Byline: Compiled by Julia Topolski
NEW YORK — With innovation and ambition on their sides, five new accessories designers are making an impact with contemporary takes on classics.
When she stepped off the airplane in India last June, Carolina Barbieri expected instant inspiration. What she got instead was rain. Lots of it. But Barbieri toughed out the monsoons, staying in Jaipur to create elaborate jewelry out of silver, gold and semiprecious stones.
Ultimately, she was influenced by India’s rich tradition in the decorative arts, but she also found the shapes, patterns and colors of antique European textiles and furniture inspiring. The results are beautiful, whimsical shapes, such as butterflies, spiders and snakes, replete with dangling beads, long chains and aquamarine or tourmaline stone drops. Barbieri currently is based in New York, where she finds that “people really inspire and nourish each other,” she says. “It’s pushy and exciting.” The line, which has attracted hipsters such as Kate Moss and Liv Tyler, is available at Barneys New York. Retail prices range from $100 for a silver and garnet pendant to $3,000 for an onyx and aquamarine choker.
Donna Sydney Lewis
Ten years ago, Donna Sydney Lewis enrolled in a jewelry-making class at the 92nd Street Y in New York, and what she started there has grown into a full collection. The motifs she uses come from many sources. “My influences range from Egyptian and Asian designs to Venetian and carnival masks,” she says. She doesn’t limit herself to gems of a certain size; instead, she picks a stone she likes and goes from there. Lewis focuses on form, movement and light, and the result is such pieces as Gustav Klimt-ish multicolored square earrings or a feminine necklace with big amethysts and rubies. The line is sold at Bergdorf Goodman, with retail prices ranging from $1,500 for gold and diamond studs to $38,000 for a gold shell necklace.
Picture this: It’s 1889, and after cutting off his right ear, Vincent Van Gogh presents his doctor, Felix Rey, who treated the wound, with a portrait as payment. Rey’s mother, however, considers the portrait ugly and uses it to cover a hole in the family’s chicken coop. Fast-forward to March 2001. Friends Lily Rafii (far left) and Sulaika Zarrouk are so inspired by the painting — which they saw in the Pushkin Museum — that they decide to name their fledgling accessories business after the doctor.
The duo’s collection has a downtown vibe with lots of Eighties-inspired, neo-preppie sashes, elastic belts and bold, graphic belts. “We’re designing things that we love to wear,” explains Rafii. The line also includes small leather clutches and shoulder bags with details such as oversized safety pins or detachable bows. Felix Rey is sold at Barneys New York and Henri Bendel, with retail prices ranging from $60 for a belt to $275 for a handbag.
Dom Spiro Spero
“I make toys for women,” says jewelry designer Ricardo Martin of the dramatic jewelry he creates for Dom Spiro Spero. Martin was inspired by ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan pieces to use big stones, faceted and set in 18- and 22-karat gold, that look as though they’ve just been unearthed from an archaeological dig. The designer, who was born in Manila, has a background just as distinctive as his designs. He was a practicing physician, then became a photographer shooting the likes of Concrete Blonde and Marianne Faithfull. When he wanted dramatic jewelry to photograph, he began creating his own one-of-a-kind pieces, and the response from stylists and stars was so strong that he took up jewelry design full-time. The collection, sold at Neiman Marcus, Palm Beach, Sample, New York, and A’Maree’s, Newport, ranges from freshwater baroque pearl earrings for $800 to a necklace of big emeralds for $130,000.