Leeora and her husband, Mash. The two met at a dinner party and moved in together after two dates. Before starting her own business, Leeora worked at Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren and Tahari, eventually freelancing as a stylist. She was unable to find any black-beaded jewelry for one job, so she created her own collection — and Noir was born.
Mash taught himself jewelry-making skills and produced Leeora’s designs. “We always challenge ourselves. We fight and scream and throw things at each other,” his wife says. “But Mash is the motor that keeps us going.” After six years, Noir has grown into a full line of accessories and has a client list that includes Madonna, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Lopez and the members of Destiny’s Child.
The Noir staff contributes to the unpredictable elements in the firm’s designs. “Everybody has their own specialty and we come from all walks of life,” explains Catalan, who seems part den mother, part sister and co-conspirator. Her smile is mischievous and infectious. “I like to say that our collection is like Judith Leiber’s daughter on acid,” she adds. The current line includes lace-embossed fluorescent leathers, airbrushed landscapes and silk-screened money prints on any imaginable accessory.
In March, Shop Noir will open on Mott Street, which means that any New Yorker can have his or her very own customized Swarovski crystal-studded cell phone. The boutique will also serve as a gallery and event space for the company, and the Catalans are working with Swarovski to create crystal floors that will be lit from beneath. “We are a voice of fantasy, fun, impulse and flamboyance,” says Leeora. “The best thing for me is to collaborate on projects and the store is a place for us to imagine new things and hang out with friends and customers.”
Noir is sold in New York at Henri Bendel, Intermix and Saks Fifth Avenue. Wholesale prices range from $15 for a ring to $350 for a studded belt, while personalizing cell phones with crystals starts at $50 for two initials.